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Re: Paul's House of Cards

Dec 24, 1996 05:45 PM
by JRC

On Tue, 24 Dec 1996, Tom Robertson wrote:
> >	They most assuredly do *not*. The Three Objects "define" the
> >purpose of theosophical organizations. Neither HPB, nor Olcott, nor the
> >Masters in the Mahatma Letters *ever* even suggested, let alone insisted
> >upon, any of that controlling garbage.
> If the belief that Jesus died on the cross to save from their sins those who
> believe that he died on the cross to save them from their sins is just as
> Theosophical as to believe in the one divine, homogeneous
> substance-principle, which HPB referred to as a "fundamental dogma," then
> the word "Theosophy" is meaningless.
	It is my *personal* belief that *both* statements could both *be*
and *not be* "Theosophical". Theosophy is as much a *perspective* as
anything else. For instance, a Lodge could (in fact, Lodges *have*) take
the basic belief that "Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins",
and examine that belief - exploring its metaphorical, mythological, and
esoteric connotations; could then study its relation to myth-structures
from other traditions ... the Osirian myth in ancient Egypt, the stories
about Krishna, etc., etc.; its personal, social, political, cultural and
religious ramifications could be included - until finally at the end of a
month of meetings, some people in the group may well conclude that there
actually *is* a sense in which it might be said that "Jesus died on the
cross to save us from our sins" - but the meaning of that statement has
little to do with the sense in which a Christian fundamentalist would
understand it. Even further, (IMO), the mere act of having such
discussions, engaging that level of thinking in the lodge would slightly
alter the mental atmosphere of the community in which the meetings were
held. And the entire exercise would be nothing other than a pure
expression of the Second Object.
	Say, then, that the week after that, a speaker comes from
Headquarters, and gives a lecture on "the one, divine, homogenous
substance-principle" - and in the discussion, people begin critisizing the
idea, a physicist claims it to be little other than an archaic belief in
"ether", a psychologist refuses to accept it as "fact" and insists upon
analyzing it as a *metaphor*, etc., etc - but the speaker then insists it
be accepted as true, because HPB wrote it, and insists it be approached
not as a hypothesis to be proved or disproved, but as a "truth" to be
accepted on faith.
	Which one of those scenarios is more "theosophical"? The question
of what Theosophy "is" is not nearly so simple as defining a set of ideas
and then saying everything that conforms to them *is*, and everything
that does not *isn't*. The way ideas are approached is every bit as much a
part of the equation as what ideas are - and *fundamentalists* exist in
the TS to every bit the same degree they exist in Christianity ... and the
rigidity of their thought is equally chilling in both places.   	
> >There is an *enormous* range of opinion and
> >belief about what constitues Theosophy - as there was *designed* to be.
> If you are saying that John Algeo's opinion of what constitutes Theosophy is
> too limited, what limit would you say, without being dogmatic yourself, it
> should have?  If you believe there should be no limit, you are saying that
> the word "Theosophy" is meaningless.
	Two answers to that: First, the limits found throughout the
writings of HPB and the Mahatma Letters are fine with me - but Wheaton
currently seeks to set considerably narrower limits ... leading to the
second, and far more significant point: To frame the debate as simply
Algeo's conception of Theosophy vs. mine (or anyone else's) is to assume
it to be a valid debate between equal participants - but this is most
assuredly *not* the case ... the difference is that no matter what *my*
personal views of Theosophy are, my own definitions or conceptions, I
would *never* have the utter intellectual *arrogance* to *impose* them as
standards that every new Lodge or Study Center would have to meet during
its "probationary" period. IMO Algeo's opinions are just that ... Algeo's
opinions - no more or less valid than those of people (and there are many)
who have also studied Theosophy for years, have conceptions far different
than he does, and can back them up with as much intellectual rigor as he
can. Apparently, however, he and a little group of people at Headquarters
are incapable of handling genuine diversity of thought ... and are using
institutional power to enforce their own particular conception. Curiously
enough, I notice that membership in the TS is declining, while membership
on this list is increasing. The people pursuing their goals at
Headquarters will soon get exactly what they desire ... the only people
left in the Society will be those that agree with them.
	IMO, HPB, when she was alive, was the only one with the standing
to impose conditions of membership on members or Lodges - and the only
condition she imposed was acceptance of the Three Objects.

> >It was meant to be something broad enough to encompass all races, religions,
> >creeds and castes
> What about the creed that men should dominate over women?  What about the
> creed that, since Jews threaten the existence of the master Aryan race, they
> should all be annihilated?  Do you consider those creeds just as
> Theosophical as the laws of karma and of cyclicity?
	You can't just call an idea a "creed". A creed is (according to
Webster) a very specific thing: A brief, authoritative formula or
religious belief, or a set of fundamental beliefs ... as in the Apostle's
Creed, or the Four Noble Truths, etc., etc. And no, not any "creed" is
acceptable within Theosophy - because the other clause in the First Object
speaks of a common family of humanity - the full idea being to form a
nucleus of people who belong to every part of the human family, and that
can look beyond their acculturated perspectives on race, creed, sex,
caste, and color, and find some deeper commonality. A belief system that
holds that it is correct for some portion of that humanity to dominate or
slaughter some other portion simply does not meet the test of the First

> If you would never draw a line, the word "Theosophy" is meaningless.
	Its kind of a cheap rhetorical trick to state the extreme of
something and then argue "well, see, *some* line has to be drawn, or
*Hitler* would have been welcomed". It rarely furthers an argument,
because, it can always be answered by extending the line to its *opposite*
extreme: If you see no problem with Algeo & Co. defining "Theosophy", and
using the full force of the organization to impose that definition - then
where do you draw the line? Theosophy becomes nothing other than a *cult*.
If they have the right to impose *content* restrictions on what Lodges
study, where does this end? If a group must study some little faction's
conception of "basic Theosophy" for a certain period of time, and then be
*approved* by that faction before they are permitted to become a Lodge -
why could they not go further and require not just study of the ideas in
that conception, but *acceptance* of it ... do you see the utter ugliness
in this principle? The potentials for enormous abuse? Even if I *agreed*
with the particular perspective of that faction currently running HQ, I'd
be deeply disturbed at what is going on. To argue that "some line has
to be drawn somewhere or Theosophy is meaningless" has two glaring errors
in it - first, the assumption that people, *individual members and Lodges*
somehow are not capable of determining *for themselves* where that line
should be drawn, but rather need HQ to act like some sort of parent making
sure the kids don't get into trouble. Since Algeo took over, the entire TS
seems to have been treated like students in one of his freshman English
seminars. And the second error lies in the implication that there is some
danger of Theosophy becoming too vague and undefined ... if you take a
line, and say one end of it represents total openness - no definitions or
distinctions at all - and the other end represents total control and
definition by Headquarters, not only is the current TS tilted towards the
latter, but has been moving slowly and steadily in that direction for some
time now. Little by little a small group has revised Bylaws and passed new
ones whose effect is to make it virtually impossible for anyone not
approved by them to hold office, gives them the power to sieze the
financial resources of Lodges, permits nothing other than the perspective
they approve of any presence in the AT or TPH, allows them to place new
Lodges on *probation* ... etc., etc. It is specious to
argue that there is some danger of a Theosophical Lodge studying "Mein
Kampf" - the current danger is that HQ will spend another half-million
dollars of the Society's resources *suing* another one of its own Lodges
for studying ... Hitler? no, *Alice Bailey*.   	

> You would also face strong
> disagreement with most participants on this list, since one of the
> aforementioned creeds was categorically condemned as being untheosophical,
	I presume you are referring to the pummelling you took for wanting
to talk about women being superior in some ways to men. But this is a
terrible example to use to make your case. some of your statements *were*
called "untheosophical" - but if I remember right, you also expressed
*your* opinion that some of the responses to you were "untheosophical",
dispareged people for not responding to you rationally and with the tone
you desired, and wound up saying the list was little other than a platform
for a feminist agenda. Well, welcome to the wacky, *unmoderated* world of
theos-l. People talk about whatever they wish, respond however they like,
in whatever tone they want, at whatever level they choose, and there is a
literally *massive* diversity of opinion about what does and does not
constitute "Theosophy", and what is or is not "theosophical" behaviour.
Clearly the list doesn't fulfill your expectations, doesn't discourse in a
way you are comfortable with, and does not fully meet with *your*
definition of what Theosophy is. Guess what ... the same can be said of
*everyone on the list*.
	But that is not a negative, but rather the list's highest
*virtue*. Most who have stayed on for some time would probably say they
have grown in ways not available elsewhere precisely *because* this list
has the habit of being outside *everyone's* comfort zone at one time or
another. Not only will people not agree with your ideas, they will not
even agree with your conception of how the disagreement should be
discussed. People will call you "untheosophical" because you don't fit
*their* definitions; you will call *them* "untheosophical" because they
don't fit yours. But at the end of the thread, everyone that participated
(and many that listened) will usually find that while no final point of
agreement was reached, and few had their opinions altered more than a bit,
almost everyone is a bit clearer *within themselves* about what exactly
their conceptions are, can articulate them with greater precision, and see
those conceptions as having been slightly refined. *Please notice* that no
one, during the entire discussion, asked John Mead to step in and moderate
the list, censure any of your comments, or remove you from the list.
	The list is, IMO, Theosophy at its finest - *no one* has been able
to dominate it with their particular perspective, nothing other than the
free will of all the members determines what topics are discussed nor how
the discussions unfold; its members are from a large variety of nations,
religious, scientific and philosophical perspectives, trades and
professions, and Theosophical organizations. Freedom of thought often
looks horribly *sloppy*, and points of real negativity are occaisionally
reached ... but the upside of that freedom, of the wide variety of
perspectives coupled with the lack of any individual or faction being able
to control discussion .... is that there have been discussions here more
vigorous, thought provoking, and educational than normally happens in most
Lodges ... discussions that now would not even be *permitted* by Wheaton
in a "probationary" Lodge.
	"There is no religion higher than truth" - but the enormity of
"truth" in relation to the miniscule size of the human ability to
understand it seems to imply that no one can see anything but the tiniest
little slice of it ... and the way that slice is *expanded* is not by
sitting in a room where everyone agrees with it, but by being forced way
out of the comfort zone created by that slice. HPB had the spiritual
stature to understand this ... and declined to impose any ideological
considerations as a condition of membership or Lodge formation. (In fact,
all evidence seems to point to the fact that she'd be *appalled* to think
that anyone was being forced to become familiar with her writings as a
condition of acceptance as a Lodge - some of her most scathing words are
reserved for the imposition of dogmas by priesthoods).
	I will say, by the way, that if you stay on the list, there is
another curious phenomena that sometimes happens here - you may find
yourself locked in heated and almost violent debate with a couple on some
subject, and find yourself allied in a stunningly complimentary way with
the same people two weeks later on a different subject. I have seen very
close and deep friendships form between people who began as wild
combatents. Believe it or not, while people may have seemed to blast you,
I doubt there's a single person that would actually not want you to stay
on the list. Myself (for whatever the hell that's worth (-:), included.
					Merry Christmas, -JRC

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