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Manifesto 3

Mar 13, 1998 06:40 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

This manifesto says so many things that I think are dangerous to
the Theosophical movement that I cannot resist replying in some
detail.  Mr. Farthing has been kind and helpful to me in my
work through assisting in the India Office Library research
of Tony Hern, and wrote a sympathetic review of TMR.  So I regret
differing so sharply with his views, and would remain silent did
I not think them typical of an emerging dogmatism in the TS.

According to

> [P81.] This was certainly the case in the early days of the 20th century.
> It was almost vehemently stressed then that there was no such thing as a
> definite 'theosophical' system of thought, knowledge or teaching. The great
> fear was of 'dogmatism'.

which was hypocritical then because anyone who didn't buy the
Besant/Leadbeater party line was ostracised.
> [P82.] This word, however, was, and still is in places, wrongly applied. A
> dogma means an obligatory belief and no such thing is imposed on
> Theosophical Society members.

Imposition can be subtle as well as overt.  I've never seen even
subtle imposition of obligatory beliefs at the *local* level of
TS activity, but it's getting more and more overt at the
national and international levels.  What do we mean by
"obligatory?"  Nothing is obligatory for *membership*.  But to be
treated with respect and inclusiveness by the leadership, a whole
range of dogmatic beliefs are obligatory.

 This does not mean that there are not
> authoritative statements of fact such as those given us by the Masters, who
> claim to know what they speak or write about, i.e. they are not
> speculating, voicing opinions or advancing theories.

People who claim that their statements are not speculation,
opinion or theory, but pure fact, are a dime a dozen.  The
genuine original programme of the TS was absolutely opposed to
treating any pronouncements from anyone as authoritative.  There
is abundant documentation of this truth.
> [P83.] All beliefs concerning Theosophy and the Theosophical Society ought
> seriously to be questioned against what can easily be  discovered of  the
> original  teachings and intentions for the Society. A serious perusal of
> THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY will do this.

They also ought to be questioned seriously against all other
knowledge prior or subsequent to HPB and the Mahatma letters, if
the TS is to be true to its mission.

> enduring influence by way of his writings, is suspect. It  must  be
> recognized  that  these  writings  are 'theosophically' defective and
> misleading.

To be frank, I think they're worthless-- but don't want the TS
leadership to officially recognize anything as "theosophically
defective and misleading."  It's not the Society's business to
determine any such thing.

snip-- agree with separation from ES, LCC, and Co-Masonry
> [P93.] The  Society has  its own  special message to promulgate. This
> message only exists in the writings of HPB and in the Mahatma Letters.

!?!?!?!?!  There are probably several dozen passages I could cite
that would contradict this assertion, right from the horses'
mouths.  And maybe an equal number that might seem to support it.
Unfortunately, this seems to be gaining influence as a view in
the Society, and it's fatal to freedom of thought.

> message in its completeness (as far as it was given out) is unique.

Highly arguable, as it can be shown to correlate with a great
many sources that HPB herself alluded to.

> [P94.] The future direction of the Society must therefore include:
> [P95.] 1) The eradication of the 'make-believe' Leadbeater influence - in
> all departments including literature, and severance from the Society of all
> other organizations, i.e. the Liberal Catholic Church and Co-Masonry.

Much as the CWL influence disgusts me, I will fight against any
effort to "eradicate" it which smacks of the Inquisition.
Publicly discuss it, yes.  Let people know all the contradictions
and all the evidence concerning CWL, yes.  Eradicate his
influence?  It's not the Society's business to set about to do
any such thing, any more than it was right to treat him as a
sacred cow all these years in order to preserve said influence.
> [P96.] 2)  A thorough  examination of  all literature purporting to be
> 'theosophical', and a brave declaration, and no further promotion, of any
> which is not wholly consonant  with  the  original  teachings.

Astoundingly dogmatic.  Who, pray tell, are the authority figures
who get to decide for the rest of us what is and is not wholly
consonant, and what gives them the right to dictate to us?

 This is no
> proscription but all books purporting to be theosophical which strictly are
> not should be clearly labeled or marked that they are the author's views on
> the subject and not necessarily authentic. Members are, of course, free to
> read what they like but they can be warned, if not guided. The section in
> any Theosophical Society library purporting to be theosophical literature
> should be segregated from other material offered, be clearly marked and the
> books given prominence on book lists, catalogues, etc.

The librarian in me points out that the segregation and labeling of
"accepted" and "suspect" literature is a profound violation of
intellectual freedom.
> [P99.] 5) Commercialism in any form, i.e. book selling or publication as
> such, without specific reference to the promotion of a knowledge of
> Theosophy, is not part of the legitimate activities of the Society.

Tell that to HPB who advertised non-theosophical books in her
magazines, and reviewed them favorably, etc.

> 'Fringe' literature can be obtained in ordinary bookshops or from  other
> organizations, e.g. the Arcane School, the Anthroposophical Society, etc.

The mentality that decides Bailey and Steiner are "fringe" while
their own favorite post-HPB authors are "mainstream" is
responsible for driving many people away from the Society.  The
Baileyites and Steinerites are dogmatic about their own stuff
being authoritative.  The TS is called upon to be open, eclectic,
and nondogmatic.

> This recommendation is made with our second object specifically in mind.
> Study of comparative religion is encouraged by the Society but it does not
> have to publish or supply the books.

Saying it does not have to is no argument that it shouldn't.


> There is obviously now no corporate connection with the Masters so that
> that 'make-believe' can be dispensed with. The E.S. study should be
> confined to the Master or HPB writings. The Society has no other
> Initiate-inspired literature.

While I certainly concur that the ES has no real connection to
the Masters, if they want to think so that's fine.  As far as
Initiate-inspired literature, HPB and Olcott certainly had a much
vaster view of what that includes than Mr. Farthing does.
> [P108.] This was the position when HPB made some of that knowledge public:
> it was much resented even by Subba Rao whose Master incidentally was the
> same as HPB's. All extant scriptures are exoteric even though in their
> mystical content they reflect much of what is in Theosophy.

All extant Theosophical works are exoteric too.

> [P112.] For example, the Hindu system is fivefold, as far as the human
> principles and the skandhas are concerned, whereas the theosophical system
> is sevenfold. The planes of Nature are sevenfold, with each having a
> corresponding level of consciousness.

So some say.  Others say differently.  The Society is not in the
business of dictating which model is correct, but rather in
comparing and contrasting them.
> their profundity and inner meaning is completely lost. Such an attempt to
> 'popularize' Theosophy in this way, to make it appeal to people who
> otherwise cannot comprehend it, is virtual sacrilege.

What in the world can one say to this?  I consider it a sacrilege
to treat HPB's work, which she herself said was not free from
error or authoritative, as if it were, and to condemn efforts to
make it more accessible to the public.  This is elitism pure and
simple, which the TS has too much of already without manifestos
calling for more.
I see this manifesto as a sure recipe for shrinking the TS to a
tenth its current size and making it the carcass stranded on a
sandbank that HPB warned about in the Key to Theosophy as the
inevitable result of dogmatism.

PJ, aghast

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