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Standard of Truth?

Jan 14, 2003 03:42 AM
by Zack Lansdowne

There has been much debate in recent days about whose doctrine is true: HPB
versus AAB; ancient Hindu scriptures versus HPB; HPB versus Besant and
Leadbeater. Members on this list have pointed out that there are clear
differences between the writings or doctrines of these various authorities.

Here, I would like to emphasize an area of AGREEMENT among different

In "The Key to Theosophy", published in 1889, H. P. Blavatsky saw two
possible futures for the TS. On the one hand, she described its possible
failure: "Every such attempt as the Theosophical Society has hitherto ended
in failure, because, sooner or later, it has degenerated into a sect, set up
hard-and-fast dogmas of its own, and so lost by imperceptible degrees that
vitality which living truth alone can impart. You must remember that all
our members have been bred and born in some creed or religion, that all are
more or less of their generation both physically and mentally, and
consequently that their judgment is but too likely to be warped and
unconsciously biassed by some or all of these influences. If, then, they
cannot be freed from such inherent bias, or at least taught to recognise it
instantly and so avoid being led away by it, the result can only be that the
Society will drift off on to some sandbank of thought or another, and there
remain a stranded carcass to moulder and die."

That is a very vivid image: "a stranded carcass to moulder and die." But
what if the aforementioned danger can be averted? In this case, HPB
predicted: "Then the Society will live on into and through the twentieth
century. It will gradually leaven and permeate the great mass of thinking
and intelligent people with its large-minded and noble ideas of Religion,
Duty, and Philanthropy. Slowly but surely it will burst asunder the iron
fetters of creeds and dogmas, of social and caste prejudices; it will break
down racial and national antipathies and barriers, and will open the way to
the practical realisation of the Brotherhood of all men."

So, Blavatsky, in 1889, made two quite different predictions for the
Theosophical Society in the 20th Century: she says that it might set up
"hard-and-fast dogmas of its own" and then become "a stranded carcass to
moulder and die"; or it might "burst asunder iron fetters of creeds and
dogmas" leading to "the practical realisation of the Brotherhood of all
men." Which outcome has occurred?

Next, let us turn to Alice A. Bailey. In "A Treatise on White Magic", first
published in 1934, AAB wrote:

"All that is possible for me is to grope for those feeble words which will
somewhat clothe the thought. As they clothe it they limit it and I am guilty
of creating new prisoners who must ultimately be released. All books are
prison houses of ideas."

Here AAB is pointing out that even her own books are "prison houses of
ideas." The purpose of her books was to free her readers from past dogmas
that had become barriers to their spiritual progress. But if her readers
turn her own books into hard-and-fast dogmas, as many of her readers have
done, then they have become prisoners of those books who must be freed by
future writers.

One of the most popular contemporary teachings on spirituality is A Course
in Miracles (ACIM). As many of you might know, ACIM was channelled
allegedly from the Master Jesus, was first published in 1975, and has sold
several million copies. Today, more students are probably studying ACIM
than the books of HPB and AAB combined. I, myself, led a ACIM study group
for many years at the Theosophical Society in Boston. Here, is what ACIM
says: "Words are but symbols of symbols. They are thus twice removed from
reality." And yet several ACIM organizations are now fighting each other
over the proper interpretation of the ACIM words, with bitter lawsuits and
legal attempts to destroy or prevent opposing interpretations from even
being published.

I think that HPB, AAB, and ACIM are telling us the same thing: namely, it
is a mistake to turn any written doctrine into a hard-and-fast dogma, or
standard of truth. This message was especially emphasized by Krishnamurti
who wrote in "Krishnamurti's Journal":
"One has to be a light to oneself ... To be a light to oneself is not to
follow the light of another, however reasonable, logical, historical, and
however convincing."

Zack Lansdowne

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