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Re: A Question for Zack about setting up "hard-and-fast dogmas"

Jan 15, 2003 12:05 PM
by Zack Lansdowne


You made some good observations, and so, upon reflection, I no longer agree
with my earlier claim, which was:

"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. . . ."

A rigid rule, such as "never turn any written doctrine into a hard-and-fast
dogma," is itself a hard-and-fast dogma.

HPB, in "The Key to Theosophy", p. 240, gives us a better way to make

"Theosophy teaches self-abnegation, but does not teach rash and useless
self-sacrifice, nor does it justify fanaticism.
But how are we to reach such an elevated status?
By the enlightened application of our precepts to practice. By the use of
our higher reason, spiritual intuition and moral sense, and by following the
dictates of what we call 'the still small voice' of our conscience."

Nevertheless, on p. 305, HPB suggests that theosophists who are "warped" and
"unconsciously biased" will tend to set up "hard-and-fast dogmas" of their
own, while theosophists who avoid that danger will tend to work to "burst
asunder the iron fetters of creeds and dogmas."

Yet I agree that it is possible for theosophists who generally are working
towards bursting asunder the fetters of creeds and dogmas might
occasionally, due to their higher reason, spiritual intuition, and still
small voice, denounce a particular teaching or religious group.

HPB, in "The Key To Theosophy", p. 305, offered us an inspiring vision of
what the Theosophical Society might have accomplished during the 20th

""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."

I think that the history of the Theosophical Society during the past 125
years can be an extraordinary teaching example. HPB tried to establish a
society in which its members would overcome the fetters of creeds and dogmas
among themselves and would then help to burst those fetters for everyone
else. Yet past theosophists, in spite of Blavatsky's intentions and clear
warnings, have used her writings in a sectarian way; that is, they have used
Blavatsky's writings to create new creeds and dogmas that separated
themselves from other theosophists and from everyone else, and so the
theosophical movement has atrophied and splintered into all of these smaller

What should we do about ourselves? We are all studying some spiritual
teaching or another. But are we using those teachings to break down our own
mental barriers that separate us from other people, or are we using those
teachings to erect new mental barriers? For example, we might think that we
are more special or advanced than other people, because our doctrines are
somehow more mystical, occult, or esoteric than other doctrines. This is
the kind of mistake that theosophists made during the past century, and
perhaps we can learn from their example.

Zack Lansdowne

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