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teaching and how rigidly we hold to our beliefs

Sep 01, 2004 01:06 PM
by Eldon B Tucker


I was reading your link, and find that it gives some interesting ideas on psychology and belief. Granted, there can be a dissonance between our beliefs and what we read or hear from others. This is quite independent of how objectively true our beliefs are. Someone can come along and challenge something we consider a fundamental truth, something we accept for granted and no longer question, something upon which we base our perceptions and other beliefs. We might fight it, flee it, or deflect it, getting it dismissed. Perhaps it makes us angry, or makes us feel we'll be sucked into some conflict we'd rather avoid.

Howard might be eating a hamburger may not want a vegetarian activist to pour cow blood over his french fries and tell him what an evil thing Howard is doing. Howard might argue that he needs the meat for health reasons, but might not have the time and energy to bother dealing the activist, however idealistic and self-confident the person may be. Howard might also not want to be given trouble for wearing leather shoes.

Mary may be reading a book on Eastern Philosophy, and find herself approached by a Fundamentalist Christian. She may be asked if she believes in God, accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and been Born Again. Mary may feel playful and argumentative, and start picking a philosophical argument with the Christian. He may walk away convinced that she's the devil's pawn.

Patricia could be sitting on a mountain top, dressed in aluminum foil, holding a coat hanger in each hand, changing "OM!" at the top of her voice, waiting for the mother fleet of UFO's to land and take her home. Her better-educated friend approaches her and tries to tell her that according to the laws of physics, the aluminum foil clothing won't act as an antenna and send signals to outer space. Patricia cannot accept this, covering her ears and saying, "Go away, I'm not listening to you."

When some of our assumptions and beliefs are challenged, the reaction we have is based upon how rigidly we hold onto them, not upon whether the challenge comes from a more truthful and reality based standpoint or from something that is false and delusionary. We don't necessary know that until we've considered the other viewpoint, and even then, both views, our old and the new one that challenges us, may be equally false.

One person may take one standpoint, saying, "I like what I believe, how I think of things, and how life seems to me at the moment. I don't want to change, only to continue with growing and living as I currently am." Another person may say, "I'm seeking something different in life. I'm discontent and have not yet found something to believe that I can live with."

I don't think we have the right to intervene in the lives of others, including in their beliefs. If someone is questioning things, we can provide them food for thought, but not give them ready-made answers, expecting them to take our opinions as something new to believe in, superseding their own.

It's good to cultivate flexibility of mind, where we question our own ideas about things, never allowing ourselves to become too rigid in our thinking. One good practice is to periodically rethink things from scratch, with sufficient openness that we could come up with a different belief than before, even though odds are that won't happen.

This is highly important for us as theosophical students, regardless of how we define that "theosophical," because we're dealing with issues of the essence of life, attempting insights that take us beyond the everyday life, bringing us to see behind the surface of things.

Part of this practice is to develop new insights, but even more important is that it helps us develop a different way of thinking, what I'd call "symbolic thought," something where certain key ideas are not fixed concepts entombed in never-changing words, but rather are like living, archetypal symbols that always have something new to say to us.

I've personally found G. de Purucker, in some of his works, to be excellent in teaching Theosophy in this manner, and have also seen it at work at times in various theosophical classes like the Malibu ULT Study Class in its study of THE SECRET DOCTRINE. It is hard to present materials in this manner, a difficult skill to acquire, but highly valuable. Having it act or not is like the difference between theosophical teaching and mere intellectualism.

-- Eldon

At 09:40 AM 9/1/2004, you wrote:

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