Theosophical thought, Experience and Teaching
Apr 13, 2008 09:49 AM
by Morten Nymann Olesen
To all readers
My views are:
Theosophical thought, Experience and Teaching
The following could be called an interpretation of theosophy and theosophical writings and it intends to show, where some of the problems with Theosophy and its related branches are today at the beginning of the 21th century.
Thousands of books and monographs have been written on theosophy and the theosophists, almost all of them from the point of view of other ways of thinking. The result has been chaos in the litterature, and confusion in the reader. Over the centuries, some of the world's most eminent scholars have fallen into the trap of trying to examine assess or consider the theosophy phenomenon through a set of culture-bound preconceptions.
All this may not be as foolish as it looks to us today: after all, it is only relatively recently that students, including academics and people of the spirit, have begun to realise that their attitudes have traditionally been heavily influenced by subjectivity and unexanined assumptions. Although the pendulum is slowly swinging back, there is still no lack of people - specialists and others - who continue to look at anything, including theosophy and The Wisdom Tradition, in anything but an objective way.
The main problem is that the most commentators are accustomed to thinking of spiritual schools as 'systems', which are more or less alike, and which depend upon dogma and ritual: and especially upon repetition and the application of continual and standardised pressures upon their followers. The theosophical path, except in degenerate forms which are not to be classified as theosophical, is entirely different from this.
Following closely after the primary misconception is the general impression that all spiritual entities must strongly depend upon emotion. Indeed, there is a marked confusion, even in the most lucid writers, between spirituality and emotionalism. Such confusion does not exist in authentic theosophical teaching or study.
The misconsecptions of which the above two are typical produce in the students a frame of mind through which he or she will try to approach the understanding or study of theosophy, with predictably useless results. For this reason high quality theosophical literature shows a marked rejection of ultra-formalism, of mental fetishes, the over-simplifications, which hamper understanding.
The theosophists refer to the action of the mixture of primitive emotionality and irrelevant associations, which bedevil outside would-be observers as that of the Lower Self.
It is only since the nineteen-fifties, with the discovery of the far-reaching effects of conditioning, brain-washing and attitude- engineering, that the subjective nature of virtually all approaches to knowledge has been perceived to the degree to which the theosophists, for centuries has tried to establish.
The theosophists have always taught: 'Examine your assumptions; avoid mechanicality; distinguish faith from fixation'.
The theosophical Teacher, in the first place, has to be someone who has experienced all the stages of the Path along which he will conduct his disciples. Outward observers are not capeable of commenting upon theosophy or The Wisdom Tradition. They lack both the experience and the capacity to discriminate between real and degenerate forms. 'Who tastes, knows' is a theosophical saying. Equally, whoever does not taste, does not know.
The validity of this concept is, naturally enough, strenously opposed by outward observers. But if, in any field, an unqualified person, lacking essential experience, decides to 'become an expert', it is inevitable that the specialist, the person with the experience, will - indeed must - assert the primacy of proper knowledge.
It has to be remembered here that the externalists (whether people of the spirit or of the pen and tounge) are themselves not particularly to blame. Reared on the concept that anyone can, at will, examine anything, they are victims of their own culture's assumptions. After all, this approach is adequate for a large number of disciplines. They have merely apllied a principle which holds good in one area to a subject where it does not.
The theosophist unlike the externalist, cannot, and does not, work mechanically. The projection of the message and the help which is given to the learner, must always vary in conformity with the needs of the time, the culture involved and the nature and potential of the student.
But as soon as we say this, we can see that the real theosophical organisation teaching and learning differ fundamentally from all other 'systems'.
The theosophist, in short, is aiming for a development, not to produce conditioned reflexes. He or she is teaching, not training. He or she intervenes, to provide the right stimulus at the right time for the right person. Such an activity is seen as chaotic by those who cannot perceive its purposefulness; just as the way of life in some open societies feels unbearably disorderly to those who have escaped from regimented ones: something which frequently happens today.
The tendency to seek reassurance and regularity is common to all human beings. This is reflected in their cleaving to oversimplified systems. It explains why many people are drawn to organisations which offer authority and certainty. There is nothing wrong with order and discipline: indeed, these are essentials to all human groupings. But the misuse of this proclivity in areas where it does not apply attentuates or delays progress. It results in the uncomfortable feeling, even amongst the most regimented, that 'there is something else.'
And yet exposure to strong discipline does not itself produce as a reaction a necessarily wholesome affinity for truth. It is noticeable that coercive, regimented or rigorously intellectualist societies throw up weird cults and abborations, providing both the supply of and the demand for certain emotions.
There is a vast accumulation of theosophical teachings, much of it in writings, which would-be students plough through, looking for theosophy (Wisdom of the Gods), and wondering why it seems, so often, self-contradictory. The simple answer is that this material is largely time-and-culture-based. Most of it was prescribed for specific audiences at certain times and under particular conditions. Choosing the relevant materials for any time is a specialised task. To try to make sense of all of it would be like taking a bundle of medical prescriptions, issued over the years to a variety of people, and working out one's own therapy from such largely irrelevant papers - and without a certain specialised knowledge. Theosophical Teaching is PRESCRIBED.
Such parts of the theosophical Classics, stories, and letters and lectures and so on which apply to the individual and the group today - have to be selected and applied consciously and appropriately, by someone who is attuned to certain realities.
This concept is especially irksome to the academic worker, who always has a bias towards utillising every scrap of information he can find, not towards assessing contemporary applicability. He is, in fact, in a different field from the theosophist. His attitude influences even general readers.
If the scholar is unwilling to accept this concept, the conventional spiritual thinker is equally hampered. He, or she, does not wish to face the fact that theosophical activity is often carried out in a way which does not, for the conventionalist, resemble spiritual matters at all. The fact that the theosophist has to script and project his teaching in a manner which will work - not in a manner which will remind others of spirituality - arouses, if ever perceived, feelings of great discomfort in the conditional 'devout' man or woman.
Yet the theosophist insists that the adherence to traditional forms is not a spiritual activity at all. It is only in recent years that he has been able to call upon the insights and experiments of the sociologists and psychologists to establish in current terminology, and hence in acceptable form, the fact that very many 'people of the spirit' are only religious in the sense that they have been conditioned to feel certain emotional responses. And that such people are, anthrologically speaking, little else than members of a tribe. These facts, written down and asserted centuries ago by theosophists, are now thought by modern thinkers to be a great new discovery.
The supposedly devout are, in theosophical terms (as well as in the new understanding of contemporary workers in the social sciences) cultists but hardly people of the spirit in the theosophical sense.
The use of authorithy figures, canonical litterature, liturgy, exercises, special clothes, and similarly standardised elements, are now plainly seen as ingredients in trainning systems which differ, one from the other, only in the ideas and symbols used. Yet, these factors linger and confuse, producing blinkered minds.
The deluded 'Theosophists', down the centuries, are those who have taken temporary situations, parables and the like and strecthed them to apply as perennial 'truths', 'exercises' and the like. This kind of development, or hyperthrophy, has taken place in other projections than that known as theosophy. Indeed, it is this which is responsible for the existence of a large number of cults and religious bodies which are generally believed to be authentic and authoritathive. In, reality, the fossilization which is represented by such groups is the antithesis of a spiritual school. Instead of developing people, it imprisons them, as genuine theosophists have never tired of pointing out.
So far has this process gone that, in most cultures, the imitation has all but driven out the original. The result is that, examining certain existing religious cults (some of them involving multiple millions of people and possesing great influence) nobody could be blamed for believeing this degenration to be religion itself.
An fictious example: Recently, explaining this attitude to a famous spiritual leader, I received the answer; 'But it MUST be true: otherwise so many people would not believe it.' He had, clearly, not heard of Gresham's Law: 'Bad money drives good out.' I said, 'There are twice as many adherents of such-and-such a religion as there are of your own. By your logic THAT one must be true. Its success proves it. Why don't you join that one instead of your own?' It was at that point that he started shouting at me.
Quality is more important than Quantity when we talk about theosophical members. It is important in this connection to note, that some theosophical groups have a high number of followers because they use a concept, which is attracting the emotional Seekers after Truth. One of their main ideas is to use a Messiah craze concept cheating the wellmeaning Seeker into merely believing, (and not at all knowing), that the reappearence of the Christ is only a few years away. This H. P. Blavatsky the co-founder of The Theosophical Society clearly spoke out against in her article "MODERN APOSTLES AND PSEUDO-MESSIAHS". To use common sense would be much better in an age where the number of publicly prnounced Messiah'ses are climbing just as rapidly as the number of Napoleon's and similar does in the local psychiatric hospitals closed sections.
Among theosophists, the development of Theosophical Organisations gives us a conspicuous example of the process which I have been describing. Of many of the major 'Paths' among the supposed theosophists of today (generally speaking), not a single one or only very very few is traceable in its foundation to its founders teachings. Each of the 'artificial ones' came into being only after the founders death, formulated from some of his specific teachings employed for local purposes, and soon turned into a cult. The truth is, that 'Theosophical Organisations' are temporary and time-limited and always will be. None was started by its putative founder. When the teacher died, his disciples, heroically but misguidedly, tried to preserve his teachings. The result we know.
All the distortions - and more - which have persisted in theosophy - and other - teachings are due to the presence and activity of the Lower Self. There is no intention of destroying or undermining the Lower Self. But the Theosophical activity and The Wisdom Tradition insists upon asking: does is command you, - or do you command it?
H. P. Blavatsky said:
"The Society founded to remedy the glaring evils of Christianity, to shun bigotry and intolerance, cant and superstition and to cultivate real universal love extending even to the dumb brute".
(The Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky, vol. 7, p.246)
Master KH wrote in a Mahatma Letter:
For the opposition represents enormous vested interests, and they have enthusiastic help from the Dugpas -- in Bhootan and the Vatican!
(Here is all of Mahtama Letter, No. 55. Dugpas are the same as selfish Magicians.)
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