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May 22, 2012 05:24 PM
by Daniel

Boris de Zirkoff

In the pages of our contemporary, Theosophical News and Notes, the
Journal of The Theosophical Society (Adyar) in the British Isles, in
its July-August and Sept.-Oct., 1958, issues, Dr. Laurence J. Bendit,
recently elected General-Secretary of the British Section, T.S.,
contributes editorially some pertinent remarks on the freedom of
thought in our Movement and the non-sectarian character of ideas
presented under the name of Theosophy.

There is much in what he says that is most commendable, sensible, and
a needed reminder to most students. We are glad to see some of these
ideas clearly stated by the chief Official of a large and influential
Section, and to be told, for instance, that "there is ... no heresy
in Theosophy," that "everybody has the right to question the writings
even of those who are looked upon still, and with good reason, as
more-than-average students," - and that "deep study and understanding
should gradually lead to an intuitive feeling for what is the direct
line of truth, and what is truth distorted or misinterpreted."

We are also thoroughly in agreement with the writer when he states
that "Wisdom can only be evoked from within, from a realm which is
beyond language and words," and that "humility and the sense of
wonderment which is the mark of every true Theosophist" are qualities
the loss of which is to be regretted whenever it is superceded by
a "know it all" attitude.

But we cannot help feeling that the writer has somewhat hurriedly
given expression to certain ideas in both of his articles, which a
closer examination of existing evidence might have modified to a
considerable extent. It often happens that we find ourselves carried
away by our own most laudable feelings and convictions, and show a
tendency to go to extremes and to disregard certain other aspects of
the total picture.

He finds it very unfortunate that some lecturers on the Theosophical
platform should use such expressions as "Theosophy teaches ..."
or "the teachings of Theosophy are ...," and that some people would
be "so bold as to set themselves up as Theosophical teachers." This
seems to him to be "quite inconsistent with the emphasis on freedom
of belief." "Yet," he adds, "when all is said and done, there is a
loose body of thought which seems to deserve the
label 'theosophical,' if only to distinguish it from other
philosophies ..." In his opinion, "Theosophy is neither eastern nor
western, neither ancient nor modern; neither has it any teachings or
teachers," because Theosophy is Wisdom, and one cannot teach Wisdom.

It is precisely at this point that our esteemed author leaves the
solid ground of impartial research, and the sound intellectual
foundation of our work, and sails, perhaps quite unwittingly to
himself, into the domain of slogans and convenient cliches. Let us
look into this subject a little closer.

The foundation-rock upon which the modern Theosophical Movement is
established, as far as its philosophy is concerned, is H.P.B.'s The
Secret Doctrine, a rather curious title to be used in a Movement
which is supposed to have no definite teachings. This work, let us
hasten to say before we are misunderstood, is no Theosophical Bible,
and its students are no bibliolaters sitting in raptured awe before
the unspeakable "revelation" contained in its pages. It is
neither "divinely" inspired, nor devoid of errors, neither a final
statement of all possible truth, nor anything more than a lifting of
a "corner of the veil," in the words of H.P.B. herself. But it is
most decidedly an authoritative declaration of a system of thought, a
statement of specific teachings, an outline of a "doctrine" whose
precepts, principles and positive assertions are as distinct,
unalterable and definitive as are the basic laws of chemistry,
physics, genetics or astronomy. Let there be no mistake about it. It
is not a "loose body of thought," not "by a long shot," to use an

H.P.B.'s magnum opus is permeated through and through with some very
definite statements. It proclaims that "the Secret Doctrine is the
accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony atone is the most
stupendous and elaborate system" (I, 272). It establishes "three
fundamental propositions," specifically defined and elaborately
explained (I, 14 et seq.) It speaks of the divine Substance-Principle
as "the fundamental Law in that system" (I, 273), and goes on to
outline a large number of teachings, based on facts of Nature, which
are in their sum-total the foundation-principles of the Esoteric
Philosophy (I, 273-82). Moreover, it never fails to point out that
these teachings were brought by higher Beings to nascent humanity,
and impressed upon its collective consciousness for its own good and
future growth.

The pages of The Secret Doctrine, as well as of The Mahatma Letters,
teem with statements such as: "the esoteric philosophy
teaches," "theosophy establishes," "the Ancient Wisdom
proclaims," "the secret teachings state," and many other similar

If we consult our friend Webster, we will find that he defines a
doctrine as "that which is taught; what is held, put forth as true,
and supported by a teacher ..." He speaks of a dogma as a "doctrine
laid down with authority," but without necessarily an arrogant
insistence upon such authority. There can be little question of the
fact that the teachings of The Secret Doctrine are authoritative, put
forth as true, supported by teachers, namely, those original sources
of inspiration whence they came, and that, moreover, such teachings
are never arrogantly insisted upon, pushed down the throat of a
reluctant following, or insolently paraded as infallible or as the
last word of Truth. With these provisos, the postulates of. Theosophy
are most decidedly a doctrine, a system of thought, and a body of

And it is precisely because of the fact that H.P.B.'s writings and
the writings of her superiors, the Adept-Brothers, have been allowed
to be set aside for many years in certain portions of the
Theosophical Movement, and to gather dust on forgotten shelves, to
the advantage of pseudo-revelations by various psychics, that there
has grown among some students the totally erroneous idea that
Theosophy or the Esoteric Philosophy has no specific teachings to
proclaim, no definite doctrine to promulgate, and that almost
anything can and should be called Theosophical that is put forward by
sincere and well-intentioned, but self-deluded individuals, whose
sincerity can never be the guarantee of direct spiritual knowledge.

If our writer means by "teachers" individuals who imagine they know
it all, and who feel themselves vastly superior to those others whom
they have decided to "teach" from the profundities of their own very
questionable understanding, we are in complete agreement with him
that such people injure our Movement, destroy self-confidence in
students, and make themselves ridiculous by filling the air with
empty word-weavings. But if by "teachers" are meant individuals who
have become through years of deep study proficient in the philosophy
of the ancient wisdom, have tried to live its precepts the best they
know how, and who are called upon, by their general karmic stage-
setting, to help others to acquire a deeper understanding of
Theosophy than they already have, and to bring out from within their
own inner Selves the knowledge hidden therein, - then we will have to
let them be called by that time-honored title, which, in reality,
designates someone who shows, who imparts knowledge, who makes aware
of information, who guides, adjusts, and leads on towards a greater
vista and a wider horizon. Would any sincere Theosophist refuse the
privilege of becoming in due time a "leader of men," whose word and
whose life point out to others nobler and ever-receding horizons of
achievement, and show them the method to be used in their march
forward towards the Light?

We see, therefore, that the "teachings" are much more than
a "statement of what Theosophists of all ages and nations have
discovered as a result of their own searches and experiences," as our
writer seems to think. If they were that, and nothing more, they
would contain some truth and a very large degree of uncertainty and
error, were they even the result of the understanding of exalted men,
such as the Adepts themselves. In reality, these "teachings" are a
formulation of the facts of Nature, irrespective of the opinions or
the views of any particular man or group of men concerning them, and
subject only to the limitations imposed upon our ways of expression
by the paucity of the languages employed. Essentially, as has been
said by H.P.B. and others, these "teachings" have been handed down
from one generation of Seers to another, and originated in the far
distant times of infant Humanity from spiritual Beings whose
knowledge and wisdom are of an order entirely above those of our
terrestrial mankind.

When the student of the Esoteric Philosophy finds it stated that the
human constitution is composed of certain specific seven qualities of
substance and consciousness, or that the structure of the planet
includes a specified number of invisible globes, or that there exists
a certain definite co-ordination as between various Hierarchies of
Beings, or again that the succession of root-races and rounds follows
a certain specified pattern, and no other, and that the after-death
states of the human entity can be known with considerable certainty,
as a natural result of certain states of consciousness in embodied
existence, or that cycles stand in a certain numerical relation to
each other, - these proposition are as definite and positive, and we
might even say, as unalterable, as any proposition of chemistry,
physics, or mathematics.

Is it dogmatic to assert that under normal conditions of atmospheric
pressure water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, that the sum of the
angles of any triangle is 180 degrees of arc, and that the
acceleration of falling bodies is the same in Australia as in Europe?
Upon propositions as definite as these, and others like unto them,
are based some of our scientific structures. Upon equally definite
spiritual-intellectual propositions, derivative from facts in Nature,
are based those formulations of the Esoteric Philosophy which some
have called its teachings. There is no vague, loose uncertainty about

H2O is water everywhere on earth, irrespective of the opinions of
anybody. NaCl is common salt on all the five continents. The key to
the atomic era - E=mc2 - does not depend upon human attitudes towards
it. As a matter of fact any constant is a numerical quantity
expressing some physical law or magnitude as a fixed relation,
because it is based on Nature's own operations, i.e., facts of
Nature. The same is applicable to psychic, intellectual and spiritual
facts in Nature's structure, as determinable by those who have
complied with the conditions necessary for the acquirement of that

A professor of chemistry, physics or astronomy, presenting to his
audience a statement of alleged laws and numerical relations which
the experiments of the laboratory or observatory do not justify,
would have but scant chance of continuing his career as a professor,
although he might found a new school of thought, completely
satisfying to himself and some others, even if unrelated to the facts
of Nature.

Similarly, an individual who would attempt to explain the structure
of the invisible worlds in a manner which the experience of
generations of Seers does not justify, and whose ideas, logical for
himself and perhaps a few others, do not stand in harmony with the
facts of Nature and collide head-on with the pronouncements of the
greatest spiritual minds evolved upon this earth, would have scant
chance at having his presentation become an integral part of a
workable philosophy of life, and endure for ages to come as consonant
with the facts of Nature.

It has been our experience of recent years to find that Theosophical
Lodges in various parts of the world present such a sorry picture of
stagnation and somnolence precisely because their platform has often
nothing positive to offer to the public, and therefore the public is
conspicuous mainly by its absence, partial or total. The seeker after
truth and light, the individual, whoever he or she may be, who is
trying to find a solution to his troubles and a workable philosophy
of life, would welcome any speaker who would outline for him specific
yet undogmatic teachings concerning the nature of man and the
Universe, and give him definite keys with which to tackle his own
difficulties and open for himself a new treasure chamber of knowledge
within himself. If this is done by the speaker without bombast,
humbly, impersonally, and sympathetically, with dynamic conviction in
the truth of what he says, and with an attitude of companionship with
the one who seeks and asks, the result will be that the heart and
mind of the seeker will be deeply moved and something within his soul
will stir in response to the speaker. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm.
Conviction arouses response. Positive statements, backed by facts,
generate an attitude of positive endeavor on the part of the seeker,
and might do a lot more than that.

What chance would any Lodge have to help others, if the visitor heard
it stated from its platform that Theosophy is but a loose body of
thought, that it has no real teachings or teachers, and that all it
can do for anyone is to lead him somewhere into a realm of blue
ether, beyond language and words!

To judge by some of the gatherings we have attended from time to
time, certain lecturers achieve an eminent success in this sort of
voluble emptiness, with the result that promising people in search of
truth never come back.

No, my friends and brothers, the Esoteric Philosophy is something far
more definite and dynamic than some apparently imagine it to be. It
is the direct heir to the innate knowledge of super-human, quasi-
divine Beings, or at least that much of this infinite knowledge as
our finite minds can grasp today. It is a system of thought embodying
in itself the positive experience of generations of Seers, Adepts,
Initiates, whose personal and direct acquaintance with the operations
of Nature - a clinical observation, we might say, of its functions,
behind the veil of the visible - places them in a position to state
with no uncertainty whatsoever what are the facts of Nature, and to
outline its laws.

Students of Theosophy, whether in organized Theosophical Societies or
not, have not only the opportunity and the privilege, but also the
duty of offering to those who seek for light a consistent and all-
embracing philosophy of life, wherein the philosophical, the
religious and the scientific elements blend together in a harmonious
system, vitalized moreover by noble ethical precepts upon which to
erect a life of constructive endeavor. If The Theosophical Society of
the present era had no philosophy to present to the world, and no
system of thought to promulgate, it would be but another useless
excrescence upon the decaying stump of materialism, another
worthless "ism," to be swept away by the revolution of time into the
mounting heap of discarded human delusions.

It is up to everyone of us, to see that the banner of Theosophy fly
high over the battlements of human thought, so that others can see it
and rally to the Universal Cause it stands for.
First published in THEOSOPHIA, Volume XV No. 2 (76) - Fall 1958


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