Vol.4-2, April 2005
© 2005 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet Malmö
A correspondent inquires of Theosophical Independence, “Can there be such a thing as an orthodox or dogmatic Theosophy?”
There can be no orthodox or dogmatic Theosophy. There can be orthodox and dogmatic viewpoints of Theosophy. This viewpoint is to be distinguished from the understanding that the trans-Himalayan Adepts possess the complete system of archaic wisdom that has been preserved and transmitted by Their predecessors since the dawn of self-conscious humanity on this globe. It is also to be distinguished from the fact that humanity has been made aware of the existence of these Adepts and their Ancient Wisdom-Religion in modern times through the agency of H.P. Blavatsky.
Theosophy is the name, given in her writings, to the public presentation of a portion of these ancient and universal truths. It is also a fact that, except for a few doctrines made public for the first time in her writings, the teachings of Theosophy have been expressed in diverse ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, philosophies and religions. Since her passing in 1891, others have come forth with teachings, interpretations, commentaries and additions which are also called theosophical. Some have even claimed to have received their knowledge from the same Lodge of Adepts that H.P.B. represented to the world. When these teachings differ not only from the original writings of H.P.B. but are also inconsistent with other “teachings of Theosophy,” the modern student of Theosophy is faced with a dilemma. Who is right? Whose teaching should be promulgated? Whom does one believe? What is Theosophy?
Is it best to let all claimants title their teachings “Theosophy” or should that title be reserved only for the original writings of H.P.B.? If one is definite and opinionated in their conviction of what to do are they being dogmatic? If they assert that Theosophy is what H.P.B. put for are they being orthodox?
The resolution of this dilemma is one of the challenges of the modern Theosophical ‘Movement. It is a problem that cannot be solved by the authoritative assertion of any one person, but by an individual application of “common sense.” Freedom from dogmatism and orthodoxy is achieved through theosophical independence and self-reliance.
To make the issue as clear as possible, let’s assume that there once existed a group of scientists somewhere on Earth who investigated all departments of man and nature, visible and invisible. They checked, tested and verified their independent observations until, after many years, a body of knowiedge accumulated that was undeniably a truthful expression of the laws and processes of nature. They developed specific methods of research and observation that allowed for repeated verification of their theories.
Eventually, there came a time when this initial group of investigators must have passed on their knowiedge to those who were fit to be their students. At that point, the students would have either accepted all that they had been taught as truth or they would have to chose to verify the teachings for themselves. At that point, the teachers would have either told their students what was true or told them what was true and how to prove it for themselves. The passing on of truth together with the means to verify it and the willingness of those receiving it to test it for themselves was the origin of scientific, religious and philosophical doctrine. The assertion of truth without the means to test it or the willingness of those receiving it to verify it was the origin of scientific, religious and philosophical dogma.
Let’s suppose that at some later time there anses from among the body of students one who is eloquent and influential. This new teacher asserts that he has investigated the Iaws of nature and discovered processes that improve, contradict or add to the doctrines of the group of original teachers. The students of the original group of teachers who chose to prove for themselves that their teachings were true refuse to accept the new teacher’s assertions as being true.
The new teacher and his students charge the other group of students of the original teachers as being orthodox and dogmatic. Is this a fair charge? It is not a justifiable criticism if the new teacher and his students do not prove the validity of their ideas or demonstrate the means by which others can check and verify their ideas. Rather, the charge of dogmatism and orthodoxy is only legitimate when directed toward those who enforce their ideas on the basis of tradition or authority alone.
Orthodoxy and dogmatism were first barn in the world when human beings surrendered their mental independence and self-reliance. They allowed their ideas to be dictated to them by social convention or the authoritative stature of another human being. Orthodoxy and dogmatism were nurtured by the nursemaids of laziness, prejudice and superstition. ln the name of orthodox and dogmatic views, the greatest evils and torments have been brought to bear on one group of human beings by another group.
The only way to throw off the tyranny and oppression of dogmatism and orthodoxy and reclaim independence and self-reliance in the world of ideas is for individuals to require themselves to check, test and verify their acquired opinions and the assertions of others. It requires more than questioning authorities, it requires those in positions of authority to comply with the general standard and offer proof as weil as the means to verify independently their claims. Freedom and independence on the mental plane, as in the political realm, is not license to believe whatever you want to believe. Truth cannot be found or preserved that way. The path to truth by freedom and independence of thought needs safeguards, checks and balances. These are provided by accepting as true only what has been proved to you and that you have proven to yourself to be true.
Much of H.P. Blavatsky’s public life was devoted to combating prejudice, superstition and dogmatism. She challenged orthodox views in science, religion and philosophy, where those views obscured or repressed truth. The conviction expressed in the writings of H.P.B. and W.Q. Judge was based on personal experience, confidence in the teachings of Theosophy and the Great Founders of the Theosophical Movement.
How can we develop this conviction, without being orthodox in our views or dogmatic in our assertions? It is by the exemplification in practice of the principles of the philosophy that such personal experience and conviction are gained. It is this conviction that makes us enthusiastic in the work of promulgating without being zealous, It is this experience that helps us present the teachings in our own words, rather than quoting others. It is this effort that fits us to be the true Theosophists able to see behind and between the words and point out the truth wherever it may be found. How noble it is to try to be a free and independent thinker who belongs to no cult or sect, yet belongs to each and all.
“Theosophical Independence” is produced monthly by Associates of The United Lodge of Theosophists in Philadelphia. Comments, quesrions and contributions for publication may be sent to The United Lodge of Theosophists, 1917 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
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