“…There must be SOMEWHERE a philosophical and religious system which shall be scientific and not merely speculative. FINALLY, a belief, perhaps, that such a system must be sought for in teachings far antedating any modern faith.”
This week, we finish up Section II with “WHY IS THEOSOPHY ACCEPTED?”
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“WHY IS THEOSOPHY ACCEPTED?”
ENQUIRER. I understand to a certain extent; but I see that your teachings are far more complicated and metaphysical than either Spiritualism or current religious thought. Can you tell me, then, what has caused this system of Theosophy which you support to arouse so much interest and so much animosity at the same time?
THEOSOPHIST. There are several reasons for it, I believe; among other causes that may be mentioned is,firstly, the great reaction from the crassly materialistic theories now prevalent among scientific teachers. Secondly, general dissatisfaction with the artificial theology of the various Christian Churches, and the number of daily increasing and conflicting sects. Thirdly, an ever-growing perception of the fact that the creeds which are so obviously self — and mutually — contradictory cannot be true, and that claims which are unverified cannot be real. This natural distrust of conventional religions is only strengthened by their complete failure to preserve morals and to purify society and the masses. Fourthly, a conviction on the part of many, and knowledgeby a few, that there must be somewhere a philosophical and religious system which shall be scientific and not merely speculative. Finally, a belief, perhaps, that such a system must be sought for in teachings far antedating any modern faith.
ENQUIRER. But how did this system come to be put forward just now?
THEOSOPHIST. Just because the time was found to be ripe, which fact is shown by the determined effort of so many earnest students to reach the truth, at whatever cost and wherever it may be concealed. Seeing this, its custodians permitted that some portions at least of that truth should be proclaimed. Had the formation of the Theosophical Society been postponed a few years longer, one half of the civilized nations would have become by this time rank materialists, and the other half anthropomorphists and phenomenalists.
ENQUIRER. Are we to regard Theosophy in any way as a revelation?
THEOSOPHIST. In no way whatever — not even in the sense of a new and direct disclosure from some higher, supernatural, or, at least, superhuman beings; but only in the sense of an “unveiling” of old, very old,
truths to minds hitherto ignorant of them, ignorant even of the existence and preservation of any such archaic knowledge.*
*It has become “fashionable,” — especially of late, to deride the notion that there ever was, in the mysteries of great and civilized peoples, such as the Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans, anything but priestly imposture. Even the Rosicrucians were no better than half lunatics, half knaves. Numerous books have been written on them; and tyros, who had hardly heard the name a few years before, sallied out as profound critics and Gnostics on the subject of alchemy, the fire-philosophers, and mysticism in general. Yet a long series of the Hierophants of Egypt, India, Chaldea, and Arabia are known, along with the greatest philosophers and sages of Greece and the West, to have included under the designation of wisdom and divine science all knowledge, for they considered the base and origin of every art and science as essentially divine. Plato regarded the mysteries as most sacred, and Clemens Alexandrinus, who had been himself initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, has declared “that the doctrines taught therein contained in them the end of all human knowledge.” Were Plato and Clemens two knaves or two fools, we wonder, or — both? D
ENQUIRER. You spoke of “Persecution.” If truth is as represented by Theosophy, why has it met with such opposition, and with no general acceptance?
THEOSOPHIST. For many and various reasons again, one of which is the hatred felt by men for “innovations,” as they call them. Selfishness is essentially conservative, and hates being disturbed. It prefers an easy-going, unexacting lieto the greatest truth, if the latter requires the sacrifice of one’s smallest comfort. The power of mental inertia is great in anything that does not promise immediate benefit and reward. Our age is pre-eminently unspiritual and matter of fact. Moreover, there is the unfamiliar character of Theosophic teachings; the highly abstruse nature of the doctrines, some of which contradict flatly many of the human vagaries cherished by sectarians, which have eaten into the very core of popular beliefs. If we add to this the personal efforts and great purity of life exacted of those who would become the disciples of the inner circle, and the very limited class to which an entirely unselfish code appeals, it will be easy to perceive the reason why Theosophy is doomed to such slow, up-hill work. It is essentially the philosophy of those who suffer, and have lost all hope of being helped out of the mire of life by any other means. Moreover, the history of any system of belief or morals, newly introduced into a foreign soil, shows that its beginnings were impeded by every obstacle that obscurantism and selfishness could suggest. “The crown of the innovator is a crown of thorns” indeed! No pulling down of old, worm-eaten buildings can be accomplished without some danger.
ENQUIRER. All this refers rather to the ethics and philosophy of the T. S. Can you give me a general idea of the Society itself, its objects and statutes?
THEOSOPHIST. This was never made secret. Ask, and you shall receive accurate answers.
ENQUIRER. But I heard that you were bound by pledges?
THEOSOPHIST. Only in the Arcaneor “Esoteric” Section.
ENQUIRER. And also, that some members after leaving did not regard themselves bound by them. Are they right?
THEOSOPHIST. This shows that their idea of honour is an imperfect one. How can they be right? As well said in the Path, our theosophical organ at New York, treating of such a case: “Suppose that a soldier is tried for infringement of oath and discipline, and is dismissed from the service. In his rage at the justice he has called down, and of whose penalties he was distinctly forewarned, the soldier turns to the enemy with false information, — a spy and traitor — as a revenge upon his former Chief, and claims that his punishment has released him from his oath of loyalty to a cause.” Is he justified, think you? Don’t you think he deserves being called a dishonourable man, a coward?
ENQUIRER. I believe so; but some think otherwise.
THEOSOPHIST. So much the worse for them. But we will talk on this subject later, if you please.”
Link to Google’s digitised original text of “The Key to Theosophy” from 1889:
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