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Received Truth

Jul 29, 2001 01:56 PM
by gregory

In response to Dallas' positing:

The concept of Received Truth is used by some scholars of religion (like 
me), plus some in the areas studying other ideological systems, to 
describe a system of belief which has been "given" (usually, but not 
always, on the basis of a claim of Divine Authority) by a teacher to 
disciples, and which the disciples are unable to question. Multiple 
examples are found in Christian history. For example, the claim of Papal 
Infallibility is a Received Truth which is not, within the Roman Catholic 
Church's theological system, a matter for open discussion, challenge, 
intellectual analysis or scholarly criticism - except by those who will 
find themselves penalized or excluded for doing so (for example, Hans 
Kung). Received Truth is given for acceptance, not as the beginning of a 
discussion. It can be argued for (which is what True Believers do), but 
not intellectually considered with an open and critical mind (which is 
what scholars are supposed to do). Jehovah's Witnesses cannot (if they 
wish to remain as such) approach the prohibition on blood transfusions as 
a topic for debate (or even discussion). Of course, Received Truth is 
found outside religion (as popularly defined). The "true Marxist" or the 
"true Freudian" (although I am not sure if either such still exist) 
cannot take their teachers doctrines as theories or claims for 
consideration; they are statements of fact, unchanging, unchangeable, 
recognized as such by the True Believer and "attacked" (a word used by 
True Believers to refer to any questioning of the Received Truth) by 
unbelievers or (worse!) Heretics. Heresy is, essentially, a challenge to 
the Received Truth from within (and inevitably leads to the Heretics 
being forced out.... and often then establishing a new Received Truth 
position). Thus, the Adyar position has to be that Leadbeater's claims 
are true; they are Received Truth. ULT approaches Robert Crosbies version 
of history in the same way. He CANNOT have been expelled from Pt Loma, 
therefore discussion of the topic can only occur in a defence (by them) 
or attack (by unbelivers of heretics) paradigm. Pt Loma (I presume) takes 
the reverse position.
Almost inevitably, just what constitute any given tradition of Received 
Truth develops over time into competing rivalries about just the Received 
Truth is, or what are true (as opposed to false) intepretations of it. 
Thus: Adyar, Pt Loma, ULT, et al as the "only true successors" to the HPB 
To suggest that Theosophy (assuming a single, monolithic version of it 
exists) as a description of "facts of nature" requires the assumption of 
a Received Truth position. Why not accept that (for example) Roman 
Catholicism, Marxism, Freudianism, Buddhism or Islam are simply a 
description of the "facts of nature"? Even the acceptance of HPB's 
teachings (again, assuming that a single consensus could be attained as 
to what those teachings were) is a received Truth position. How is it to 
be tested? Why is it assumed to be more accurate as a description than, 
say, the teachings of Swedenborg or Steiner? All disciples of Received 
Truth can provide arguments and evidence to support their claims, but all 
ultimately begin with a Faith Position.
I am not arguing with the value of holding to a Received Truth position 
(it undoubtedly makes life much simpler, and more easily understandable). 
But it needs to be recognized for what it is.
I am sorry to have been somewhat wordy and (probably) incoherent! Thank 
you for your (as always) stimulating and provocative posting. It's good 
to be part of a discussion list that stimulates the mind!
Dr Gregory Tillett

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