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Sep 01, 2007 07:22 PM
by danielhcaldwell

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the loss of which is to be regretted whenever it is superceded by 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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