THEOSOPHY, Vol. 41, No. 6, April, 1953
(Pages 262-266; Size: 15K)
(Number 18 of a 20-part series)
[Compiler's Note: All 20 articles have the same name.]
NOTES ON "THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY"
H. P. BLAVATSKY'S discussion, in Section XIV, of "The Theosophical Mahatmas," immediately focusses upon the evidence that all men have hidden powers and capacities of an extraordinary nature. This, we think, should be taken as a reminder that Theosophical Adepts have always been represented as natural and normal developments of an evolutionary process, and, while the reality of their existence and great powers is asserted, care is taken to disabuse readers of the tendency to view such great beings as "supernatural." "We believe in nothing supernatural," writes H.P.B., "as I have told you already." Speaking of the Theosophical Mahatmas, she declares: "The powers which they exercise are simply the development of potencies lying latent in every man and woman, and the existence of which even official science begins to recognise."
The most delicate subject in regard to the existence of the Theosophical Mahatmas is obviously that of telepathic communication or inspiration, which H.P.B. asserted to be a normal means of communication between Adepts and disciples. On page 291, H.P.B. carefully outlines the rationale of such a phenomenon, and, after remarking the reaction of the inquirer -- to the effect that "such a thing is entirely too miraculous" -- says that "science itself will refute the arguments at no distant date." H.P.B. continues:Why should it be a "miracle," as you call it? A miracle is supposed to mean some operation which is supernatural, whereas there is really nothing above or beyond Nature and Nature's laws. Among the many forms of the "miracle" which have come under modern scientific recognition, there is Hypnotism, and one phase of its power is known as "Suggestion," a form of thought transference, which has been successfully used in combating particular physical diseases, etc. The time is not far distant when the World of Science will be forced to acknowledge that there exists as much interaction between one mind and another, no matter at what distance, as between one body and another in closest contact. When two minds are sympathetically related, and the instruments through which they function are tuned to respond magnetically and electrically to one another, there is nothing which will prevent the transmission of thoughts from one to the other, at will; for since the mind is not of a tangible nature, that distance can divide it from the subject of its contemplation, it follows that the only difference that can exist between two minds is a difference of STATE. So if this latter hindrance is overcome, where is the "miracle" of thought transference, at whatever distance?The two references to "the world of science," asserting that incontrovertible proof of mental telepathy as a normal power of man will be forthcoming, are reminiscent of the prophetic tone of H.P.B.'s Secret Doctrine statement that "the whole issue of the quarrel between the profane and the esoteric sciences depends upon the belief in, and demonstration of, the existence of an astral body within the physical...." Interested students of the modern temper of opinion, and of discoveries which make many of H.P.B.'s doctrinal assertions more credible to the world at large, may here reflect upon the extraordinary growth of popular belief in telepathy in our time. During the past year, Lookout has carried [Note: this refers to the "On the Lookout" section found in every issue of THEOSOPHY magazine. --Compiler.] a number of reports on Dr. J. B. Rhine's patient wearing away of scientific prejudice against a consideration of extrasensory perception, and Rhine's book, The Reach of the Mind, is a substantiation of each one of H. P. Blavatsky's words in the above passage. One of the general "transformations of mind" discussed last month in this series involves analytical attention now given to telepathy -- and its implications.
It is at this point that one may reflect upon the importance of the Second and Third Objects of the Theosophical Society, in providing the focus for a sort of study which would support the view of man as a soul by many means of indirection. Belief in soul, as a religious expression of man's hope that he may finally transcend his present condition, has its functions, but also its limitations. Belief in soul without a study of the nature of the soul leaves devotees at the mercy of authorities claiming special knowledge of the subject. But whenever attention is directed to the specific capacities of soul, authority becomes more and more resident in the judgment and wisdom acquired by the individual for himself. What are the capacities of the soul? Clearly, all those indications that man is capable of passing beyond the conditioning effects of physical life. Whatever evidence of history establishes the indomitable nature of the will, by way of examples of singular persons who have surmounted every kind of physical and environmental handicap, can be made into a direct knowledge of soul, able to replace reliance upon doctrine. Thus H.P.B. called attention to the great teachers of history, and indicated why the noble philosophers among the ancients needed to be given contemplative attention. Such study also gives substance to the assertion that man's mind can be much more far-reaching, less restricted by the shaping effects of environment, than may otherwise be believed.
There are, of course, other ways of approaching the examination of such a question as to whether the soul exists. One such was provided by a famous scholar and metaphysician, John McTaggart of Cambridge, during the 1920's. With a simple logical formula, he sought to clarify the debate between those who hold man to be primarily spiritual and those who hold him to be primarily material. McTaggart held that since scientific knowledge affirms that there is interaction between the mind and the body -- just as the mind is affected by conditions of the body so are conditions of the body altered by the mind -- we have three reasonable alternatives as to the nature of the interrelatedness admitted. First, we can argue that the primary influence is physical. Secondly we can argue that the primary influence is mental. In these cases, we would be asserting either that the body is an "effect" of the mind, or that the mind is an "effect" of the body. But, McTaggart added, why not adopt the simplest hypothesis, which is that the body and the mind are independent of one another, that each has powers of its own, and that the relationship is reciprocal rather than a matter of causal determination by one or the other? Further, if the mind has powers and functions of its own, there is no reason to suppose that the mind ceases to exist with the death of the body, nor that the mind is rigidly limited by the physical mechanism of the brain. Unfortunately, few men are able without difficulty to follow such logical metaphysical argument to this conclusion.
As for a study of "psychic powers latent in man," it may easily be recognized that even those who can presently prove little to themselves of the far-reachingness of the mind, or the indomitable power of the will, nevertheless have psychic experiences and realize psychic capacities in some degree. This, undoubtedly, is one of the major reasons for the inclusion of the third object in the program of the Theosophical Society. The psychic realm was and is every man's realm, and it was to be expected that the disciples of modern science would first begin their study of soul through a desire to explain such nearly universal phenomena. Dreams, for instance, have brought to each living person occasional intimations of a power to see and know clearly while the operations of the waking brain are temporarily suspended. The psychologists were to discover more and more provocative material in dreams, and to see in them the unconscious speaking of a "symbol language" which the conscious mind is not even aware can be spoken. While the first interpretations of these "symbols" were bound to be strongly colored by the prejudices of a materialistic age, it has been just as inevitable that we should witness a gradual swing in an opposite direction -- the talk now is of the relatedness of dream symbols and religious symbols; further, among some psychologists such as Erich Fromm and Joseph Campbell, the conviction is growing that this language may be as real or even more real than the confused chatter of our waking lives.
J. W. Dunne's book, An Experiment with Time, published in the 1920's, as was McTaggart's, listed a phenomenal amount of evidence to support the view affirmed by H.P.B., though this was accomplished in more academic terms. Dr. William MacDougall's initial experiments with "ESP" at Duke and the intensive program carried on for so many subsequent years by Dr. Rhine, in continuation of his predecessor's efforts, provide ample background for asserting that there is no other valid alternative.
The recalcitrant reactions of the world of scientific opinion to these discoveries, however, does indicate one of the basic weaknesses of the laboratory approach. Dr. Rhine's work has been violently opposed by those who objected to the renewal of what they mistakenly thought to be supernaturalism, and such prejudices are only gradually abating. A dearth of philosophical tradition in the West has similarly made it very difficult for the layman to assess the significance of evidence supporting telepathy and like powers, and even the frequent publication of evidence that "telepathy is a fact" may make little difference to the average individual's conception of the structure and meaning of human life. A man of truly philosophical temperament, on the other hand, might reflect in the following manner: If there be such a thing as telepathy, potential in all men, this would indicate that our ceaseless frustration in being able to realize consciously only isolated bits of knowledge may sometimes be surmounted. If the thoughts and wisdom of the greatest of men have real and reachable existence on the mental plane, and if this wisdom is available to all those who learn to speak intelligibly the language of the higher mind, then a relatively complete and perfect wisdom may one day be available for each one. Such speculation would be the most logical basis for believing that a "golden age" may yet arrive for humanity as a whole, and thus a noble dream of future happiness and harmony be given vitality. Further, if men become aware of the hidden moral influence which each exerts upon his fellows by the quality of all his thoughts and feelings, working "telepathically" at each moment of the day, the whole subject of moral responsibility is enormously deepened. And it is only those who have reflected upon such occult matters who are likely to appreciate the nature of the relationship existing between Mahatmas and men.
It is little wonder that H.P.B. discusses "psychological powers" and the Mahatmas in the same section of The Key to Theosophy. This is not, as might superficially appear to be the case, a stressing of the particularized phenomena of which the Adepts are reputed to be capable, but rather a way of building a natural link between man's own powers and the comprehension of the nature of the Mahatmas -- and their work. Finally, the Theosophical student is encouraged to look at the marvelous possibilities of the future, and thus share, in degree, one of the characteristics H.P.B. attributes to Masters who, she says, "look at the future, not at the present."
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
It is crucial for us, and for society in general, to know whether or not the mind is just a physical brain function. For without freedom of choice our social philosophies would collapse. Without free volition there can be no morality, no real democracy, not even any science itself as a free inquiry. If mental life is wholly a product of cerebral physics there would appear to be no escape from physical law anywhere in the course of human conduct. Freedom is then only a fancy, and ethics, under physical law, entirely a fiction.
Only by research can it be determined which is correct, the mind-centered or psychocentric view of man, or the brain-centered or cerebrocentric conception. Mere beliefs, of whatever type, are no longer sufficient for the guidance of humanity.
--J. B. RHINE
NOTES ON "THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY"
(Part 19 of a 20-part series)
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