THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 8, June, 1952
(Pages 359-364; Size: 17K)
(Number 8 of a 20-part series)
[Compiler's Note: All 20 articles have the same name.]
NOTES ON "THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY"
IT should be of more than casual interest to note that H.P.B., in developing "The Fundamental Teachings of Theosophy" in Section Five, omits a systematic presentation of the three Fundamental Propositions of The Secret Doctrine. The basic ideas, certainly, occur and re-occur, but not in the form and order with which students of The Secret Doctrine are most familiar. Since the Key was obviously intended as a book for new students of Theosophy who might feel lost in the vastness of correlation and synthesis supplied by The Secret Doctrine, some reflection upon the omission of a detailed statement of the Fundamentals may be in order.
If one has long assumed that the comprehension of Theosophy necessarily begins with "the Three Fundamentals," phrased as such, the fluidity of H.P.B.'s approach in the Key should serve as an excellent modifier of this idea. For, as every great theosophic teacher has said -- and in a score of ways -- "truth is not a man, nor a book nor a statement" nor any formulation that has been or ever will be devised. Perceptions of certain truths in respect to man's nature and his relation to the Cosmos awaken gradually, the initial point of departure differing with the individual and the immediate karmic circumstances.
This is clearly intimated in H.P.B.'s discussion of the qualifications for membership in the T.S., when she explains that an active interest in any one of the Three Objects gives one a full right to belong. And this breadth of approach can be applied with even greater justification to the "Three Fundamentals," in respect to the progressive nature of a man's awakening to the perception of all three seen as One. Usually one of the three "fundamental" areas of inquiry will call forth the strongest initial interest from a student. A scientist may be fascinated by mathematical common denominators which enable planets, suns and stars to be comprehended all together in terms of laws of motion -- which are also laws of harmony. Physics may introduce to him the sense of the "boundless, omnipresent." Or he may approach the "First Fundamental" as does the biologist, Edmund W. Sinnott, when he speaks of an essential, uniformly pervasive life-stuff out of which all things came, and of which all things are composed. Another, as archaeologist or zoologist, may inwardly thrill to the pulse of growing nature, and be acutely responsive to anything pertaining to the great "pivotal" doctrine of evolution.
For all these, it is the port of entry which is crucial. When attention is focussed upon a certain phase of the eternal quest for truth, the mind is more receptive to synthesizing the concepts in one area rather than in any other, as for instance, more receptive to the thought of Spiritual Beinghood than to the thought of Moral Law, or more receptive to the thought of Soul Evolution than to that of either Moral Law or Spiritual Oneness.
Thus it is clear that no summation of philosophy could possibly exist which would initially stand out in equal emphasis in all its parts. Always will there be special first points of contact with Theosophical essentials, special interests and development along one or more particular lines. We find, then, an explanation of H.P.B.'s omission of the same formulation of fundamental propositions as that used in The Secret Doctrine when she wrote the Key --and we simultaneously realize why neither H.P.B., nor Judge, nor, for that matter, Robert Crosbie, ever attempted to systematize the philosophy. Put simply, Theosophy has as great a scope psychologically as metaphysically and cosmologically. Were one formulation or order of presentation held to suffice, even for the "Fundamentals," a certain narrowness of horizon would inevitably result, since horizons are psychological realities.
With these reflections in mind, we may think of the introduction of any statement made to represent basic truths as being also a summation of thoughts already familiar. In truth, no man can ever understand a completely new idea. What he understands, with each progressive awakening, is an extension of that which he already knows. Thus, both in The Secret Doctrine and in the Key, H.P.B. gives abundant discussion to the Christian Deity before she formulates any "proposition" in respect to spiritual Reality. Had there been no Christian Deity, had the dominant "religious" conditioning of the West been d'Holbach's materialism, the preceding discussion would clearly have varied accordingly. One further implication also remains -- that the actual phrasing of the proposition would likewise have varied, since that which is given is, at least in part, molded to contrast with the Christian idea of Deity.
The concept brought to focus by the first proposition of The Secret Doctrine is introduced immediately in the Key under "Fundamental Teachings." But the statement that "Theosophy teaches the existence of an infinite principle which is the root of all that exists," being extraordinarily difficult to grasp, is given some preparation. H.P.B. calls attention to the efforts of both religion and science to phrase an intuitively-felt connecting bond between man and the rest of the wide universe. The scientist seeks the "total of all finite agencies and forces" while the religionist seeks the total of all spiritual agencies and forces. Both are concerned with the problem of arriving at a unifying conception, and both scientist and religionist have imprinted their thoughts on our "cultural heritage," making the study of science and religion a portion of self-study.
In Section V of the Key, H.P.B. shows how the first proposition of The Secret Doctrine aids man in formulating a double synthesis -- the synthesis sought by the scientists, and the synthesis sought by the religionists, and then a combined or greater synthesis of both:In short, our Deity is the eternal, incessantly evolving, not creating, builder of the universe; that universe itself unfolding out of its own essence, not being made. It is a sphere, without circumference, in its symbolism, which has but one ever-acting attribute embracing all other existing or thinkable attributes -- ITSELF.... When we speak of the Deity and make it identical, hence coeval, with Nature, the eternal and uncreate nature is meant, and not your aggregate of flitting shadows and finite unrealities. We leave it to the hymn-makers to call the visible sky or heaven, God's Throne, and our earth of mud His footstool. Our DEITY is neither in a paradise, nor in a particular tree, building, or mountain: it is everywhere, in every atom of the visible as of the invisible Cosmos, in, over, and around every invisible atom and divisible molecule; for IT is the mysterious power of evolution and involution, the omnipresent, omnipotent, and even omniscient creative potentiality.The meaning here is extremely simple, and in no sense, really "abstruse." The Theosophic view is that of the "universe itself unfolding out of its own essence," not being "made" by either blind material forces or supernatural ones. Here is the meaning of the first Fundamental Proposition, even if not a full metaphysical statement, and hence, except for metaphysicians, offering a much more comprehensible point of orientation and departure.
The meaning of the Second Fundamental follows immediately, in the statement that this Deity of the Theosophists is also "the one law, giving the impulse to manifested, eternal, and immutable laws, within that never-manifesting, because absolute LAW, which in its manifesting periods is The ever-Becoming." If we now return to The Secret Doctrine itself, we shall have further evidence that the fundamental propositions as given in their purer, abstract form on pages 14-20 may be thought of as tools for enlarging concepts already introduced. Much of the Introductory is concerned with "the necessity of an absolute Divine Principle in nature." That part of the Proem preceding page 14 involves a consideration of the symbolisms which represent "the ever invisible spiritual soul of nature." Also, in turning to the scientific search for the unifying or connecting factor between the various grades and forms of matter, she treats of "one element and breath" reflected by the real existence of ether, the seven elements with their sub-elements being simply "conditional modifications and aspects of the ONE AND ONLY ELEMENT.
To repeat, then, it is obviously H.P.B.'s conviction that considerable preparation is needed for the bold statement of such highly metaphysical propositions as to what we call the "fundamentals." Can we wonder that inquirers cannot be expected to understand immediately a presentation of abstractions, even though those be "from The Secret Doctrine"? Theosophists who have actually studied H.P.B.'s works have not been thrust into this difficult condensation of thought all at once, but rather led to it gradually by the consideration of various problems which only some such generalized formulation can clarify. It is then a concept or a purview which H.P.B. is actually introducing, not a particular formula; again, statements given are almost as much a summation of things already discussed as a point of departure for other statements to follow.
Such considerations give partial justification for the view sometimes held by Theosophists that the "three fundamentals" do not always have to be considered in the order outlined on pages 14 through 20 of The Secret Doctrine.
After indicating that Law and Life are self-contained and self-containing, the conclusion can only be that the Higher Self in each man is the self-reliant maker of individual destiny. "Prayer," then, in the Christian sense, cannot be justified. H.P.B. next turns to the second great question -- the nature and conditions of -- individuality. The comprehension of Karma depends upon a knowledge of the interrelationships established by the various orders of being, and the "various orders of being" cannot be understood without an affirmation that each center of life and consciousness, in its highest nature, participates in the true "deity." Thus is the Christian God supplanted, and the eager quest of the philosophically-minded directed towards an understanding of the term soul and its laws -- the subject matter of the Third Fundamental Proposition.
"Law" -- what do we mean by this? To say that the One Life is the One Law, is not a statement of the Second Fundamental, but the continuation of a statement of the first. The Second Fundamental, as stated in The Secret Doctrine, is a proposition covering the mode or manner in which law works. But in order to understand any such proposition, we have to know what manner of being we are -- upon and through whom Law works. The question of individuality must be answered before "the working of law" can be grasped in any sense except as an abstraction. Until the question of individuality is answered, the ethical and moral implications of "law" can have no meaning. Law applies to everything, including ourselves, but who are we? The answer, apparently, is not to be clearly defined at this stage of development of the philosophy, for H.P.B., in Section V, moves from a question concerning the nature of soul to the story of the Buddha, relating how Gautama refused either to affirm or deny the soul. Yet in so doing, she focusses attention upon the fact that there is a mystery here for each one to penetrate for himself. We are, in other words, led from consideration of the implications of the First Fundamental to the question of individuality, but the very "non-answering" of this second, and, for many persons, most important question, is the answer which is perhaps most needed. This is a mystery, for the solution of which man may find his own inspiration. But a mystery, too, which he can solve when he learns sufficient of the laws of life.
Might not this be called practical logic -- practical, because it is of considerable importance for each man to know whether the source of strength which may move his destiny is within or outside of himself? But then, after the affirmation of that strength within is made -- after the "God question" is settled -- man must still know how to invoke his own inner power. Simply to say that the only true God is within does not explain how he may expect to "will" independently, and how much "free choice" actually exists. This is a crucial point: does man have real individuality, or is his real being only in terms of a vast universal principle, which gives him identity with all other living things, and none but an illusory individuality? There is only one spirit, but does this mean that there is but the one soul? If so, the appearance of individuality is to be shunned, since reabsorption into the One would be the only goal -- and, actually, the only "true state." Men wish to know, however, about the power and strength of soul as individual soul; and they manifest an inward faith that such power exists. Once the heart-longing for an answer to the desire to believe that a wondrous kinship exists through all of nature has been satisfied, another part of the heart speaks, just as clearly. Man is but beast if he cannot think of the whole of mankind as well as of himself, yet if he cannot think of himself as an individual, think of his pilgrimage as being one of special significance for him because of having its own special lessons necessary for his further enlightenment, the word "progress" comes to stand for something mechanical, something without spiritual significance.
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:
The lesson is forcibly taught ... that our life might be much easier and simpler than we make it; that the world might be a happier place than it is; that there is no need of struggles, convulsions, and despairs, of the wringing of the hands and the gnashing of the teeth; that we miscreate our own evils. We interfere with the optimism of nature; for whenever we get this vantage-ground of the past, or of a wiser mind in the present, we are able to discern that we are begirt with laws which execute themselves....
Nature will not have us fret and fume. She does not like our benevolence or our learning much better than she likes our frauds and wars. When we come out of the caucus, or the bank, or the Abolition-convention, or the Temperance-meeting, or the Transcendental club into the fields and woods, she says to us, "So hot? my little Sir."
--RALPH WALDO EMERSON
NOTES ON "THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY"
(Part 9 of a 20-part series)
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