THEOSOPHY, Vol. 49, No. 4, February, 1961
(Pages 166-167; Size: 7K)
[Article number (6) in this Department]
ACCORDING to figures released a few months ago by the National Council of Churches, total church membership has increased substantially during the period of 1958-60, Though the general population increase was only 1.8 per cent, church memberships, inclusive of all denominations, increased by 3.3 per cent. No such corresponding increase seems evident among Theosophists and, in some lodges, recent years have seen decreases in attendance at theosophical meetings. Often an "associate" will wonder aloud, "What is wrong?"
We are living in an era characterized by the sociologists as one of "social and family disorganization." In a tradition-directed society there is much that is ritualistic, satisfying that aspect of the psychic nature to which ritualism seems a steadying or harmonizing expression. Since traditions of home life are today either nonexistent or in flux, and since the same is true of educational, community, and patriotic traditions, there is an undeniable appeal to return to some aspect of ritualism -- at least one day in the week. Such a supposition seems borne out by the fact that there have been more than twice as many new Catholic affiliations as Protestant.
On the other hand, the greatest proportion of increase has been reported by the Universalist-Unitarians after their merger on a plank of universal brotherhood, inclusive of all religious backgrounds. The Universalist-Unitarian platform is in many respects identical with the platform of the original Theosophical Society and represents, as did the "Three Objects," a determination to find the truth or truths which are beyond the scope of ritual or tradition. This encouraging development is certainly evidence of an impressive advance in what might be called "Exoteric Theosophy," a continuation of one basic intention of the Alexandrian school of Ammonius. Students of H. P. Blavatsky are involved in the study of what, comparatively, must be called an "esoteric" Theosophy. H.P.B. affirmed the existence of a gnosis, and presented a portion of its content. So far as the average liberal is concerned, therefore, the Blavatsky Theosophists may appear to be sectarian, and sectarianism seems atavistic rather than progressive, regardless of the nature or content of the doctrines espoused. Viewed in this light, the progress of Theosophy is indeed at a standstill -- and there have even been numerous Theosophists who have, in this cycle, relinquished their professed affiliation on the ground that it restricted their "liberalism."
What is involved here seems to be an evolutionary transition on the part of more or less independent thinkers from the realm of religion to the realm of philosophy. Throughout the course of her association with the T.S., Madame Blavatsky endeavored to indicate that Theosophy was not meant to be taken only religiously, but philosophically as well -- that the proper attitude of the student is that of a searcher after truth, one seeking discovery rather than confirmation and assurance. Some people entered the atmosphere of theosophical study with a need to place their faith, a need for beliefs, and only later if ever, began to discover the real psychological meanings of the "message" which H.P.B. brought.
In the world at large, the "discovery" of theosophical ideas seems to be accelerating in amazing ways, from popular literature to the writings of once-materialistic men of science. Aspects of the Three Fundamental Propositions of The Secret Doctrine come into focus. This is another kind of "esoteric Theosophy" -- concurrences of thought moving toward some possible joining-point of the future without any common designation or affiliation.
It would seem likely that a final blossoming of perception regarding the Theosophy of H. P. Blavatsky depends upon the future refinement and development of these currents of ideas -- and upon an understanding by nominal Theosophists that one aspect of the Theosophical Movement should not be regarded as any more basic and important than the other two described. There is, however, full scope for "faith" in the transcendent significance of H.P.B.'s specific teachings. By preserving those teachings, by endeavoring to withstand the blandishments of an unnecessary sectarianism, the Theosophist holds open the door through which intuitive and unprejudiced individuals may come, "when the cycle permits."
Theosophists have often made the typical twentieth-century mistake -- assuming that progress can be measured by the numerical increase of adherents. The karma of humankind and true "progress" in Theosophy cannot be measured in any statistical fashion. The present Movement exists to assist the discovery of Theosophy whenever, wherever, and however possible. And discovery cannot be managed -- only awaited with that attitude of "attentive expectancy" which H.P.B. ever sought to encourage in her students.
[Article number (7) in this Department]
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