THEOSOPHY, Vol. 16, No. 9, July, 1928 (Pages 400-403; Size: 12K)
PUZZLES OF INQUIRERS
A TYPE of inquirer somewhat difficult to deal with is he who demands immediate "proof" of any statement new to him. When, for example, he hears for the first time that the teachings give the age of man, as he is now formed, as eighteen million years, he will ask, "But how do you know that?" Few of that type seem to realize that the students gathered into any group represent pupils in various grades at school. When a spiritualist, visiting a theosophical assembly for the first time, inquires as to the difference between the spiritualistic beliefs and the theosophical teachings, little more than hints and outlines can be given him, and an attempt to force understanding upon him places the theosophist in the position of one who "doth protest too much" -- without having laid down sufficient premises for his protestations.
How can such a questioner be made to understand, when he knows nothing of the fundamentals, man's seven principles, the laws of karma, reincarnation and cycles? And how, having these, can he know unless they have been tried and tested?
The theosophical teachings are subject to proof, but not as isolated items, nor can they be proved by one individual to another. Nor can the inquirer "accept this because it is reasonable but reject that because it seems unproven," and expect to work out the outline of a truly synthetic philosophy.
There is no short cut to knowledge, theosophical or otherwise. Inquirers of the type mentioned might be reminded that their own education did not begin with a university course.
For an understanding of the theosophical philosophy a theosophical education is necessary. As such knowledge does not depend upon intellectual effort alone the student who works conscientiously through the grades -- and carries his teachings away from the schoolroom into daily life -- will learn something of the use and application of Intuition, which will prove the teachings for him. "But," objects the proof-demanding inquirer, "that sounds like blind belief again." So does the result of the algebraic formula seen by the kindergarten pupil on the eighth grade blackboard -- but the eighth grade pupils know. They know because they have learned the rules and proved their teachings experimentally -- not because their teacher showed them that he could prove them.
The teachings of Theosophy are not as simple as the simple and unreflecting would demand, since they include the whole of the phenomena of Life. But the fact that they constitute a science is evidenced by the existence of the philosophy.
When this is realized by the inquirer he will say, "Why, there is more to this than I had thought!" and start to work forthwith; one not yet ready will probably say, "It's too deep for me," and drift away.
Lowell has expressed the idea as follows:"A man does not receive the statements that 'two and two make four' and that 'the pure in heart shall see God' on the same terms. The one can be proved to him with four grains of corn; he can never arrive at the belief in the other until he realizes it in the intimate persuasion of his whole being."In presenting the theosophical teachings to an inquirer an apt comparison is often of greater usefulness than a detailed explanation. It is difficult to make the questioner understand any given point without explaining the connecting facts which lead up to it. In such case a carefully chosen analogy will often give a hint and demonstrate the plausibility of the item, encouraging the seeker to perform the necessary research work to establish the facts. As an instance:
Many inquirers are surprised to learn that while the theosophical teachings deny the possibility of communication with spirits, they admit the fact of some of the "spiritualistic" phenomena. "What is it that communicates and produces these phenomena, if not spirits?" is the usual question. Not hoping to make the matter clear without explaining Karma, reincarnation, the seven principles and other matters, the student might use, by way of analogy, the phonographic record. A singer makes a record of his voice, thus depositing a part of his thoughts and actions for future reference. The singer passes on to other work and has no control over the future use of the record. When it is desired to reproduce the song, a "medium" is provided in the phonograph and the singer appears to sing again. Those familiar with his voice may recognize and identify it. Certainly no one familiar with the recording process will say that the "spirit" of the singer is performing, especially if the singer is still living. The record is something the singer has made, left behind and perhaps forgotten. It is revitalized by conditions furnished by the "medium" phonograph.
So with that which appears to communicate at séances. It is something the departed individual has made, cast off and forgotten; having no volition of its own, it is dependent upon the conditions furnished by the medium for expression, but is no more the spirit of the Ego who has left the flesh than is the phonographic record that of the singer.
The analogy is not perfect -- few are -- as it does not cover the share of the elementals in the production of phenomena; but its purpose has been served if it makes the possibility of the statements clear to the inquirer who, if he is to be convinced, must convince himself by independent efforts.
In the scriptures of various religions parables and other figurative expressions are made use of for the benefit of those who are able to grasp truths more readily by such expositions. This method has its advantages, but one of its dangers is that figurative expressions may be taken literally. It has been said of the Christian Bible that it contains history, poetry, science and fiction, but who among its students has learned to read its history as history, its poetry as poetry and its science as science?
A comparison is valuable, not as a clear explanation of what it is intended to represent but as an aid to the recognition of the natural laws whose operation is the same wherever manifested. To make this clearer -- by another analogy -- it might be stated that under the hood of an automobile, in the machine rooms of a factory, in a glass of water, an egg, a weed, a feather or a lump of coal may be seen the operation or effects of the same laws that govern the activities of the orbs of the solar system: "As above, so below."
As the student in search of material to present to inquirers finds the answers to many problems that have puzzled him, he realizes the need of stressing the value of independent investigation on the part of the questioners. The intellectual perception of theosophical truths, while not the entire end and aim of theosophists, is a valuable aid, and often leads to a knowledge of the Law which makes it easier for one to conform to the operations of that Law. That much being accomplished "self induced and self devised efforts" will lead to further attainments.
Within the limits of the authentic text books of Theosophy, the teachings of the Masters recorded by H. P. Blavatsky and Wm. Q. Judge, are to be found a well-nigh perfect outline of a complete philosophical system, an extension and corroboration of the various details of that system, and a perfect accord between the two recorders thereof. The student who is convinced of the truth of these statements is an excellent instrument for the promulgation of the teachings.
To be placed on the defensive is sometimes the means of stimulating one to efforts that might not otherwise be undertaken. As a friendly suggestion, let each student who has resolved to fit himself to help and teach others imagine that he has made the statements in the paragraph above and has been challenged to prove their correctness. He knows, or should know, that the teachings of theosophy are not, as those of the lawyer, physician and clergyman, matters of theory, opinion or interpretation. As a concrete example of what is meant let us take any one item of doctrine, apply the test, determine the results and invite others to make the same test of any or all items of teaching.
For instance, let us turn to Page 30 of "The Ocean of Theosophy," and read there the quotation from the "Secret Doctrine" relative to the correlation between the principles and planets. Next, we have Page 75 of "The Key to Theosophy," where the same subject receives additional treatment. Turn now to the index references in the Secret Doctrine and pursue the search further. It will be found that each statement relative to the same item agrees with all other statements in the works quoted and that all are complementary to each other. This is not an isolated coincidence; the same agreement will be found wherever the two Recorders treat of the same topic. Furthermore, the subjects treated make up the composite whole of the philosophy and must fit in with each other, or the agreement between the writers is of little value. They do so fit, and this can be demonstrated by a process similar to the one outlined.
If those who have indulged in adverse criticism of Theosophy had set themselves to testing it by such processes and fairly considered the facts recorded by H.P.B. and W.Q.J., rather than the claims put forth by later writers, it is likely that such criticism would have been materially reduced. Try to fit into the picture any of the "new" teachings not given out by the original recorders. To do this it is necessary to set aside some of the original and coherent teachings.
Again, on the assumed defensive, let the student ask himself, "Wherein has Theosophy ever failed in the face of objections?" The North Pole question? The descent of the ape from man? The age of the earth and of man? When there is as much agreement among the protagonists of contrary teachings, and as much consistency in the synthesis of their systems, as there is between the exponents of theosophy and the items of their philosophy, it will be time for theosophists to doubt their Teachers -- not before.
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 TRIAD OF PREPARATION
By the study of Theosophy we acquire Wisdom; by the practice of Theosophy we acquire Compassion; these two lead to the attainment and realization of the Bliss of the inner life. To be blissful, to be compassionate, to be discerning -- these constitute the eternal triad of preparation for the life of spiritual service. In this attempt, speaks the Teaching, -- "Beware of settled security; it leads to sloth, or to presumption."
What is Reincarnation?