THEOSOPHY, Vol. 23, No. 1, November, 1934
(Pages 16-18; Size: 9K)
THE SECRET OF UNDERSTANDING
EVERY honest student, no matter how far he has gone, realizes that the philosophy holds, in the darkness receding before his foot-steps, yet innumerable mysteries. On the other hand, any student, however little "advanced" recalls well when some long-unconquerable mystery suddenly solved itself as by a flash of light. True, it may not have been a very deep mystery; rather in fact, it may have been a mystery to others why the puzzled student was so delayed in his comprehension. But the perception was a step, and deeply important as illustrative of possibilities, to say the least. Now none of these problems get solved by simply puzzling over them in the schoolboy way. In fact, few of them get solved at all by a mere process of study. Often it is a combination of study -- from a particular basis -- with a general, deep flux of the nature and of the mental forces, brought about by sincere self-forgetfulness and the flow of will along worthy lines; all of which produce a reorientation of view permitting the man to glimpse the vistas of a valley hitherto unseen because, however keenly he had been looking, he had been looking in the wrong direction.
To many indeed Theosophy seems a phantasmagoria of wild fables plus volumes of words that sound like language but simply fail to make sense. Such are led to study at all by the presence of some one or two tenets comprehensible enough and sensible enough to intrigue and to induce the new-comer to do some digging with the object of finding out "what it's all about, anyway!"
This approach involves the serious danger of piecemeal acceptance, which is obviously a curse and a hindrance to the greater part of the Theosophical world. Our minds, as we should be able to see demonstrated in the simplest affairs of life, are curious compounds capable of believing simultaneously in the true and in the not-true. Thus it is possible for the average man to "believe" in certain Theosophical doctrines with which he is acquainted, and at the same time to "believe" in other ideas which cannot possibly be true along with Theosophy in the same universe. As a striking and indeed frequent example -- the coexistence of a belief in a personal god, and belief in reincarnation and karma. Many students are in this extraordinary pass. Now the vague idea of the progress of a nondescript "soul" from body to body, reaping the results of its actions, can be easily enough reconciled with the picture of a Divine Judge guiding the process and parceling out individual deserts. But the truth regarding the constitution of the Ego, its intricate relationship with matter, and the very nature of matter itself, all of which are essential to any knowledge whatsoever of the process of reincarnation, hence to any kind of "proof" of it, utterly destroys in the mind which really understands, all possibilities of a personal god. Thus, while we can undoubtedly go on forever "believing" in both "reincarnation" and such a "god," the moment we try to understand reincarnation on that basis, we meet instant defeat.
Parallel cases are innumerable; every time that one finds himself picking and choosing among the doctrines, accepting this and rejecting that, one is erecting stone walls across his path. We cannot, if we are to progress without much bewilderment and suffering, allow a single one of the ideas with which we approach Theosophy to become a criterion of the truth of Theosophy itself. Only facts and logic can be allowed to enter the equation -- never mind what we have been taught, what we have absorbed from the public mind of which we are part; most of all, must we set aside everything that we would like to believe! Moreover, in marshalling our facts and our logic, let us be sure they are facts and that it is logic.
Now, Theosophy is no haphazard collection even of facts. It is either pure delusion or lie, or its only analogue is mathematics. Theosophy is said to be based upon the fundamental laws of Nature, and in its development to follow those laws outward in their ramifying evolution; a method in which there can be no mistake; the exact method of mathematics. But note well the terrible implication in this: the implication that Theosophy is either all true or none true! The Messengers, and those who stood behind them, attested over and over again that this is the nature of Theosophy; that it does derive from fundamental, immemorially known truths, that its doctrines are incapable of fallacy when correctly and understandingly expressed. It was not presented as a speculation, as something which could be picked into sections, something of which we can choose one bit and reject the next. The terms in which it was presented and described allow only three alternatives: either Theosophy is the mathematics of life, all true; or it is the product of pure delusion on the part of a large number of obviously keen intelligences, known or unknown; or the Messengers and the Masters lied about its nature and derivation; baldly, bluntly, knowingly, inexcusably lied. There is no sense in softening or palliating this issue. One, and only one of the three things is true; and if the first is true, we are debarred from ever either fully understanding the doctrines or putting them to the test, so long as we "agree" with part of them and "disagree" with others.
"But then," cries the outraged soul who sees that in such case he must give up some cherished ideas or give up the Theosophy in parts of which he has taken such comfort, "wherein does this differ from the most stringent 'profession of faith' required by the Catholic Church, or the most 'literal fundamentalist' interpretation of the Bible?" It differs from these in precisely the same way that mathematics does. That the Theosophical student has a different approach is due to the fundamentally wrong popular conception -- the religious conception -- of the transcendental side of Theosophy.
There is nothing outrageous about the choice, unless that we are already assuming to ourselves the possibility of one more choice than exists in logic or in nature; this we do when splitting Theosophy apart. One may prefer a cow, a sheep, or a horse; but when we demand a cow with a horse's head, as those do who think Theosophy is part truth and part delusion, or a horse which can produce mutton chops and beefsteak in addition to bearing burdens, as do those -- not a few -- who think it part truth, part lie, and part illusion -- then it is our consistency, or even our sanity, that is subject to criticism, not the unitary nature of the philosophy.
The apparently bizarre nature of some Theosophical ideas, as they appear to some, is due precisely to those ideas being set apart, whereas they have to be considered with the rest to make sense at all.
Those students who have had sudden solutions of problems which puzzled for years, have usually found that the reason for prior non-success was simply because the key had lain in some other statement which they had hitherto actually disbelieved, had not taken seriously, had not considered important.
All have the right to decide for themselves whether Theosophy is true or false; but they cannot give the lie to, or even pass over as negligible, any portion of it without incurring the Karma of mental obfuscation and retardation, any more than the schoolboy who maintains himself at the foot of the class because, "disbelieving" the twelve times twelve is one hundred and forty-four, he cannot pass beyond the multiplication table.
The Masters and the Messengers said over and over, "accept or reject Theosophy as ye will;" they never said "accept such of this as seems to ye true." They could not.