QUESTION--AND COMMENT

Compiler's note: This Department ran in THEOSOPHY magazine from July 1960 to October 1962. It has 25 articles in it, which were scanned from a total of 91 pages in the magazine, which is an average of 3.6 pages per article.

All of the articles have the same Department name; there are no sub-titles. So to try and be somewhat helpful to the reader, who might want to come back, or point to, or provide the link to, any particular article on this index page, as I proofread each one, and come to know the questions being asked and answered, I will list only the questions next to each date and link, hoping that this will be enough to help the reader to find and get back to the article whenever desired and/or necessary.

(1) July 1960 [This Question is answered: Just what sort of "assimilation" is accomplished during the comparatively long period of time presumably spent in the devachanic state by the average person? I understand that in this state the reincarnating ego, or Manas, is not and cannot be fully active, since no causes may be initiated. Yet students often speak of "assimilation as the purpose of Devachan from the standpoint of the ego, and one naturally associates "assimilation" with the attaining of a greater wisdom.]

Note: This Department was not in the August and September issues.

(2) October 1960 [This Question is answered: In THEOSOPHY I:319 we find the following definition of character: "The character with which we were born was actually a sort of spiritual memory of past experiences." It is also said that "only the efflorescence of the highest thought and aspiration adheres to the Reincarnating Ego." These ideas "make sense" to us; they underlie our appreciation when we say, "That man has character." How then would we define "bad character"? Is it a thing-in-itself or merely the absence of "good character," or spiritual memory?
    But in Chapter 10 of The Ocean of Theosophy Mr. Judge speaks of "cases where heredity is set at nought by a wholly bad or deficient Ego," and in Chapter 11 he defines the ego as "thinker and actor" -- which would seem to imply that "bad character" also has something to do with egoic memory of past experiences.]
    [Note: I have provided a copy of the 5-page article that is quoted from in the first paragraph of this question, and placed it at the end of the article. It is entitled "The Vocation of Life".--Compiler]

(3) November 1960 [These 2 Questions are answered: (1) If Nature works to restore balance and harmony throughout the universe, would it not be impossible to have a "population explosion"? Do we have any record of this ever having happened? Am I right in assuming that both China and India are on the decline? (2) A question arose last night in a Gita Notes class: On page 77 of the Notes, it says: "Through heedlessness verily were the demons vanquished ..." Does this mean that the evil spirits or demons have, on their particular plane, the equivalent down-grade of "Lost Souls"?]

(4) December 1960 [This Question is answered: An increasing interest in the psychological components of Buddha's teaching, as well as the present phase of popular fascination by Zen, naturally encourages the Theosophical student to seek connectives between Buddhism and Theosophy. Particularly is one tempted to affirm that Buddha, himself -- the source of so much more profundity than Westerners ever used to realize -- upheld the teaching of reincarnation. But most textbooks on comparative religion deny that Buddha held any such conviction. Can Buddha's teaching of reincarnation be unequivocally demonstrated?]

(5) January 1961 [This Question is answered: Part II of "The Original Programme," published in the August issue of THEOSOPHY, makes it manifest that H.P.B. saw nothing whatsoever wrong in the Society's being governed democratically -- with its president, its officers, its constitution, its rules and regulations, and its annual fees. One wonders whether ULT, with its avowal of its work and end being "too absorbing and too lofty to leave it the time or inclination to take part in side issues," and its eschewing of all manner of formal conduct associated with organizations -- such as constitution, by-laws, and officers -- is not, in fact, attempting to rise superior to H.P.B. herself. The fact that there is no democracy, no election of officers, might be thought to be a great deterrent to individuals striving or personal place and power, and thus to all but the elimination of personal criticism; but because members are very "human" and far from quasi-adeptship, desire for place and personal criticisms can become all the stronger and therefore harmful, since there is no machinery for their open expression.
    In ULT's desire to avoid foundering, as other so-called Theosophical organizations in the past have done, through the cult of personality and organizational wrangling, it would seem that it has gone to the extreme of thinking that no member will be the least interested in personality, the acquisition of power, or personal criticisms, if means for their expression are denied organizational form. Where there is an exoteric society, accepted exoteric forms should be followed, thus it seems to have been with H.P.B. An esoteric group is an entirely different matter, as we know from the Esoteric Section of the original Theosophical Society, where "the constitution and sole direction of the same" was "vested in Madame H. P. Blavatsky as its head."
    Is ULT, one wonders, trying unsuccessfully to function as an exoteric group within an esoteric form?]
    [Note: "ULT" means "The United Lodge of Theosophists". In the first paragraph of the answer to the above question, the Editors refer to an earlier 7-page article entitled "The Declaration of ULT". I have placed a copy of it at the end of the article. And for those who would like to read it, once you finish reading this article, and the additional one that follows it, at the end of both of them I've provided a link to the long article entitled "The Original Programme of The Theosophical Society", which was spoken of and referred to at the very beginning of the above question.--Compiler]

(6) February 1961 [This Question is answered: 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?"]

Note: This Department was not in the March issue.

(7) April 1961 [This Comment is answered: In discussing the occult divisions of man's inner constitution as taught by ancient Mystery Schools, H.P.B. indicates that the most detailed occult doctrines were held in unwavering secrecy -- and that "the penalty of revealing Mystery doctrines was death." (Key to Theosophy, p. 96.) Many students have found it difficult to understand why, for instance, the revelation of a septenary constitution for cosmos and man should be considered so dangerous -- and even more difficult, certainly, to understand how any true school of occultism could even proscribe the penalty of death, no matter what the provocation.]

(8) May 1961 [This Question is answered: The report in February Lookout concerning the two successive "reincarnations" of Swarnlata Misha again poses the question as to the means by which such memories -- whatever they signify -- may come about. The speculation attached to an earlier Lookout comment to the effect that the psycho-astral complex might be picked up and used by another soul coming to birth is interesting, but why should this happen only in such isolated instances? And if this happens, how?]

(9) June 1961 [This Question is answered: LOOKOUT during recent years has often called attention to increasing interest in reincarnation on the part of writers and scholars. In addition, it has been made apparent that speculation on the possibility of reincarnation is not foreign to a number of churchmen. Also, journals devoted to the results of ESP investigations occasionally carry references to the plausibility of the reincarnation hypothesis. If we put all these "trends" together, it is conceivable that reincarnation might come to be considered, or believed in, by the majority before another quarter of a century has passed. Should this actually happen at any future time, it might be well to speculate: What particular points would Theosophists feel it necessary to emphasize, since at present most theosophic promulgation centers on explanation of the logic and necessity of reincarnation?] [Note: The first word above refers to the "On the Lookout" department in THEOSOPHY magazine.--Compiler]

(10) July 1961 [This Question is answered: In Letter IX, page 20 of Letters That Have Helped Me, Mr. Judge says: "Do not adopt any conclusions merely because they are uttered by one in whom you have confidence, but adopt them when they coincide with your intuition. To be even unconsciously deluded by the influence of another is to have a counterfeit faith." Now, we are constantly affecting and being affected by all other beings. We certainly are not separate, and we do not act alone. And we do have closer attachments to some than to others. Would it not, therefore, be natural for us to be influenced by those in whom we have confidence? Isn't it the role of the "teacher" to influence the pupil? If we fear this influence because to be "even unconsciously deluded by another is to have a counterfeit faith," wouldn't this fear tend to make us overly cautious, so that spontaneity is lost?]

(11) August 1961 [This Question is answered: H. P. Blavatsky states specifically that whereas Devachan is a state, kama-loka is a place -- a "region," a "locality," a "limbus." This idea lends a measure of credibility to the Swedenborgian and Latter Day Saints teaching of astral communities and institutions. (The Mormons, for example, assert that earth-life is "probationary," and that the after-death state is one of possible progression.) It also accounts for the possibility of communication between astral entities and living persons. According to Theosophy, are these foregoing ideas valid?]

(12) September 1961 [This Question is answered: The following statement regarding the origins of the present Theosophical Movement appears in a contemporary Theosophical publication: "Mme. Blavatsky said she was the agent of Adepts or Masters on whose behalf she was laying before the world a part only of truths known to them as facts. ... Her claim is strikingly important. The Theosophical Movement stands or falls on its validity." This is by no means an unusual expression and, on occasion, quite similar statements appeared in the writings of William Q. Judge and Robert Crosbie. The present student, however, feels that a worth-while discussion of fundamental importance can revolve around the points raised. To begin with, in what sense can it he said that "the Theosophical Movement stands or falls" on the validity of a statement made by H.P.B. regarding the source of her teachings? It must be admitted that a representation of the Theosophical Movement in these terms allows a critic to charge that Theosophists believe on a "revelatory" basis. Is this not similar, the critic may ask, to supposedly revealed sources of information, such as the golden tablets of Joseph Smith, the revealed Word of God in the Bible, etc.?]

(13) October 1961 [This Question is answered: If it is true that the Theosophist should be characterized by his determination to know the difference between his own belief and his own knowledge, this implies that part of a student's relationship to Theosophy will be apt to be "religious," while another aspect could be called "scientific." Why is so little attention apparently given to clarification of these distinctions in Theosophical meetings?]

(14) November 1961 [This Comment is answered: It has sometimes been suggested that twentieth-century interest in "beyond the grave" psychic phenomena is hearteningly more scientific and less cultish than was the case when H. P. Blavatsky wrote Isis Unveiled. Yet we find such influential professors as C. J. Ducasse, Hornell Hart, and Ian Stevenson devoting most of their attention to reports of after-death life gained through psychic means. In these terms, it is difficult to see what sort of "advance" could be considered to have taken place. As in the case of Bridey Murphy, a phenomenal approach to the idea of reincarnation never seems to reach beyond the psychic aspects of the subject.]

(15) December 1961 [This Question is answered: It seems to be an old, old problem for Theosophical students to encounter confusion when trying to identify themselves with either "Higher Manas" or "Lower Manas." Of course, this is an old, old problem for philosophers through many centuries, and accounts in part for the vehement rejection of any kind of dualism on the part of so many contemporary thinkers. The Theosophist sometimes speaks of the immortal individuality as "Buddhi-Manas" or "Higher Manas," and yet at the same time he is often reminded in Theosophical writings that evolution takes place in the area af Lower Manas. Is it possible to bypass some of the confusions and paradoxes of terminology to find a simple way of identifying ourselves?]

(16) January 1962 [This Question is answered: Participants in ULT study classes often discover that discussion concerning the brief Declaration of ULT can be continually provocative -- of itself a fact of some interest and significance. Perhaps this is because its broad general statements invite the individual to attempt more specific definitions of purposes, which would certainly be true in regard to the phrase "the cause of Theosophy," which occurs in the first sentence. What is the "cause of Theosophy," and is it possible to use the word in the plural instead of, or as well as, in the singular? In other words, is there one "cause" or are there many causes?] [Note: "ULT" means "The United Lodge of Theosophists".--Compiler]

(17) February 1962 [This Comment is answered: Members of ULT study classes have certainly -- as was affirmed in last month's question for this page -- discovered that discussion of the Declaration of ULT can be "ceaseless and eternal," and interesting at the same time. We recall a great deal of worthwhile talking once, involving another phrase in the first sentence -- "independent devotion." What now comes to mind is this: Since we usually relate the word "devotion" to a religious outlook, and "independence" to either self-sufficiency or rebelliousness, it seems that the combining of both qualities would be difficult indeed. [Note: The above statement about "last month's question" refers to the 16th article in this Department; and "ULT" means "The United Lodge of Theosophists".--Compiler]

(18) March 1962 [This Comment is answered: In Isis Unveiled I, 184, we find the following: "According to the Kabalistic doctrine, the future exists in the astral light in embryo, as the present existed in embryo in the past. While man is free to act as he pleases, the manner in which he will act was foreknown from all time; not on the ground of fatalism or destiny, but simply on the principle of universal, unchangeable harmony, and, as it may be foreknown that, when a musical note is struck, its vibrations will not, and cannot, change into those of another note."
    Now, either this is literally true or it is not. If true, I cannot see in what way it differs from fatalism. For example, what is the use of any one of us struggling for perfection and spiritual wisdom if we are, from the start, doomed to failure? -- if, no matter what we do, we cannot change our predestined "note" into any other higher note?
    It may be that most students have never been troubled by the foregoing quotation, but for me it has always been the greatest deterrent to effort and enthusiasm of any statement in the philosophy. Not only as regards myself, but as applied to any and all whom one makes an effort to help.
    If this quotation is true, then it must also have been foreordained that I should have allowed it to trouble me and become a stumbling block for me.
    Any remarks or suggestions on the subject will be appreciated.]

(19) April 1962 [This Comment is answered: One of the central themes in Erich Fromm's excellent book Psychoanalysis and Religion, is that there is a vast psychological cleavage between "authoritarian" religion and "humanistic" religion. The trouble with authoritarian religion, Fromm points out, is that all strength and goodness are thought to reside outside of man -- in God: a man "slavishly dependent on God becomes a man without faith in himself." On the other hand humanistic religion, Fromm writes, is centered around man and his strength. "Man's aim in humanistic religion is to achieve the greatest strength, not the greatest powerlessness; virtue is self-realization, not obedience. Faith is certainty of conviction based on one's experience of thought and feeling."
    In The Voice of the Silence, H. P. Blavatsky speaks of the necessity for making "of pride and self-regard bond-maidens to devotion," and suggests that for more of us, though we cleave to existence, the extinction of "pride and self-regard" constitute the "first step" on the path that leads to adeptship. We are apparently dealing, in recounting these paradoxical emphases, with two different kinds of "pride," and the distinction seems to be one of considerable psychological importance.]

(20) May 1962 [This Question is answered: A phrase occurring in the Declaration of ULT has probably often led to a kind of quizzical questioning in the minds of inquirers: "It regards as Theosophists all who are engaged in the true service of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, condition or organization." Might this sentence not easily be taken to be presumptuous on the ground that Theosophists assume a dubious privilege in labeling all good and great men as "Theosophists," claiming a sort of proprietary kinship with them?] [Note: "ULT" means "The United Lodge of Theosophists".--Compiler.]

(21) June 1962 [This Question is answered: In approaching the problem of how to study Theosophical texts, the student should certainly first determine the most beneficial or profitable attitude. We are warned against being passive and are also told to avoid accepting statements on someone else's authority. What, then, is the proper mental attitude for the student to assume when reading a book like The Bhagavad-Gita -- or The Secret Doctrine? Does one mental orientation suffice for both?]

(22) July 1962 [This Comment is answered: In connection with explanation of the relation of pure Buddhism to Theosophy, "the doctrine of the Bodhisattvas" has often been referred to. The Bodhisattvas certainly are presented as "Masters of Wisdom," and their appearance is considered to be without beginning or end, thus removing the consideration of Great Beings from some particular locus in history -- one of the typical provincialisms of most religions. But, along with the term "Bodhisattva," we also encounter such words of related meaning as "Avatar." Then there is the distinction H.P.B. makes between the Dharmakaya and the Nirmanakaya. All this is very complicated.]

(23) August 1962 [This Comment is answered: There are many occasions for questioning what seems the Theosophical student's "ambivalence" in relation to the various religious traditions. For example, H. P. Blavatsky, in Isis Unveiled, excoriates much of conventional Christianity and in particular attacks the psychology of Roman Catholicism. On the other hand, she often observes that there are significant connectives between Theosophy and every religious tradition. In the closing sentence of the ULT Declaration one notes the emphasized sentence, "The true Theosophist belongs to no cult or sect, yet belongs to each and all." Now, it is very easy for the Theosophist to feel oppositional toward conventional religions -- and also easy to forget that one of the main themes of The Secret Doctrine is that, within each religion, there is some essence of inspiration which relates to Theosophy. This question has been discussed, of course, a number of times in classes and in articles in THEOSOPHY, but it suddenly appears to this student that the discussion will never be complete enough, and that it should be extended whenever possible. [Note: "ULT" means "The United Lodge of Theosophists".--Compiler.]

(24) September 1962 [This Question is answered: One recent meeting discussion was on the subject, "The Scheme of Evolution." What is it about the word "scheme" or "plan" which alternately appeals and repels? This seems to be a fairly common psychological reaction among students. It certainly has been so in the case of the person inquiring.]

(25) October 1962 [This Comment is answered: Discussion of the pamphlet The United Lodge of Theosophists: Its Mission and Its Future -- such as was attempted by one study class recently -- should inevitably lead to an analysis of the conception of "authority" in relation to Theosophical teachers. For instance, on page 21, it is stated that "the Parent Lodge at Los Angeles specifically and absolutely disclaims any authority over or responsibility for any other Lodge or any Associate." Previously, however, under the reading "Support and Direction of the United Lodge," it is remarked that "it was recognized that the assumption of responsibility without power or knowledge could only result in dissipation of energies and consequent loss."
    Those who "assume responsibility" might certainly be thought to acquire a measure of "authority" in the direction of Theosophical activities. Yet an earlier section of the pamphlet speaks of authority in still a different way by stating that, in ULT study, "the only 'authority' is the recorded Teaching as found in the books and articles of the Teachers."]


[Reminder: The "QUESTION--AND COMMENT" department has now ended.

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