The Aim of the Theosophical Movement

Katinka Hesselink

When we talk of the goal of the TS, or of the Theosophical Movement as a whole (including the different theosophical societies and the ULT), often people express the opinion that to spread the so called theosophical teachings, is a primary goal. In my lodge it was seriously said that it would be better to study a book that was published by the TS, than it would be to study Krishnamurti, for instance. Personally, I do not agree with this. If studying Krishnamurti brings wisdom, then we should study his books. That should be our only guide in deciding what is important enough to spend lodgetime on.

It seems that theosophy has come to mean, for many members, that which is within the Theosophical Society. In the same way the word theosophist has come to mean a member of the TS. This is not the way the Mahatma's or H.P. Blavatsky used these words. To them a theosophist was one who leads a practical altruistic life and is an independent thinker. Theosophy is the wisdom-religion, in its unsectarian form. Wisdom-religion, is the religion of the wise. It is that knowledge and philosophy that comes automatically to one who studies nature, with kindness in the heart.

The TS was meant by them as an unsectarian movement. For instance in her Collected Writings, volume IX, p. 8, H.P. Blavatsky says:

Free discussion, temperate, candid, undefiled by personalities and animosity, is, we think, the most efficacious means of getting rid of error and bringing out the underlying truth. [of different religions, philosophies and opinions.]

And again, in the same volume on page 9:

Precisely because Lucifer is a theosophical magazine, it opens its columns to writers whose views of life and things may not only slightly differ from its own, but even be diametrically opposed to the opinions of the editors.

She motivates this open policy that is not practiced by any of the theosophical magazines I know of, except the High County Theosophist perhaps, by saying (idem p. 10):

One ever learns more from one's enemies than from one's friends.

About the definition of the word Theosophist, CW II, p. 102:

once a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought - Godward - he is a Theosophist; an original thinker, a seeker after the universal truth with an inspiration of his own to solve the universal problems.

This definition makes it very clear that it does not take a member of one of the Theosophical Societies to make a theosophist. A theosophist is any independent seeker after universal truth. The Theosophical Societies are only there for seekers to meet and help each other. H.P. Blavatsky confirms this opinion by saying (H.P. Blavatsky letters to Sinnet, letter C, p. 221):

Don't let us do as Christians do. Our society was established to bring together people as searchers after truth, independent thinkers, one having no right to force his opinion on the other: or meddle in his religious views.

I think it is very important, when looking at the Theosophical Movement, that it was NOT meant as a new religion. It was meant as the foundationstone of new religions, plural. That is a very different thing. Though the doctrines that H.P. Blavatsky brought forward obviously play an important part in the work of the TS, the mere spreading of these doctrines was not, in my opinion, the goal. When people merely replace one set of doctrines by another, they are not changing the quality of their consciousness. It is not for nothing that Brotherhood was stressed so much by the theosophical Mahatma's. The active practice of brotherhood requires a consciousness that reaches beyond the self, to other selves. In this practice, sometimes, thinking about the doctrines of H.P. Blavatsky and the mahatma's helps. But so does contemplating Lao Tse, or what Sai Baba wrote. There is no need to limit any theosophical society to the literature of a century ago, or even, a bit more broadly, to the literature of the different theosophical societies.

It is only when there is a difference of opinion, that people start examining their own minds. In that sense we are very stupid. We somehow need other people to point out our flaws. Ideally, I suppose, we would not need that. But since we are not ideal, we have to live with the reality of our incapability's. In order for us to have an open mind, we need to doubt. All concepts in our mind should be loose and fragile enough to shatter when evidence comes that these concepts do not function very well. Unfortunately this doubt is not easily kept alive. We would all like to think that this and that and the other, at least are certainties. But even if say 'the Oneness of Life', is a reality, that still does not mean that it is so real to me personally that I can see all ramifications of the concept. The question is: how can the TS help us in seeing the different sides of each subject we might study. As far as I am concerned, the answer is pretty easy: we need people with different views on the same subject. We need a diversity in membership. We need dialogue between people who do not automatically agree. In order to have this, we need to not only say to people: you are welcome, though that too is necessary. We need to also give these people the same privileges that the people have who express more conventionally theosophical opinions. In short: there should be space in our theosophical magazines for those who believe, for instance, in a personal God. Then the editors can either publish their own opinion in another article, to show the difference, or they can publish some article by someone else, that gives an opposite meaning.

This was the editorial policy of H.P. Blavatsky and Damodar, and it made their magazines (the Theosophist and Lucifer) lively and unpredictable forums. These days this function is played by the theosophical e-maillists. No editors means no way for uniformity to eat up the liveliness of the theosophical movement. In the same way, for individual lodges and centers to function well, they too need to be seriously open to divers opinions.