Reprinted from from Y Fforwm Theosoffaidd , Cardiff, Wales, May, 1936 in Theosophical Forum, September, 1936, found in Protogonos, 40, August 2000
What About Purucker's "New Teachings"?
"The Esoteric Tradition": by G. de Purucker
"It will inspire with high moral ideals. . . . A superb work. . . ." - Dr. H. N. Stokes in The O. E. Library Critic, Feb., 1936
THIS, from the Jupiter Tonans of Theosophical Criticism, is far from honestly quoted; but one incurs the karma of one's cheatery gladly for the sake of holding a mirror up to Nature. It is what anyone can do with the writings of anyone; and what is very commonly done with the writings of G. de Purucker; and, in order to belabor him, with the writings of H. P. Blavatsky. Only not in the kindly spirit used here. You just choose what context to leave out. The results are often amazing. Praise comes gracefully only from a superior; and it is not Y Ff. Th's [ Y Fforwm Theosoffaidd ] business to praise The Esoteric Tradition or its author. Books live by their merits; not by what is said about them. Indeed, it is a good omen for a great book to be heralded with abuse; one reads Dr. Stokes's review not without satisfaction. What Dr. de Purucker hates is a glib "acceptance" of his teachings which shows that his teachings have not done their work of stirring, deepening and illuminating minds. H. P. B., too, spent laborious days trying to make her writings fool-proof against the shallow manufacturers of dogma. Quite early in the Path towards Discipleship the feeling has taken possession of a man's soul, Perish my name, my reputation, me - Let Truth stand! - without having attained to that, none could give help to any man. So mud may be thrown at Dr. de Purucker, as it was at his predecessors; bless you, he expects that, and has no time to notice it anyway. But Y Ff. Th., spiritually speaking, hails from the Great State of Missouri: a voice crying in the wilderness, You gotta show me! Fain would it get between some of that mud and its target; intercept it, secure it, and subject it to chemical analysis! One has really to thank Dr. Stokes, whose review is in a way impersonal and voices mainly what good old "they" are supposed to say, for arranging the mud conveniently for the analyst.
Did G. de P. Imagine the Teachings?
There is not a scrap of evidence, we are told, that what is new in The Esoteric Tradition was not made out of whole cloth by Dr. de Purucker. The same charge was made against H. P. B. in her time; her answer was, that to have imagined the teachings in The Secret Doctrine she would have needed to be about ten Mahhtmas rolled into one; one really does not know that Dr. de Purucker could think of a better one. But what is the meaning of this very human cry for evidence of authority? Let us get to the root of that. . . What we fear to be or to become is Men. There is a thing called Manas, mind, supposed to exist in men but not in the brutes. It is the faculty wherewith we ought to think. But do we? Any old umbrella is good enough to put between our heads and manas, lest disturbing influences from it should descend and drench us. But these jiggetty little personal brainminds of ours, children of the manas, have in the course of their evolution to become manases themselves: able to think, reason, grapple with the meanings of the universe and life. We have to become Men, using mind grandly. All the churches, creeds and dogmas in the world are defenses raised against the onslaughts of manas; and it doesn't matter whether the creeds are religious or scientific. The lower reaches of science are just as dogmatic and thought-stopping as the lower reaches of religion; and the higher reaches used to be. But Theosophy comes like the Manasaputras of old to light the fires of mind in men. That was why H. P. B., Judge, and Katherine Tingley wrote and taught; and that is why G. de P. writes and teaches.
Manas - or Authority?
If the ideas and teachings called Theosophy are to have the effect on men they were designed to have, it is clear that not an item among them could be enforced by or gain weight from authority. A man, to have his manas awakened, must examine these teachings and judge them on their own merits. What concerns him is to ask, not Who said so?, but Do they inspire me with high moral ideals, perceived by me to be such? Do they answer the demands of the highest reasoning I can exercise? Can I so exert my thinking faculty that it will expand into the shape of these teachings? - If the answer is yes, then they are doing their work on him, awakening his manas, aiding his evolution. The only possible "evidence" for the authority of any teachings would be, the teacher's say-so, which should carry no weight, or you would be accepting the notions of - a lot of people Dr. Stokes objects to; and, the nature of the teachings themselves.
It is complained that there is no clear statement as to the source of the teachings in The Esoteric Tradition. Is it expected that Dr. de Purucker will preface all his books with the statement, "I am the chela of such and such a Master, and this is what I have been taught and am now commissioned to give out to the world"? But what if his choice is between backing his teachings with authority and having them do their work, thought out and understood in themselves and for their own sake? The introductory phrase he uses is, The Esoteric Tradition is - . Look into that and you see that it means, 'Thus was it handed on to me,' 'Thus have I been taught': Iti maya srutam in the Sanskrit - the phrase used in the Esoteric Schools of the East. Dr. de Purucker's phrase introduces the teachings impersonally, yet tells the whole tale to one who looks beneath the surface. If there is a form that could serve his purpose better, one cannot guess what it might be. - Then the sweet charge is made that Point Loma members "have to" accept G. de P.'s teachings without thought or question - bolt the lot unmasticated. Marry come up! The teachings themselves would show who a Theosophist's Teacher really and ultimately is: his own Inner Self. You may hear or read the highest revelation from highest heaven, but unless that one within you assents, you don't believe. And this is true of every variety of teaching on earth, from the U. L. T.'s to the Pentecostal League's: those who believe do so because what they believe in answers the demands of what they can get of the teacher within, what they have evolved forth of that one.
No doubt Point Loma Theosophists have received The Esoteric Tradition with enthusiasm; but why? You will answer according to the principles of your own nature. If you are one that must have his beliefs from a pope, or based on mere outside, material evidence, you will talk about 'blind faith' and suchlike tommyrotics. But that is not the only possible answer; and it is the least noble answer possible. Nobler, and actually the true ones, would be such answers as, Because it inspires with high moral ideals, and Because those points of teaching which G. de P. gives and which H. P. B. did not are so highly reasonable in themselves that we should find it extremely difficult not to believe them true.
Where to Begin
Why on earth should it be supposed that H. P. B. gave out all she knew? Time and again she contradicts the idea. Good lord, when you are painting a picture, don't you begin by making sketches; don't you rough in the outlines then, and gradually work on towards the stage when you can paint the details? When you are building a temple, don't you begin with the architects' plans and drawings? Do you really place the weathercock and lay the foundations all at once? Do you teach kindergarten children the differential calculus? At least the Masters of Wisdom, in giving out this Infinite Philosophy of Theirs, are guilty of no such folly; but begin at the beginning, and the broad outlines and rudiments; then giving time for these to be digested; and enouncing more as the need and possibility arose. Does anyone think the whole of Theosophy has been given out? Or that even the highest of the Masters regards himself as other than a beginner on the endless Road of Learning? Are we not to grow?
The Teachings Themselves
Our fool brainminds are things that crave the comfort of a roof over them, and walls as close around as may be. They are ego-centric, nation-centric, creed- and sect-centric; and funk the contemplation of boundless space and eternal duration. We want things to have begun as recently as possible, and to have an end of worries and responsibilities when we die. Personality hugs itself and dreads the impersonal; a little limited thing, it wants a universe that is little and limited. H. P. B., in view of this general phobia, took things only as far as to the end of a solar or a galactic manvantara and Nirvana gained by the now human hosts of souls; and no further. It was something to set mind and imagination working; vast compared with anything we had thought of before; and it never is any use to try to waken people with a blow that would stun them. Manvantara and pralaya, period of universal activity and period of universal rest, were, she intimated, of equal duration: as many billions of aeons to the one, so many billions of aeons to the other. But now watch this: in the pralaya "time was not." But how could a pralaya in which time was not be equal in time of duration to the cosmic life-cycle that preceded it, in which time was: nonexistence with existence? Who, outside the Boundless, kept the clock wound up and tore off the sheets of the calendar, that he might know when to waken the Boundless at manvantara dawn? In the Boundless time was not; but in this fellow's office outside the Boundless the clocks were kept going, believe me! - Smart Alecks here and there had excuse to rise and cry, Shows all that's the bunk!
The truth is we had not carried our thought to the horizon beyond H. P. B.'s teachings; considering not only what she wrote, but what it implied. Then came Dr. de Purucker and took us right up to what was the horizon when H. P. B. left us, and showed us a new horizon beyond. Some of us accepted his teaching, as we had accepted hers long since, because the moment it was enounced, its truth seemed obvious; we asked ourselves, Why haven't I thought of that before? That, then, was how it could be said that pralayas lasted as long as the manvantaras they followed. Time was not for the hosts of entities in Nirvana while their home universe was in pralaya; but a couple of hundred light-years or so away in space was another universe in full swing of its manvantara, in which there was plenty of time by which the pralaya of the other might be measured. There is always somewhere the time we measure with our clocks. So, H. P. B., your teachings did not after all lead to a dead end and absurdity! But to think you did not know! . . .
Contemplation of the Infinite has a depersonalizing effect on the mind; so that G. de P.'s teachings, which are reasonable in themselves and illumine H. P. B.'s, also aid a man's evolution towards Impersonality. But bless your heart, you don't have to believe in them if you don't want to! It's entirely up to you. If any brother wishes to think that duration began one fine day in March, B. C. 10,000, and will end on a wet October evening in A. D. 10,000, he may; but he won't get much growth of faculty out of it. So too, if anyone wants to, he may believe that at the end of space there is a ten-foot wall topped with broken bottles, and beyond that nothing at all - not even more space. There are things no one can imagine unless he has no imagination at all; and these are among the number. Their opposites seem to be things which should be obvious, but which no one did imagine till Dr. de Purucker gave them out.
There has been a deal of loose thinking on this Infinity business. Ten miles this side of the end of space is a point you could never reach, because there is no end of space. "Infinite," "almost Infinite," "half a dozen less than Infinite," and "a billion quintillions less than infinite" are synonymous terms; because the point of infinity you are measuring from, however swiftly you may approach it, is always as far away as it was before. When H. P. B. says "an almost infinite number of monads," and G. de P., "an infinite number of monads," they have said exactly the same thing. Put 'infinity' at a thousand miles away, and 'almost infinity' at 990; well, when you have traveled the thousand, 'infinity' is still a thousand miles ahead of you, and 'almost infinity' is still 990; and they will be forever and ever. You could no more come up with the one than with the other. How infinite space could be made up of less than an infinite number of monads, Y Ff. Th. is to learn. But what a fuss has been made, odd times, over G. de P.'s 'infinite' and its supposed contradiction of H. P. B.'s 'almost infinite'! When all H. P. B. put in the 'almost' for was to soften things for phobia-ridden minds. It did not sound so appalling. . . .
That Final 'N'
What dovecotes Dr. de Purucker fluttered when he took to spelling old familiar karma with a final 'n'! How many went to work earnestly with the hope that they might "shatter him to bits and then Re-mould him nearer to their hearts' desire"! - It would appear to be a case of the rights of Sanskrit versus the rights of English. Y Ff. Th., being only concerned with the rights of Welsh, sees the thing from a different angle altogether. Here is a straw to show the wind's direction; a little "n" to test your discrimination between essentials and non-essentials - and how far you have learnt toleration. What matters is not how it is spelt, but that it should be a living fact to you, and not a dead dogma: a source of love, hope and courage, and not a phrase you repeat and repeat and never think upon at all. Any harmless thing that makes a rut less easy to get into and tends to keep the moulds of one's mind unfossilized is to the good. Oh, one sees a value in that final "n," quite apart from the compliment to Sanskrit!
To jolt you into thinking, too, H. P. B., having spoken of Karma as an "infallible Law" of "absolute justice" - words which surely mean something - goes on to refer to "unmerited suffering." It sounds like a contradiction, but is a paradox; the explanation is simple and easy, but you must think it out for yourself, and not fall into creeds and parrot-talk. G. de P., in saying that every effect has its precedent cause, has not contradicted H. P. B. with her infallible law of absolute justice. Who will may see in Karma a hit-or-miss affair, law and chance playing catch-as-catch-can through a bewildered universe; but H. P. B. and G. de P. and common sense are for a majestic order of things, justice absolute and infallible; and so would we be if we would think. The other view may be a stage on the road towards Thought, and is certainly highly gymnastic; but manas had little part in the fathering of it, it would seem.
The Style is the Man
A little word on Dr. de Purucker's literary style, which comes in for much fustigation. Every sentence in the two big volumes, every clause, is constructed with infinite care and patience to make it fool-proof against rendering false impressions. It is a style suitable for a source-book, a permanent record of important ideas; and that, and not a detective yarn, Lamb's essay, or lyric poem, is what the book is. Yes, the style is the man: infinite care, infinite patience, in rendering the message exactly. A Hawdd ddweyd un-ar-bymtheg to his critics!
The editor of Modern Theosophy is not very interested in this defence of De Purucker, she mainly publishes it to show the kind of criticism one might have towards De Purucker's work, however worthy it also is in many places. I would greatly appreciate it if any reader of this could send me a copy of the original article by Stokes.