Philosophers and Philosophicules
" We shall in vain interpret their words by the notions of our philosophy and the doctrines in our schools."
"Knowledge of the lowest kind is un-unified knowledge; Science is partially unified knowledge; Philosophy is completely unified knowledge."
Herbert Spencer, First Principles.
New accusations are brought by captious censors against our Society in general and Theosophy, especially. We will summarize them as we proceed along, and notice the "freshest" denunciation.
We are accused of being illogical in the Constitution and Rules of the Theosophical Society; and contradictory in the practical application thereof. The accusations are framed in this wise: -
In the published Constitution and Rules great stress is laid upon the absolutely non-sectarian character of the Society. It is constantly insisted upon that it has no creed, not philosophy, no religion, no dogmas, and even no special views of its own to advocate, still less to impose on its members. And yet -
"Why, bless us! is it not as undeniable a fact that certain very definite views of a philosophic and, strictly speaking, of a religious character are held by the Founders and most prominent members of the Society?"
"Verily so," we answer. "But where is the alleged contradiction in this? Neither the Founders, nor the 'most prominent members' nor yet the majority thereof, constitute the Society, but only a certain portion of it, which, moreover, having no creed as a body, yet allows its members to believe as and what they please." In answer to this, we are told: -
"Very true; yet these doctrines are collectively called 'Theosophy.' What is your explanation of this?"
We reply: - "To call them so is a 'collective' mistake; one of those loose applications of terms to things that ought to be more carefully defined; and the neglect of members to do so is now bearing its fruits. In fact it is an oversight as harmful as that which followed the confusion of the two terms 'Buddhism' and 'budhism,' leading the Wisdom philosophy to be mistaken for the religion of Buddha."
But it is still urged that when these doctrines are examined it becomes very clear that all the work which the Society as a body has done in the East and the West depended upon underlying unity of all religions and the existence, as claimed by Theosophists, of a common source called the Wisdom-Religion of the secret teaching, from which, according to the same claims, all existing forms of religion are directly or indirectly derived. Admitting this, we are pressed to explain, how can the T.S. as a body be said to have no special views or doctrines to inculcate, no creed and no dogmas, when these are "the back-bone of the Society, its very heart and soul"?
To this we can only answer that it is still another error. That these teachings are most undeniably the "backbone" of the Theosophical Societies in the West, but not at all in the East, where such Branch Societies number almost five to one in the West. Were these special doctrines the "heart and soul" of the whole body, then Theosophy and its T.S. would have died out in India and Ceylon since 1885 - and this is surely not the case. For, not only have they been virtually abandoned at Adyar since that year, as there was no one to teach them, but while some Brahmin Theosophists were very much opposed to that teaching being made public, others - the more orthodox - positively opposed them as being inimical to their exoteric systems.
These are self-evident facts. And yet if answered that it is not so; that the T.S. as a body teaches no special religion but tolerates and virtually accepts all religions by never interfering with, or even inquiring after the religious views of, its members, our cavillers and even friendly opponents, do not feel satisfied. On the contrary: ten to one they will nonplus you with the following extraordinary objection: -
"How can this be, since belief in 'Esoteric Buddhism' is a sine qua non for acceptance as a Fellow of your Society?"
It is vain to protest any longer; useless, to assure our opponents that belief in Buddhism, whether esoteric or exoteric, is no more expected by, nor obligatory in, our Society than reverence for the monkey-god Hanuman, him of the singed tail, or belief in Mohammed and his canonized mare. It is unprofitable to try and explain that since there are in the T.S. as many Brahmins, Mussulmans, Parsis, Jews and Christians as there are Buddhists, and more, all cannot be expected to become followers of Buddha, nor even of Buddhism, howsoever esoteric. Nor can they be made to realize that the Occult doctrines - a few fundamental teachings of which are broadly outlined in Mr. Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism - are not the whole of Theosophy, nor even the whole of the secret doctrined of the East, but a very small portion of these: Occultism itself being but one of the Sciences of Theosophy, or the Wisdom-Religion, and by no means the whole of Theosophy. [p. 433]
[p. 434 ...] Let us try to give once more a clear and concise definition of Theosophy, and show it to be the very root and essence of all sciences and systems.
Theosophy is "divine" or "god-wisdom." Therefore, it must be the life-blood of that system (philosophy) which is defined as "the science of things divine and human and the causes in which they are contained" (Sir W. Hamilton), Theosophy alone possessing the keys to those "causes." Bearing in mind simply its most elementary division, we find that philosophy is the love of, and search after, wisdom, "the knowledge of phenomena as explained by, and resolved into, causes and reasons, powers and laws." (Encyclopedia.) When applied to god or gods, it became in every country theology; when to material nature, it was called physics and natural history; concerned with man, it appeared as anthropology and psychology; and when raised to the higher regions it becomes known as metaphysics. Such is philosophy - "the science of effects by their causes" - the very spirit of the doctrine of Karma, the most important teaching under various names of every religious philosophy, and a theosophical tenet that belongs to no one religion bu explains them all. Philosophy is also called "the science of things possible, inasmuch as they are possible." This applies directly to theosophical doctrines, inasmuch as they reject miracles; but it can hardly apply to theology or any dogmatic religion, every one of which enforces belief in things impossible; nor to the modern philosophical systems of the materialists who reject even the "possible," whenever the latter contradicts their assertions.
Theosophy claims to explain and to reconcile religion with science. We find G.H. Lewis stating that "Philosophy, detaching its widest conceptions from both (Theology and Science), furnishes a doctrine which contains an explanation of the world and human destiny." (1) "The office of Philosophy is the systematization of the conceptions furnished by Science ... Science furnishes the knowledge, and Philosophy the doctrine" (loc. cit.). The latter can become complete only on condition of having that "knowledge" and that "doctrine" passed through the sieve of Divine Wisdom, or Theosophy.
Ueberweg (A History of Philosophy) defines Philosophy as "the Science of Principles," which, as all our members know, is the claim of Theosophy in its branch-sciences of Alchemy, Astrology, and the occult sciences generally.
Hegel regards it as "the contemplation of the self-development of the Absolute," or in other words as "the representation of the Idea" (Darstellung der Idee).
The whole of the Secret Doctrine - of which the work bearing that name is but an atom - is such a contemplation and record, as far as finite language and limited thought can record the processes of the Infinite.
Thus it becomes evident that Theosophy cannot be a "religion," still less "a sect," but it is indeed the quintessence of the highest philosophy in all and every one of its aspects. Having shown that it falls under, and answers fully, every description of philosophy, we may add to the above a few more of Sir W. Hamilton's definitions, and prove our statement by showing the pursuit of the same in Theosophical literature. This is a task easy enough, indeed. For, does not "Theosophy" include "the science of things evidently deduced from first principles" as well as "the sciences of truths sensible and abstract"? Does it not preach "the application of reason to its legitimate objects," and make it one of its "legitimate objects" - to enquire into "the science of the original form of the Ego, or mental self," as also teach the secret of "the absolute indifference of the ideal and real"? All of which proves that according to every definition - old or new - of philosophy, he who studies Theosophy, studies the highest transcendental philosophy.
[p. 437 ...] Theosophy is no national property, no religion, but only the universal code of science and the most transcendental ethics that was ever known; that it lies at the root of every moral philosophy and religion; and that neither Theosophy per se, nor yet its humble unworthy vehicle, the Theosophical Society, has anything whatever to do with any personality or personalities! To identify it with these is to show oneself sadly defective in logic and even common sense. To reject the teaching and its philosophy under the pretext that its leaders, or rather one of its Founders, lies under various accusations (so far unproven) is silly, illogical and absurd. It is, in truth, as ridiculous as it would have been in the days of the Alexandrian school of Neo-Platonism, which was in its essence Theosophy, to reject its teachings, because it came to Plato from Socrates, and because the sage of Athens, besides his pug-nose and bald head, was accused of "blasphemy and of corrupting the youth."
(1)The History of Philosophy, Vol. I, Prolegomena, p. xviii