The Question of Orthodoxy, Dogmatism, or Fundamentalism

“The MAHATMAS know best what knowledge is best for mankind at a particular stage of its evolution, and none else is competent to judge of that matter, since they alone have got to the basic knowledge which can determine the right course and exercise proper discrimination.”
– H.P. Blavatsky –

The very notion of “orthodoxy” in Theosophy is mistaken and irrelevant, as is the issue of “dogmatism” or “fundamentalism.” Theosophy – being what it is – stands transcendent and apart from the world’s various religions, belief systems, and creeds, and matters which may apply to these do not and cannot apply to Theosophy.

Being an exact and definite body of Knowledge and Teaching delivered to the world by the Masters of Wisdom through the only one who they called their “Direct Agent,” Theosophy IS what it IS, and the question of orthodoxy or heterodoxy doesn’t even come into it.

It has been made perfectly clear that no more of the Esoteric Doctrine would or could be given out to the world after the close of the 1875-1900 “centennial cycle,” at least not until the 1975-2000 cycle and it was implied that even that would be provisional.

We are perfectly free to either accept or reject the Message (and Messenger) of Theosophy but we have no right to attempt to change, revise, edit, alter, dilute, or distort it and maintain that that is still Theosophy…and no-one would do this, unless they sincerely believe that they know better than the Masters themselves and prefer personal opinion to proven fact.

Almost all the problems and failures in the history of the Theosophical Movement come from a general ignorance of what Theosophy is. And this in turn stems from a neglect of, and failure to read and study, the Message and Teaching as it was given out, i.e. the writings of H.P. Blavatsky, William Q. Judge, and the statements and letters related by them from the Masters.

Theosophy is what it is and we either accept it or we don’t. It is too precious and important to mess around with.

The only case in which dogmatism could actually apply in connection with Theosophy would be if a Theosophist insisted that someone (whether a fellow Theosophist or anyone else) had to accept a particular teaching or statement. That would be mental coercion and is indeed unacceptable. No student of Blavatsky or Judge has ever acted in such a way, to our knowledge, not least because it goes against the very elements of freedom of thought, freedom of belief, and spiritual and mental independence which Theosophy considers to be so vitally important.

Thus a true Theosophist genuinely and sincerely delights in the mental and spiritual liberty of his fellow man and respects that freedom to its utmost degree, whilst still firmly maintaining that when it comes to Theosophy, that is a definite and actual thing which is not open to being rewritten, revised, altered, or “improved” and that any such attempts are not “Theosophy” but a misguided counterfeit or imitation which obscures the real thing.

Geoffrey Farthing, who passed away in 2004, was a prominent English Theosophist and member of the Theosophical Society – Adyar. He served for a time as General Secretary of that Society in the United Kingdom and was also the founder of the Blavatsky Trust, which continues its good work to this day.

In “A Theosophical Manifesto – 1996” he wrote the following:

“The idea is widespread that the jealously guarded freedom of thought of members can mean that anyone’s view or opinions about ‘theosophy’ can be put out as such. This was certainly the case in the early days of the 20th century. It was almost vehemently stressed then that there was no such thing as a definite ‘theosophical’ system of thought, knowledge or teaching. The great fear was of ‘dogmatism’. This word, however, was, and still is in places, wrongly applied. A dogma means an obligatory belief and no such thing is imposed on Theosophical Society members. This does not mean that there are not authoritative statements of fact such as those given us by the Masters, who claim to know what they speak or write about, i.e. they are not speculating, voicing opinions or advancing theories. All beliefs concerning Theosophy and the Theosophical Society ought seriously to be questioned against what can easily be discovered of the original teaching and intentions for the Society. A serious perusal of “The Key to Theosophy” will do this.”

Again, the whole problem stems from an ignorance of what Theosophy actually is.

Robert Crosbie, founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists, wrote, “In justice to the Message, to the Messenger who brought it and to the ideal of Masters, nothing should be named Theosophy but this Message. Whoever takes any other position violates the first laws of occultism by belittling both Message and Messenger, and cannot expect to benefit by them. … it is folly to imagine that the Masters of Wisdom did not know enough to select a Messenger who would deliver Their Message correctly and in its entirety. The Masters’ wisdom being questioned, the whole edifice falls to the ground.”

He added, “Theosophy must be understood to be a gift to mankind by more progressed beings than ourselves.”

It is interesting to note that before Annie Besant abandoned the cause of true Theosophy through falling under what the Master K.H. described in the last known Mahatma Letter (of 1900) as “deluding influences,” she had been in full agreement with these exact views. Several months after Madame Blavatsky’s death in 1891, Besant wrote these words in a prominent article:

“By Theosophy I mean the “Wisdom Religion,” or the “Secret Doctrine,” and our only knowledge of the Wisdom Religion at the present time comes to us from the Messenger of its Custodians, H.P. BLAVATSKY. Knowing what she taught, we can recognise fragments of the same teachings in other writings, but her message remains for us the test of Theosophy everywhere. … Only, none of us has any right to put forward his own views as “Theosophy,” in conflict with hers, for all that we know of Theosophy comes from her. … Theosophists have it in charge not to whittle away the Secret Doctrine. … Steadily, calmly, without anger but also without fear, they must stand by the Secret Doctrine as she gave it, who carried unflinchingly through the storms of well-nigh seventeen years the torch of the Eastern Wisdom. The condition of success is perfect loyalty.”

If there is some aspect of the Theosophical teaching which we dislike or with which we disagree, then we are perfectly welcome and free to do so. We will not be judged, criticised, or condemned for it. But this does not mean we have the right to declare that HPB or WQJ were wrong and that we are right and thus entitled to rewrite or re-present Theosophy in accordance with our beliefs and views or even with the fruits of our personal “clairvoyant investigations” or reading of the “akashic records.” If we believe that strongly about something we should start our own Movement!

As Crosbie said, “No one would have a word to say if these exponents chose some other name under which to promulgate their ideas, but to present the latter as Theosophy, – the Message delivered to the world by Masters – is to our mind the greatest imaginable crime against humanity.”

We close this explanation by reiterating that Theosophy is something unique; it is what it is; the question of orthodoxy, dogmatism, or fundamentalism doesn’t even come into it; and by quoting these words of Robert Crosbie, which can be found in the book “The Friendly Philosopher”:

“As to “a dogmatical presentment,” Theosophy has never been put forth as a Dogma, but as a relation of facts which have been gathered through observation and experience, which anyone can accept or reject without condemnation or praise. One might as well call the only exact science we use, viz., Mathematics, dogmatic or a dogma because it is presented as an assemblage of facts which the student can study, apply and prove for himself. Theosophy stands in exactly the same position: a presentation of Knowledge gained through aeons of time; it is not to be confounded with the speculations of any of its students, who at best are subject to their personal prejudices, predilections and weaknesses. It should also be clearly understood that all theosophical writers or leaders – except Those who brought Theosophy to the world – are students of more or less proficiency in the Science, and are therefore liable to misconceptions and erroneous applications. The only possibility of discerning such errors lies in a comparison with the Science as originally presented.”

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