The Theosophical Forum – May 1936

WHY STUDY THEOSOPHY? — Torsten Karling

This question covers such a large field that when one tries to sum up an answer to it and at the same time make the various points therein more or less clear to the reader, there comes to the inner perception a book, rather than the three or four pages which the Editors of the FORUM have placed at our disposal. However, it is a comfort to know that the subject will be discussed by different pens, and therefore that it will certainly be treated from many sides, if not from all. There is hardly a theme that will have the same power of calling forth individual viewpoints, even if these naturally are directed towards a common goal.

To begin with, cannot complete unanimity be obtained as regards the truth of this sentence: The greatest cause of humanity's unhappiness is ignorance? We — I speak of us all collectively — are ignorant of our true essence, and we therefore attribute to personal blows, offenses, and other disagreements, a meaning which they do not have. So do we also place too much importance upon outer and transient things, such as honor, wealth, power, and so forth, all of which are bound up with this earth-life. Now the most fundamental reflexion of all offers this question for consideration: What shall I have left when, according to the laws of Nature, I must leave all this? If I take this question seriously — many people push it aside as children do who have some objection to preparing their lessons, or because they believe they can answer it with a similar childish and irrational negation — it opens for the inner vision a view over the whole sea of queries which are so closely allied with the contrasts between reality and illusion.

In this matter we turn to find an answer to religion, philosophy, or science. Each one chooses the source towards which his own inherent nature feels itself most drawn. Therefore, if I am by nature a person of religious bent, I will search, to begin with, in the existing orthodox religions or in some of their countless sects, for the answer to my question; and insofar as all these forms of religion are more or less bound by dogmas, I must sooner or later be met with the answer which actually is so often given: "These are secrets which we cannot investigate, God's secrets, which it would be presumptuous of us to try to find out. It is more fitting for us to raise our hats and pass by." Do we need to search for the reason why this answer, so often given, yet leaves him unsatisfied?

Does not the matter stand as follows? Every dogma is a human brain-mind construction. Behind this production may have been the most earnest effort to give expression to that which the author felt and believed to be true at the time it was created; but even that same author cannot free himself from the imperfections which are inherent in his thinking; he cannot defend himself against the influences which come from surroundings, the stream of time, training, personal considerations, religiously-political, or perhaps ecclesiastically-political endeavors, etc. The result is something which can easily work against Truth, and which at any rate is so limited and stunted, or distorted, that the real seeker for Truth must feel dissatisfied with it.

Such a one should study Theosophy for the very reason that it has as its motto: "There is no religion higher than truth." In this motto, but especially in the humble and devoted practice of the same in all religious seeking, we meet the liberating ozonic air which is characteristic of great, pure heights. Freed from all restraints, high above the enclosing walls which constitute the nature of dogma, the free and searching spirit will be able to get a glimpse of past and present religious life which irresistibly draws his attention to its true source, the presence and incessant promptings of the Divine Spirit. And therewith he opens the door to the whole vast Theosophical world-picture, with all that it contains of resplendent religious knowledge.

How does the situation stand for those whose minds are more inclined towards philosophical thinking than for those religiously attracted?

When Plato, in his Republic, lets Socrates, with an extraordinary argument, assert that philosophers ought to rule in the contemplated ideal state, he expresses in this statement something which is equally valid today. If we translate this into more modern language, that is to say, if we try to apply it to present-day circumstances, it could well be expressed as follows: Philosophers ought to exercise an educative, guiding, influence on their contemporary fellow-beings, take up their problems, investigate them, shed the light of pure thought upon them, and in this way pay back a part of their debt to the community which gave them the opportunity to devote their time and energy to the search for truth, time to live in the sunshine of truth-seeking. But how does the case stand in reality?

A long period of extremely materialistic representations have not failed to exercise their influences on philosophical ways of thinking. People have been much concerned with making philosophy justify their claims as to 'science,' and when it did not appear 'scientific' to admit something beyond the results of brain-mind reasoning — yes, when one did not dare to confess his belief that anything beyond that existed, because of his academic ambitions, the result was that the philosophical work of our day to a large extent consists of the accumulation of quasi-philosophic, quasi-historic knowledge, and for a superstructure, a careful, almost anxious groping along lines which have strong affinities for old-fashioned sophisticated ideas.

The writer of these lines is but an amateur in the field, but nevertheless dares to express the surmise that he who takes his philosophical studies and philosophical thinking seriously, with a combination of apprehension and dawning presentiment in regard to the opening of immeasurable expanses, will be more than abreast of the latest results of modern scientific research. If he does not wish to remain with the laggards, then he must take up completely new problems, new only in relation to what for a long time has been considered academically orthodox, but by no means new in the abstract. This wisdom of ancient thinkers is beginning to come to the fore. There have been times when one sought and set highest 'the true existence,' the Reality behind appearances, that which hid itself behind and within the shifting and transient things. Such times seem again to be approaching. It is for philosophy to define what science means by its 'consciousness-substance,' of which the Universe is thought to be built.

For sixty years our present Theosophical Movement has shown the way, at first apparently in opposition to the world, but later with an ever greater following. One day its great contribution to the revolution in humanity's thought-life will be recognised, and this is on the brink of taking place before our very eyes. In reality, Theosophical teaching casts a wonderful light on the relationship between spirit and matter, on the evolutionary cycles, on what is reality and what illusion. Its meaning is in no wise diminished, but is strengthened by the fact that one finds here the same fresh fountain from which the ancients' greatest thinkers drank, and Theosophy shows how they all obtained their wisdom from one and the same source. Indeed, the philosopher who pushes Theosophy to one side on account of prejudice or other small-minded idea, does not deserve his professed title. But he who will make trained thinking fruitful for his contemporary fellow-beings and their followers, all the inquiring and seeking Companions, has in Theosophy a gold-mine out of which he can take freely the noblest metal. But it is only just, if he will penetrate to the depths of that wisdom which with unlimited generosity flows towards him, that he dedicate his life and his actions, with all his mind and heart, to the service of his fellow-beings. Theosophy is a study for philosophers, a life's philosophy for those who wish to be helpers of their race.

There has been a long period of time during which educated youth especially have fallen back upon the materialistic point of view which has been predominant in the circles of natural science. What position shall this youth take today? If there is anything that is certain about humanity's cultural development, it may well be that science, and especially all that is related to the study of Nature, finds itself at a turning-point which can best be described as the complete rupture of materialistic theory. The progress in this line has been unbelievable. Surprising observations have been made, and have opened immense fields for further work, and this whole movement irresistibly induces a deeper comprehension of Nature's being.

He who has devoted time and attention to the study of Theosophy finds more and more often how quickly present-day scientists are approaching the opinions and explanations which were predicted more than fifty years ago in the standard Theosophical literature, particularly in H. P. Blavatsky's fundamental works. He who believes — and here especially must educated youth be taken into consideration — that scientific research, more than religious faith and philosophical speculation, constitutes a firm basis upon which a reliable world-philosophy can be built, will find in the Theosophical literature the synthetic idea within which the latest scientific observations have their place. There will he find it proved that Theosophy is what it professes to be, a religious-philosophical-scientific doctrinal system which at once satisfies to the greatest degree the most deeply fathomed thirst for knowledge, and, through its freedom from dogmas, the utmost craving for an independent and critical, but serious, research work.

In the above we have spoken of serious and searching people of different casts of mind, religiously, philosophically, or scientifically attracted, and with great brevity indicated why they should study Theosophy. There is nevertheless a very large group of our present-day fellow-beings who live a life without decided leanings in any direction whatever. They compose the great masses who run after and attach themselves to the various sensations of the day. Few of these would be able to escape being gripped by a feeling of emptiness at some unexpected or catastrophic event; the natural craving of their spiritual and higher intellectual being is half-starved. To these it should be said, Study Theosophy, because thereby will your life have a purpose and a meaning. Instead of being an empty and valueless chase after things which do not give any real profit, your life will be filled to the brim with a noble joy — a fight if you like, but a fight in which every victory is a step forward on the road which leads to light and freedom for the race. In other words, the study of Theosophy will make you a complete human being.


The Theosophical Forum

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE