The Theosophical Forum – January 1937

DOES THEOSOPHY DEMAND CELIBACY? — Elsie V. Savage

[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]

It would seem far-fetched to discuss such a subject, except for the appalling ideas that are current among some people that to be a good Theosophist, and especially a member of the Esoteric School, it is a sine qua non that marriage and particularly having children should be sedulously avoided. Even where this extreme and fantastic notion does not exist, there are others who hold the belief, or else think that Theosophists hold the belief, that it is a sign of spiritual advancement to remain unmarried, and places one on a higher rung of the evolutionary ladder than others who are married and have established a home and family.

Before searching in our Theosophical literature to find either confirmation or refutation of such a curious conception, one can say at the outset that if we look around at the various Theosophists we know, we shall certainly find that there is no line of demarcation between married and unmarried folk: the married people as a class, either with children or without, appear to be neither more nor less evolved than the unmarried ones; and the unmarried people as a class appear to be leading neither more nor less unselfish lives with consequent benefit to humanity.

There may be a thousand and one reasons why a person may not choose to marry, or may remain unmarried; but it seems pretty certain that if one has reached "the higher levels of spiritual attainment," and must lead a life which "is fatal not only to the ordinary course of married life" (See The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, Introduction, p. xviii), he will not be advertising the fact to the world, and contrasting his own purity and attainments with the lower degree of attainment of his fellows. As in ordinary scholastic pursuits, I imagine that when we reach "the higher levels of spiritual attainment," we shall see so much more clearly how much we haven't attained to, that it will quite overshadow the shortcomings (!) of our fellows.

Turning to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 372, we read:

Does it seem to you a small thing that the past year has been spent only in your "family duties"? Nay, but what better cause for reward, what better discipline, than the daily and hourly performance of duty? Believe me my "pupil," the man or woman who is placed by Karma in the midst of small plain duties and sacrifices and loving-kindnesses, will through these faithfully fulfilled rise to the larger measure of Duty, Sacrifice and Charity to all Humanity — what better path towards the enlightenment you are striving after than the daily conquest of Self, the perseverance in spite of want of visible psychic progress, the bearing of ill-fortune with that serene fortitude which turns it to spiritual advantage — since good and evil are not to be measured by events on the lower or physical plane.

And it might be said that the married couple have double the opportunity to practise "the bearing of ill-fortune with that serene fortitude which turns it to spiritual advantage," because in the true marriage there is an equal sharing not only of joys but of sorrows and difficulties too.

In the opening paragraph of H. P. B.'s "First Preliminary Memorandum" when the E. S. T. was founded in 1888, she wrote:

. . . It is but fair to state at once that such duties [those to be undertaken by applicants] will never interfere with, nor encroach upon, the probationer's family duties; . . .

(a probationer she defines as a member of the Esoteric School).

Turning to The Esoteric Tradition by Dr. G. de Purucker, Vol. II, pp. 667-8, we find the following:

. . . The Theosophist is a strong believer in honorable marriage, not only because of the reasons just given, but even more strongly because marriage involves the undertaking of responsibilities and duties and ties of intimacy bringing in their train highly important lessons of self-forgetfulness, and frequently of self-abnegation, in the course of which human character is strengthened, selfishness is undermined, and consideration and unremitting thought for others and desire for their welfare are so continuously instilled into the psychology of men and women as to become habitual and therefore integral portions of character which grows and unfolds the more rapidly thereby.

The whole of this section in The Esoteric Tradition is worth turning to and reading. It would take too much space to quote all that would show the saneness of Theosophy on the subject; and Theosophy should not be confused with views held at times by even devoted Theosophists!

I am not urging Marriage upon people, for that is their own concern; but merely uttering a protest against erroneous views on the subject, which if allowed to gain currency will be one of the most active forces to blacken the name of Theosophy. And when these views are directed against individuals, and lead to comments as to whether such and such a person is forwarding his evolution by marriage, whether or not he is doing right to have children, how far apart his children are spaced, — in sheer exhaustion of appropriate language I am reminded of the Old English Adage, attributed to Table Talk by Selden:

Of all actions of a man's life, his marriage does least concern other people; yet of all actions of our life, "tis most meddled with by other people.

A single person (or a married one either for that matter) who judges others harshly for "entering the married state," would do well to remember the following words of K. H. (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 360):

But there are persons, who, without ever showing any external sign of selfishness, are intensely selfish in their inner spiritual aspirations. These will follow the path once chosen by them with their eyes closed to the interests of all but themselves, and see nothing outside the narrow pathway filled with their own personality. They are so intensely absorbed in the contemplation of their own supposed "righteousness" that nothing can ever appear right to them outside the focus of their own vision distorted by their self-complacent contemplation, and their judgment of the right and wrong.

Even chelaship, in the words of Dr. de Purucker, "is nothing weird, it is nothing queer, it is nothing erratic. It is the opposite of all these. It is the most natural thing for you as men and women to love, to strive for, and to follow."


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