The Theosophical Forum – May 1938

AN OFT REPEATED QUESTION — Torsten Karling

Can I be a good Theosophist without penetrating into what you call "technical Theosophy'?"

If in answer to this question one gives the often quoted statement of H. P. Blavatsky: "Theosophist is who Theosophy does," it is obvious that this answer is not exhaustive, for it naturally must be followed by a new question: "What does "doing Theosophy" imply?"

It is to live the Theosophical life; to make brotherhood a living fact, to seek to fully understand the truth concerning the inner divine nature; to seek to understand the laws inherent in the universe: Karman, Reincarnation, Cycles, Evolution, and to adjust one's life according to this knowledge; to study one's own personality and its innate powers, and to live in harmony with what this study teaches.

Can we not quite easily picture to ourselves the person, who, by the law of compassion, has been placed in a modest position, which nevertheless gives enough for the daily existence? He never opens a book, never sinks into thought on one of life's problems, but he listens to the voice of his conscience and lives an honest man's life. His interests spin round in a very narrow circle, and should he one day against his will be led outside of this circle, he is dumb, ignorant, and non-understanding as an undeveloped child. Do we not actually find just this type or its equivalent in the most varying grades and conditions of society? Good, well-meaning, yes, even upright men with exceedingly narrow interests. Religiously they are satisfied with what they received during their school years and in preparation for their confirmation, if they have taken part in the latter. Religion offers them no problems because it lies beyond their horizon. Scientifically they are at peace with theories that were popular in their youth, but which have long since been crowded out by new ones and on the whole have also been pretty thoroughly forgotten. According to their philosophy "the sun may rise in the east and set in the west," and the astronomers may occupy themselves with the truth that lies behind this obvious fact. Morally they follow the rule for "each man to do right" and in general "live, and let live."

Such as these are not bad people, but they contribute undeniably the very least imaginable to the development and upliftment of mankind.

Now is this type of person to be found among Theosophists? We neither can, nor wish to give an answer to this; but that spirit which seems to live behind the question at the beginning of this article is undoubtedly related to that spirit which holds such a great part of humanity back among the useless of the race.

There is a beautiful and expressive picture, and not least convincing, because it appeals to every man's own experience. For the child's first glimpses of consciousness, the whole world is its mother's embrace and the room in which it plays its first games. Gradually as its powers of observation and movement increase, its world-boundaries begin to broaden out. The world becomes bigger, the home larger. It becomes the city or the village. The first relatively long trip pushes the boundaries still farther out. How many have not experienced that wonderful feeling when crossing the boundaries of one's native country for the first time, of hearing foreign languages spoken, and yet still finding that the people all resemble each other to a large extent? Perhaps for the majority of people the experience stops there. This cannot be the case with a Theosophist. For him the earth is certainly his home in the very narrowest sense, but he must know that it is only "one room" in a greater home which is made up of the whole planetary chain of which this globe is a part, and that this chain is but a part of the larger home, the solar system. And if he begins to investigate this home he will soon find still vaster regions which are also his home. Yes, in actual fact his spirit takes flight still farther, for he knows that in the inmost of his being he is Parabrahman, that which lies beyond all comprehension. But however incomprehensible this may be, he knows at least that there are no limits to the sphere of his consciousness if only the light of spiritual knowledge may burn from age to age with an ever clearer and brighter flame.

Listen to one of the many utterances in the Bhagavad-Gita on the liberating, all-conquering divine power of spiritual knowledge:

. . . the sacrifice through spiritual knowledge is superior to sacrifice made with material things; every action without exception is comprehended in spiritual knowledge. . . . Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee, and knowing which thou shalt never again fall into error. . . . By this knowledge thou shalt see all things and creatures whatsoever in thyself and then in me. Even if thou wert the greatest of all sinners, thou shalt be able to cross over all sins in the bark of spiritual knowledge. As the natural fire, O Arjuna, reduceth fuel to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge reduce all actions to ashes. There is no purifier in this world to be compared to spiritual knowledge; and he who is perfected in devotion findeth spiritual knowledge springing up spontaneously in himself in the progress of time. — P. L. Edition, pp. 35-6

This persistent and untiring search is study, acquiring knowledge, an eager search for truth, an even deeper penetration into the science of life, of inner and outer nature, of its laws or working methods, in one word the age-old wisdom, Theosophy.

If we believe that spiritual knowledge will voluntarily spring up from spiritual and intellectual laziness if only we occasionally devote ourselves to vague day-dreaming, which indeed finds material in undigested, or poorly understood Theosophical teachings, then we deceive ourselves. Truly here, if anywhere, do these words hold true: "The Kingdom of Heaven must be taken by storm." Step by step we must fight our way from the one small accretion of land to the next on the field of knowledge. Doubt, fear, and discouragement must be slain, yes, rooted out like weeds, so that they may not stifle the delicate shoot of sprouting knowledge.

Do not believe that this implies an uncritical reception of all that is offered us. The opposite is the truth. An uncritical attitude in study fosters uncertainty, undermines that firm confidence which is the consequence of independent, fundamental, and serious testing.

Do not confuse either this duty of investigating and testing in order to retain all that may be good with the skeptical attitude which is all too prevalent in the human race, which is continually under the terrible ban of a materialistic age, even though unconscious of it. "The man of doubtful mind hath no happiness either in this world or in the next or in any other. No actions bind that man who through spiritual discrimination hath renounced action and cut asunder all doubt by knowledge," says Krishna in close connexion with the above quotation.

Knowledge is of two kinds, though they in their inmost part may be one. It is partly, as Plato says, a reawakening of what we have known in ages gone by, partly a reflex on our human consciousness of the relatively unlimited knowledge and wisdom which dwell in our higher Self. Neither of these forms can be confused with a mere intellectual or mentally collected supply of facts. These are valuable as building material, but the real knowledge comes from within, and it is this which is referred to in the words above, that the spiritual knowledge shall voluntarily sprout forth in that soul which in unceasing meditation seeks the highest being. Studies, if they are to lead to real knowledge are therefore an offer laid on the altar before this highest, the divine Self. Then they will bear fruit and that fruit is spiritual knowledge.


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