The Theosophical Forum – November 1948

ARE THEOSOPHISTS GULLIBLE? — Orange I. Clark

Because of the many misconceptions as to what Theosophy really is, it is often necessary to point out that the Theosophical Society is not composed of fantastic theorists seeking to destroy the fundamentals of right thinking. Theosophy maintains that its devotees should be among the most normal and wholesome human beings in the world, because they have discarded many of the delusions and superstitions and much of the materialism by which the mind of each race is obsessed. Quotations from all our Theosophical leaders can be found setting forth this viewpoint. No, you do not have to give up your common sense in order to become Theosophists. One is not more than half a Theosophist unless one cultivates common sense. W. Q. Judge said that common sense is one of the rarest of virtues.

Some few individual Theosophists may be prone to take up with new ideas without making sure whether or not they flout facts and possibilities. But Theosophy as such is based on what is provable, or at least rational. "Facts are pitchforks," is a famous saying of H. P. Blavatsky. None of the highest exponents of the Theosophical philosophy have been gullible, as they have invariably had the faculty of seeing through the vagaries and preposterous imaginings of befuddled minds. And they have constantly enjoined the cultivation of this fact-finding habit upon earnest students.

It is widely believed, and there is some truth in the belief, that certain minds of an idealistic type are too ready to accept the seemingly ideal on its face-value. And it is probably true that all idealists and humanitarians have to guard themselves against being taken in by deceptively idealistic pretenses and pretenders. Yet not all or even most of those who are idealists, or who are artistic and intellectual or humanitarian in temperament are therefore necessarily "crack-pots," or belong to the "lunatic fringe," even though it is true that most fanatics and "crack-pots" are the victims of their own or someone else's imagination. There were ancient beliefs among some peoples that the insane were sometimes inspired by true visions, not ordinarily vouchsafed to normal human beings. But that is no reason why the rest of us should seek to become insane, or otherwise irrational!

It is said by pessimists that some people are so "good" that they are easily imposed upon, gullible. The accusation is false, because goodness is only half good if it is easily misled. True goodness is not weak: it is strong, and sees through shams and hypocrisies. The least deceived and most continuously happy man is the sceptical optimist.

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good," as the Good Book says: but don't accept statements that at first sight or even at second sight sound alluring or plausible, or make wondrous promises or great assertions. It is easy for the self-deceived to make glamorous claims by ignoring some of the facts. That is the method of children and those with juvenile minds. It is part of the technique of "blind leaders of the blind," and also of pseudo-occultists and fakers of all kinds. Those who indulge in "wishful thinking," which is a sort of self-gullibility, self-deception, are easily led into the fallacy that it is possible to get something for nothing, which on the face of it is contrary to all natural law. The Theosophical doctrines of karma and individual responsibility should save all of us from this pitfall.

"Keep an open mind." One could hardly become a Theosophist who does not do this, but again this does not mean swallowing, hook, line, and sinker, everything or anything that looks attractive. If there is one thing that human life, and all life, teaches us, it is to cast out non-essentials, and cleave to the true and the factual, practically and spiritually.

On the other hand we should not close our minds to everything but the material. Many of the fundamental facts of the Universe, and many of the details arising from those facts, are not directly provable. We know that many invisibles, such as the ties of love, and the bonds of honorable obligation between man and man, are as much facts as railroad trains and atomic bombs, and far more important.

 Even many superstitions and "sea-serpent tales" contain some element of the factual. Such basis as there is for these superstitions and tales exists largely in the astral light, where there are images of prehistoric or other monstrosities, and these images may be called up or reconstructed by some undisciplined elements of the faculties of psychometry, or clairvoyance, or even by the imagination of romancers or those competing to attract attention. Unquestionably, superstitions and imaginative tales have their necessary place in the development of the minds and imaginations of children and others with youthful minds, as well as helping to prevent the race from becoming too materialistic by suggesting the presence of forces and beings beyond and behind the visible, objective world. Materialism breeds wars and kills the ethical sense. It is the most destructive, and anti-social, and anti-ethical of all superstitions.

Theosophy is a word to conjure with. It stands for what is balanced, dignified, and rational, and Theosophists have a right to protest against its use to lend credibility to the pseudo-occult, the irrational, or the absurd. Perhaps some of us in our intellectual childhood, or in our search for Theosophy, dabbled a little in things not entirely level-headed, but Theosophy cannot be held accountable for our youthful credulity. One cannot be of service to Theosophy or to humanity (or to himself) who wastes his energy and lessens his power of judgment by chasing rainbows. The Theosophical Movement has seen so many clever and plausible mirages come and go that there has been ample opportunity for its followers to "cut their eye-teeth." There are enough real mysteries to study and explore in this wonderful universe so that we can well afford to leave the quality of gullibility to those with childlike minds who have no better amusement.

However, one need not be cynical in order to be discriminating. Cynicism makes the world worse, not better. Human nature is good at heart, and life is good, but shallow credulity is not good, and only leads to the place that is paved with failures.

Theosophy should stand before the world as the most sane and wholesome of philosophical and religious teachings, and it has been the effort clearly and constantly set forth, by all the greatest Theosophists, modern and ancient, to make their followers understand that Theosophy is not contrary to good sense and known facts, and is not another vagary of uncontrolled imagination. It is part of the mission of Theosophy to "arrest the attention of the highest minds," and to show that idealists and independent thinkers — which Theosophists are — can be sensible and sane. In brief, man's mind should be ruled, not by materialism, or psychic vagaries, or tall tales, but by the highest spiritual and moral realizations, which are the best good sense for the guidance of human life that has ever been found.


The Theosophical Forum

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