[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.]
Shall We Delete the "Difficult" Teachings?
A Theosophical writer recently brought up a point in regard to the relationship between Theosophy and Science which deserves consideration. It may be summarized as follows: Is it not better to concentrate on rules for present guidance in affairs of life than to speculate on or propound scientifically questionable hypotheses which may only deter serious inquirers? The same writer doubts that particles of matter can be refined or modified by passing through living bodies, or that the same atoms which helped to form a human body can return to the same Ego when reincarnated, and so forth. It would seem, however, that these ideas are not mere speculations by ordinary students but that they were advanced by H. P. Blavatsky and reiterated by her successors. They were first stated in The Theosophist, August, 1883, in her article "Transmigration of the Life-Atoms." Dr. de Purucker discusses it in his Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy and The Esoteric Tradition. These ideas are undoubtedly new to modern western thinkers, and there are many more of an equally "disturbing" nature which have been given out by H. P. Blavatsky. Some — nay many — of her most revolutionary teachings have been confirmed by modern science since her death, utterly improbable as it seemed in the nineteenth century, the heyday of materialism.
Are we then justified in suppressing such teachings, teachings which are not the invention of over-enthusiastic and irresponsible camp-followers, groundless speculations, but are essential parts of the broad scheme brought to the West by the Founder of Theosophy? Are we to abandon our posts in fear of some scientific Mrs. Grundy, especially in view of the certainty of further discoveries in support of the rest of the more "difficult" teachings of Theosophy which approach the domain of modern science? Reasonable prudence in presentation must be used, of course, and, above all, the would-be exponent must be sure he has not misunderstood the teachings. There is nothing in Theosophy that could give a greater shock to the mind than was suffered by the recent introduction of such amazing concepts as "curved space," the "expansion of the universe," or the "Lorenz contraction."
The Theosophical Movement exists for the object of giving ideas, and the Society was established for that purpose. Its ideas are the basis for the "rules for guidance in the affairs of life" which are so all-important, but the ideas must be known before the world will accept the rules. Otherwise the rules are mere dogmatism. Theosophists, when sincere, can justly claim to be philanthropists — lovers of humanity — and will naturally take every opportunity that comes their way to relieve distress by practical help, as H. P. Blavatsky says "by individual effort, not collective." She herself set an example when she could. But she made it plain that the work of the Theosophical Movement is more far-reaching than any other humanitarian activity, for it goes to the root of suffering. It deals with causes rather than effects. Some well-meaning Theosophists have tried to include within the scope of the Society Social Reform, Charitable and other activities which were not emphasized by its Founder as parts of its specific work. The Society was not established for such purposes, but for a work that no ordinary philanthropic society can do. H. P. Blavatsky gave five clear and positive instructions to Theosophists in her authoritative Key to Theosophy. Briefly stated, they are:
To study and comprehend the doctrines in order to teach them to others; to spread interest in Theosophy and remove misconceptions; to circulate the literature; to defend the Society from unjust aspersions; and, "most important of all," to become examples of the Theosophical life.
But never does she even suggest that Theosophists as individuals should not do any acts of charity or support any charitable work they have a mind to. She writes in The Voice of the Silence: "Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin."
In regard to the widespread presentation of the more difficult teachings of Theosophy in our literature, which, some say, may deter serious inquirers, we must remember that pioneers of progress are seeking for new ideas, new lines of effort, just as chemists and engineers are striving to find new combinations and devices, and they are well aware that modern science in its present condition is not yet equal to the onerous task of leading us out of the wilderness of spiritual darkness. There is no reason why it may not rise to that exalted position, but today it has deliberately limited its field of research, leaving vast and important regions to — shall we say? — the poets and the philosophers. And also science is not too steady in its saddle. For instance, Sir James Jeans, the famous astronomer, is reported as saying to the Edinburgh Astronomical Society on October 8, 1938:
He "confessed," too, that to him it was still very open to question as to whether space was finite or infinite, whether it was curved or flat, whether the so-called constants of nature changed in value or stood still — if, indeed, any of these questions had any meaning! — News-Chronicle, London
The more "difficult" teachings of Theosophy, such as the doctrine of the life-atoms, the globe-chain, man's evolution as a spiritual being, and so forth, not to speak of the information in regard to astral or psychic subjects, may indeed be "questionable" to many scientists, but may not the bold utterance of such unusual ideas be effective in suggesting a higher order of research to independent and original thinkers among scientists, such, for example, as Dr. Rhine of Duke University, Professor Julian Huxley, and others who have already ventured into the "forbidden land" of telepathic investigation? The Theosophical Society is not angling for membership at the expense of truth; its object is to spread ideas as widely as possible so that those who are "ready" can find the help they need. William Q. Judge says in Letters That Have Helped Me: "Each one who really comes into it [Theosophy] does so because it is only "an extension of previous beliefs.'" Those who have no such background may be expected to regard some of its doctrines as "questionable," but closer inspection may modify their views. Why should they not have the chance of learning that they exist?
This applies even to the existence of gross psychical phenomena. Quite recently, for instance, outbreaks of abnormal "poltergeist" phenomena — violent disturbances such as moving of heavy furniture, alarming noises, etc. — have aroused attention from intelligent persons in America and England, but as they bring entirely "incredible" factors into the accepted schemes of physics and psychology the majority of scientists will simply ignore them. Yet every well-established account of this kind adds weight to the mass of evidence for the "Borderland" between the visible and the invisible planes. It leads to important logical conclusions which help to break down obstinate prejudices. Until two or three hundred years ago such phenomena were universally accepted by learned and unlearned as part of nature, but with the development of mechanistic science with its concentration on the laws of the visible and material they ceased to be respectable. Perhaps this is not surprising because, unfortunately, those in the West who courageously defended their reality had no rational or philosophical explanation to offer, but the case is different now. The universe of hard atomic matter has given place to a "mysterious universe" of "mind-stuff" and curious ideas of "probability" are being advanced. The way is visibly opening for the understanding of the basic principles of the occult structure of the Kosmos brought to the West by H. P. Blavatsky.
Dr. Robert Broom's Remarkable Discovery of a New Anthropoid Ape
South Africa is the present center of interest in regard to research for the ancestors of man. An entirely unexpected family of anthropoid apes has lately been discovered by South African scientists. At least three individuals have been found which are more human than any other living or fossilized apes, and the latest specimen, discovered by Dr. Robert Broom, F. R. S., a few months ago and named Paranthropus Robustus (popularly known as the Kromdraai Ape from the place where it was found), is of special importance. It has been widely hailed by the journalists as "the Missing Link" and the unscientific reader might easily be misled into thinking that a real link (or links) has been found, ancestral to man, which directly connects the earliest true human races with the apes. This is not so, for the newly-discovered South African anthropoids flourished long after the Piltdown, Peking, and other true men appeared. Paranthropus possesses certain distinctively human characteristics, especially in the teeth, but, as Dr. Broom makes very clear, it is "too late to have been the direct ancestor of man." It is, like the other anthropoids, a distant relative, and probably lived between two and three hundred thousand years ago, during the Middle Pleistocene period. The earliest true men whose remains have been discovered are far earlier than that. The South African anthropoids, especially Paranthropus, are only "links" in the sense that in certain anatomical structures they resemble man more closely than any other apes.
Sir Arthur Keith, the great English authority on anthropology, says that the discovery of Paranthropus, "an ape with human teeth" who existed at a far more recent date than that of very ancient man, is
perhaps the last thing I ever expected. All my landmarks have gone. . . . Indeed, had these remains been found in strata of older geological date, experts would certainly have agreed that at last the anthropoid stage of man's ancestry had certainly been found [!]
But the fact remains that ape-men of the desired type preceding true man have not been found. The mystery of human origin still remains for anthropologists to learn. Many varieties of anthropoids have been found — a new one was unearthed in Europe the other day — but "the series of progressive types from ape to man" is as conspicuous for its absence as it was in H. P. Blavatsky's day.
The Ancient Wisdom explains the appearance of the anthropoids as
not the product of natural evolution but an accident, a cross-breed between an animal being, or form, and man . . . "a transformation of species most directly connected with that of the human family — a hybrid branch engrafted on their own stock before the final perfection of the latter" — or man. — The Secret Doctrine, II, 262
The student who wishes to follow this subject more fully will find it explained in The Secret Doctrine, II, 262-3, 678, 689, etc. On page 652, H. P. Blavatsky severely criticizes the materialistic biologist, Haeckel, for his sneers at the suggestion that spiritual causes could possibly be called upon to explain the origin of the human race, which he considered was the result of "simple mechanical causes, from physical and chemical forces." In this connexion it is interesting to notice that Dr. Broom, in his description of the latest discoveries does not agree with the materialistic position, although he still holds that man must have originated in some way from the lower kingdoms, even though a very great increase in the brain (perhaps 100 per cent) would be necessary. He writes in The Forum, Johannesburg, September 5, 1938:
The occasional occurrence of microcephalic idiots among men suggests that the rapid and great growth of the human brain may have been the result of a mutation or a series of mutations, but if so it seems to me such mutations must have been deliberately brought about by some spiritual guiding power and could not have been the result of blind chance.
The student will find an interesting reference to Dr. Broom's position in The Esoteric Tradition, I, 322, where the author discusses the causes of the inner urge behind the evolution of form — the psychical yearning of the lower kingdoms to become human.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE