The Path – March 1892


(Continued from February No.)

It has often been thought a strange thing that there are no dogmas and no creed in Theosophy or Occultism. Is theosophy a religion? is often asked. No, it is religion. Is it a philosophy? No, it is philosophy. Is it a science? No, it is science. If a consensus of religion, philosophy, and science is possible, and if it has ever been reached in human thought, that thought must long since have passed the boundaries of all creeds and ceased to dogmatize. Hence comes the difficulty in answering questions. No proposition stands apart or can be taken separately without limiting and often distorting its meaning. Every proposition has to be considered and held as subservient to the synthetic whole. Really intelligent people, capable of correct reasoning, often lack sufficient interest to endeavor to apprehend the universality of these principles. They expect, where they have any interest at all in the subject, to be told "all about it" in an hour's conversation, or to learn it from a column in some newspaper; all about man, all about Nature, all about Deity; and then either to reject it or to make it a part of their previous creed. These are really no wiser than the penny-a-liner who catches some point and turns it into ridicule, or makes it a butt for coarse jest or silly sarcasm, and then complacently imagines that he has demolished the whole structure! If such persons were for one moment placed face to face with their own folly, they would be amazed. The most profound thinker and the most correct reasoner might well afford to devote a life-time to the apprehension of the philosophy of occultism, and other life-times to mastering the scientific details, while at the same time his ethics and his religious life are made consistent with the principle of altruism and the Brotherhood of man. If this be regarded as too hard a task, it is, nevertheless, the line of the higher evolution of man, and, soon or late, every soul must follow it, retrograde, or cease to be.

Man is but a link in an endless chain of being; a sequence of a past eternity of causes and processes; a potentiality born into time, but spanning two eternities, his past and his future, and in his consciousness these are all one, Duration, the ever-present. In a former article man was shown to be a series of almost innumerable "Lives", and these lives, these living entities called "cells", were shown to be associated together on the principle of hierarchies, grouped according to rank and order, service and development, and this was shown to be the "physical synthesis" of man, and the organic synthesis as well. Disease was also shown to be the organic nutritive, or physiological "sin of separateness". Every department of man's being, every organ and cell of his body, was also shown to possess a consciousness and an intelligence of its own, held, however, subordinate to the whole. In health every action is synchronous and rhythmical, however varied and expanded, however intense and comprehensive. Enough is already known in modern physics to justify all these statements, at least by analogy. The principle of electrical induction and vibration, the quantitative and qualitative transmission of vibration and its exact registration, and their application to telegraphy, the telephone, and the phonograph, have upset all previous theories of physics and physiology. "A metallic plate, for instance, can that talk like a human being? Yea or nay? Mr. Bouillard — and he was no common man — said No; to accept such a fact were to upset all our notions of physiology. So said Mr. Bouillard, right in the face of Edison's phonograph in full Academy, and he throttled the luckless interpreter of the famous American inventor, accusing it of ventriloquism." (1)

Occultism teaches that the Ego both precedes and survives the physical body. The phenomena of man's life and the process of his thought can be apprehended and explained on no other theory. Modern physiology teaches in detail certain facts regarding the life of man. It, moreover, groups these facts and deduces certain so-called principles and laws, but such a thing as a synthesis of the whole man is seldom even attempted. "Psychology" is mere empiricism, represented by disjointed facts, and these, of course, but little understood, and more often misinterpreted.

Ask the modern physiologist if man can think when unconscious, and he will answer No; and if asked if man can be conscious and not think, he will as readily answer No. Both answers will be based on what is known, or supposed to be known, of memory. The idea that the real man, the Ego, is always conscious on some plane, and that it "thinks", as we ordinarily use the term, only on the lower plane through the physical brain, in terms of extension and duration, or space and time, is seldom in the least apprehended by the modern physiologist. If, however, one grasps the idea of the ego as the real man dwelling in the physical body and using it as its instrument through which it is related to space and time, perception, sensation, thought, and feeling, the gaps in physiology and psychology begin to disappear. Here again it should be particularly borne in mind that this doctrine of the ego must be considered in the light of the complete synthesis of occultism, and just to the extent that this is intelligently done will the significance of the ego appear.

The brief and concise outline of the philosophy of occultism given in the Introduction to the Secret Doctrine is therefore very significant, and the student who desires to apprehend that which follows in these two large volumes ought to study this outline very carefully. No subsequent proposition, no principle in the life of man, can be correctly understood apart from it. The subject-matter following is necessarily fragmentary, but the outline is both inclusive and philosophical, and if one reasons logically and follows the plainest analogies he can never go far astray. The relation of mind to brain, of thought to consciousness, of life to matter, and of man to Nature and to Deity, is there clearly defined; not, indeed, in all its details, but in a philosophical modulus, to be worked out in reason and in life. The all-pervading Life, the cyclic or periodical movements, the periods of action and of repose, and the intimate relations and inter-dependences of all things apply to Cosmos, and equally to every atom in its vast embrace.

Students sometimes complain that they cannot understand, that the subject is so vast, and so deep and intricate, and not made clear. It is because they do not realize what they have undertaken. Occultism can neither be taught nor learned in "a few easy lessons". The "object lessons" sometimes given by H. P. B., almost always misunderstood and misapplied, though often explained at the time, served as often to excite vulgar curiosity and personal abuse as to arrest attention and study. If, before the advent of the T. S. in the face of the creeds of Christendom, the materialism of science, the indifferences and supercilious scorn of Agnosticism, and the babel of spiritualism, it had been proposed to begin at the foundations and reconstruct our entire knowledge of Nature and of man; to show the unity and the foundations of the world's religions; to eliminate from science all its "missing links"; to make Agnosticism gnostic; and to place the science of psychology and the nature and laws of mind and soul over against "Mediumship"; it would have been held as an herculean task, and declared impossible of accomplishment. Now that the thing has virtually been accomplished and this body of knowledge presented to the world, people think it strange that they cannot compass it all, as the poet Burns is said to have written some of his shorter poems, "while standing on one leg"!

Again, people complain at the unfamiliar terms and the strange words imported from foreign languages. Yet if one were to undertake the study of physics, chemistry, music, or medicine, quite as great obstacles have to be overcome. Is it a strange thing, then, that the science that includes all these, and undertakes to give a synthesis of the whole realm of Nature and of life, should have its own nomenclature?

Beyond all these necessary and natural obstacles, there is another, viz., that contentious spirit that disputes and opposes every point before it is fairly stated or understood. Suppose one ignorant of mathematics were to proceed in the same manner and say, "I don't like that proposition", "I don't see why they turn a six upside down to make a nine", "Why don't two and two make five?", and so on, how long would it take such a one to learn mathematics? In the study of the Secret Doctrine it is not a matter of likes or dislikes, of belief or unbelief, but solely a matter of intelligence and understanding. He who acknowledges his ignorance and yet is unwilling to lay aside his likes and dislikes, and even his creeds and dogmas, for the time, in order to see what is presented in its own light and purely on its merits, has neither need nor use for the Secret Doctrine. Even where a greater number of propositions are accepted or "believed" and a few are rejected, the synthetic whole is entirely lost sight of. But, says some one, this is a plea for blind credulity, and an attempt to bind the mind and the conscience of man to a blind acceptance of these doctrines. No one but the ignorant or the dishonest can make such an assertion in the face of the facts. Listen to the following from p. XIX. Introduction to the Secret Doctrine. "It is above everything important to keep in mind that no theosophical book acquires the least additional value from pretended authority." If that be advocating blind credulity, let the enemies of the T. S. make the most of it. If any authority pertains to the Secret Doctrine, it must be sought inside, not outside. It must rest on its comprehensiveness, its completeness, its continuity and reasonableness; in other words, on its philosophical synthesis, a thing missed alike by the superficial and the contentious, by the indolent, the superstitious, and the dogmatic.

"0 wise man: you have asked rightly. Now listen carefully. The illusive fancies arising from error are not conclusive."

"The great and peaceful ones live regenerating the world like the coming of spring, and after having themselves crossed the ocean of embodied existence, help those who try to do the same thing, without personal motives."
      — Crest Jewel of Wisdom.


1. Dr. J. Oehorowicz, "Mental Suggestion" p. 291. (return to text)

The Path