We would appreciate the group's comments on these words from B.P. Wadia's article:"The Writer of the Secret Doctrine."

"Here is a somewhat novel position: we are offered proofs, are implored to examine and judge, to investigate and ascertain; not to believe in any revelations but to test and check and verify teachings on their own merit. If that is not a scientific attitude, what is?

Believers and sceptics become blind believers and unreasonable sceptics when they fall prey to fanaticism. Our task here is to study, to examine, to judge; to investigate relentlessly but honestly; to believe nothing unless the proof is found, but also not to reject anything when that proof is obtained. Not by the way of phenomena but by that of philosophy; not swayed by the personality but by adhering to principles; not by blind faith but by illumined reasoning; not by argumentation but by meditation; not by foolish credulity but by intelligent cooperation; not proceeding from the teacher to the teachings but examining the consistency, the logic, the inherent truth, the reasonableness and the completeness of the teachings themselves. Throw the light of all available knowledge on the teachings; throw the light of these teachings on all available knowledge; by mutual comparison and keen criticism judge the teachings of H. P. Blavatsky."


We believe it is important to explore the right attitude for approaching the Secret Doctrine.

-The moderator

 

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The ideas in this quote and the thought that follows have been on my mind today and actually for the last couple of months. I have practiced a form of deep meditation for about 12 years and trust the results. But...lately... I find that I am mixed about several ideas that I thought I was most sure of years ago. It almost seems that the unnecessary, or false teachings are bubbling to the top so that the light of truth may cast them aside in order to make way for what is valuable, logical, consistent and true...

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Sounds a little like the "progressive awakenings" HPB speaks of. :)

From my perspective, seeing the 'holes' in our understanding is a good sign that we've moving forward. In this process, a stage of 'confusion' might indicate that our minds are readying for the development of a new picture of reality, so long as we're ready to let go of the old one.

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This line jumps out at me: "not by argumentation but by meditation"

I would take this as inner or outer argumentation - whether arguing/debating with another or within our own mind. Seems that one key in approaching the SD is to instead quietly contemplate the ideas presented, particularly when we come across an idea that conflicts with our understanding - to be willing to consider that we may be mistaken and to give the new idea serious consideration.

What I'm curious of is how others approach this process. Any tried and tested methods for productive meditation/contemplation of an idea that may be valuable in our approach to the SD?

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I use a modality that I call "provisional belief." It is basically a matter of taking a given idea or statement and holding it to be true, but holding it with a very gentle grip so that it can more easily be let go if some new insight brings one to deem such action appropriate. To be honest, this seems like it should be the way we treat all of our beliefs and with practice one can learn to extend this to one's entire worldview.

It is definitely a practice and not something that one should expect to perfect. It involves a very delicate balance. If we do not grip our beliefs tightly enough, we risk becoming completely passive, all too malleable, and vulnerable to forming a very distorted worldview that is not even consistent within itself. If we grip too tightly, we risk slipping into dogmatic habits of mind.


It is necessary to support such a structure with logic and reason--to follow sets of conditional statements, to try ideas in the fire. If X is true, then Y must also be true. If investigation reveals that Y appears not to be true, then it is time to let go of X. But even here, one must be careful. New information or insight may exonerate Y and bring it back into the realm of possibility--along with X.

It keeps one on one's toes.

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I wonder if this idea of provisional belief (great term by the way) is true by matter of degree for all the ideas we hold.  In other words there are very few if any ideas that we "know" but we hold to them in varying levels of "provisional belief".  If we are aware that they are truly provisional, as Dan says, then we are better able to let go of what is not true when we encounter it.

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This is really a great point, imho. It seems to relate well to David's post below, in the sense that what might save us from falling into the traps of blind belief is the 'provisional' aspect of our approach, the keeping of the ideas in the realm of 'working hypothesis', combined with the awareness that our current picture of reality must be flawed, by its very relative nature - all things that may keep us from grasping too tightly.

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Thanks Gerry for offering this very challenging quote from B. P. Wadia. Each sentence raises questions in the mind. The discussion that has insued shows me that you have quite a group of sincere, earnest seekers. Thank you all for your questions and comments.

"not to believe in any revelations but to test and check and verify teachings on their own merit."

What does it mean to "test and check and verify" teachings? For example, how does one test the teaching of reincarnation? We can read, study and learn how it was the teaching of many great spiritual teachers and reformers. We can certainly see, through the reasoning mind, how it helps to make sense of the world around us; how it helps to explain the disparities of condition and opportunity that each one experiences, the vagaries of birth and the sudden turnings of fortune and circumstance. In conjunction with it's twin, the teaching of karma, we can begin to see the logic and justice it establishes in the grand scheme of evolution. But how does one test the immortality of the soul?

Similarly, how does one "test" the Unity of the Cosmos and the universal brotherhood of man?

These are indeed themes for deep, repeated, sustained meditation over lifetimes combined with courageous experiments in the realm of practice. Perhaps one day, in the deep caverns of the inner life the inexpressible "proof" will be found. Long before that, many great teachers suggest, we must act as though we have found it---treat others as we would be treated, love our neighbor as our self, live for others and not for self.

 

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What does it mean to "test and check and verify" teachings?

Of all great questions posed in our study so far, this one has really got me probing within!

What this does is bring me back to the Voice of the Silence and the SD as two sides of a coin. To me, theosophical investigation is incomplete with only one or the other. The SD illumines many ideas and we work through them with reasoning, intuition and such, but to me it's the Voice of the Silence that really helps open the doors to the experiential testing and verifying. Even the most fleeting or partial experience of states and conditions outlined in the Voice can have a more profound impact than the most complete reasoning, imho.

Reminds me of Morpheus in the Matrix, when, after attempting an explanation of the Matrix, he tells Neo: "unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is; you have to see it for yourself". Ultimately, I feel the ideas we study in the SD must be verified by our own experience through the practices touched on in the Voice of the Silence.

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This quote seems to compliment this discussion:

Those alone, whom we call adepts, who know how to direct their mental vision and to transfer their consciousness -- physical and psychic both -- to other planes of being, are able to speak with authority on such subjects. And they tell us plainly:--

"Lead the life necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge and powers, and Wisdom will come to you naturally. ..." - SD, Vol 1, Page 167

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"Lead the life necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge and powers, and Wisdom will come to you naturally. ..." - SD, Vol 1, Page 167

This is beautiful and inspiring. 

Thank you for posting it. 

 

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I'm sure there are few ways to test, check and verify the teachings. I dont think that we should ignore the contribution that secular science has made in the past century toward vindication of certain teachings, i.e. the nature of matter, time, space and etc. HPB frequently appealed to the scientific researches of her day to corroborate the teachings, and I think that it is safe to follow her example. Even the "phenomenon" of reincarnation is being studied at the Department of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia, and not without some very remarkable results which are leaning toward confirmation. But of course, as Jon suggested, verification through experience is the aim for the spiritual aspirant. What kind of experience would serve to verify the doctrine of reincarnation? Perhaps memory. Without a direct memory of a past life, I don't see how any experiential certainty can be claimed. However, a high degree of theoretical certainty is always available, as reincarnation conforms with the fundamental principles of the SD.
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These are excellent points too.  I think another way we test and verify an idea is to "try it out" so to speak, sort of analogous to trying on some new clothing.  I think we get caught up in the modern scientific method and empirical verification sometimes when it comes to "proof".  In the philosophical world we have the notion of trying an idea on for size.  What would life be like if we lived it as if reincarnation were true, for example?   What changes would I make, how would it alter my perceptions, sense of time, organization of what is important, sense of self etc. etc.?

If we are able to engage in such a thought experiments thoroughly enough,  sincerely enough, and frankly I think this is all Theosophy is asking of us, would we find greater clarity and rhythm to life or less, more peace of mind or less, more contentment or less, a greater sense of self or less?  These thought experiments can be done with all the key ideas of the Teachings and provide us with a pathway to verification.  All that is needed is an imagination and the courage to try.  You don't need to be a scientist in a lab coat, or have four PHDs in the social sciences.

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Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on July 25, 2012 at 10:41am
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Reminds me of Darwin. As you say, when we try-on ideas it's not just the logical aspect we need to be aware of, but the way in which the idea effects our entire nature. Darwin was so involved in his mechanistic concept of man and evolution, and from the quote below we can see the effect it had on him. To my view, if an idea is true it will always enliven us; it will increase our ability to see and appreciate beauty, and so on.

From Darwin:

Up to the age of 30 or beyond it, poetry of many kinds . . . gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare. . . .

Formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great, delight.

But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.

I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music. . . .

I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did. . . .

My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. . . .

The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.

We can really feel compassion for such a man. How terrible to be so consumed by an idea that strips us of all that holds true value to the soul! There's something here we can all learn from.

Permalink Reply by Catherine Austin on August 10, 2012 at 6:01pm
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yes, compassion indeed... I have heard very logical, rational, mathematical and/or very intelligent people can feel very 1-dimensional. Two of my friends expressed the "dryness of soul" they experienced... I have another friend who imagines beauty before, behind, above and below, beside and within, and this is part of her meditation.

I also have had experience that when we raise our consciousness beyond ourselves with  ideas that have the power to do that, we can meet a higher level of consciousness for an instant. Sometimes it comes to us when we are find ourselves overwhelmed by beauty in nature on a Spring or Summer day for example. The beauty is always there, it is the change in our mind that has occurred - our consciousness has been raised. 

In another sense, Mother Theresa had one beginning phenomenal awakening and direction to go to the poorest of the poor and she spent the rest of her life without any similar comfort or spiritual delight -amazing woman!

Permalink Reply by Russell Law on July 22, 2012 at 12:29am
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     This is such a useful and challenging statement from BPW.  To my mind it describes the dialectic,  the continual self-examination, that is such an essential part of the Theosophic  life.  What indeed are our first principles, and are they good enough?   What do we accept?  How do we judge?  What constitutes proof, especially with respect to those aspects of  life which cannot be measured?  Of what can we ever be certain?

      The statement brought to mind the following from HPB's  article "What is Truth?"

    " Still each of us can relatively reach the Sun of Truth even on this earth,  and assimilate its warmest and most direct rays, however differentiated they may become after their long journey through the physical particles in space. To achieve this, there are two methods.  On the physical plane we may use our mental polariscope; and, analyzing the properties of each ray, choose the purest. On the plane of spirituality, to reach the Sun of Truth we must work in dead earnest for the development of our higher nature. . ."

 

   

Permalink Reply by barbaram on July 22, 2012 at 3:43pm
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Until we verify the ideas presented in the teachings, they remain a nice set of theories.  Granted, there are concepts, such as karma and planetary rounds and many others that will take lifetimes to ascertain and may not be within our reach in this life. 

However, there are those, to name one that comes to mind, like the septenary division in our constitution, that is less distant and within our reach of investigation.  We may not be able to recognize the higher principles, but we can become familiar of the various energies in our surroundings and understand the qualities and natures of one or two principles.   

By studying and examining and testing the fundamental ideas, we can make the teachings a living reality.  It does take a lot of work but, as the teacher states - no effort is ever lost.  Once we assimilate the sacred texts to whatever extent,   our daily life invariably becomes an expression of the teachings.  Then, the subjects are no longer beliefs and we speak about them from the inside out and not from the outside in.      

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on July 23, 2012 at 7:46pm
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I have always been impressed by the writings of B. P. Wadia, and have always admired his great dedication and work for his convictions. He worked hard for the Theosophical Society at Adyar for a number of years, before leaving it to work hard for the United Lodge of Theosophists until he died. What he writes here probably reflects at least part of why he left the Theosophical Society: too much blind belief. He obviously does not think this is healthy. I agree.

The difficulty, of course, is that many of the teachings of Theosophy are not subject to empirical proof; so that they are often accepted, at least initially, on faith. It seems that Wadia is here advocating an approach that takes such teachings as working hypotheses, to be tested in "the light of all available knowledge," "by mutual comparison and keen criticism." By this approach, one can hopefully avoid the pitfalls of blind belief.

Blind belief has plagued religions throughout history, and is probably why we see today a mass movement away from them and toward science. Today, few people want to throw out their old blind belief in the religion they grew up in, only to replace it with blind belief in something else such as Theosophy. This is probably why Wadia here promotes a "scientific attitude" toward the teachings of Theosophy. These must be able to stand up to reason, and according to Wadia, they can. Not only can they, he here indicates that it is our duty to subject them to reasoning. Only then can they truly help both ourselves and others.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on July 25, 2012 at 11:17am
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It is interesting how often we, as humans, can and do shift from one extreme to another. This seems to happen more often when the shift is one of moving away from something in recoil. It has been interesting, though also disconcerting, to watch a growing movement of people waking up to the great suffering that has been unleashed upon the world via religion. Blind belief and zealotry rooted more in authoritarianism and conformity than in anything truly deep and abiding are clearly bad for the world. What many people are doing on a collective level as they come to see this is to swing, in a very reactionary manner, towards "scientism" as a refuge from all of that. Is it this any better? It may be years before we know for sure how this will play out on a collective level. It's ironic, though, how similar many of today's atheist rants are to the manic and self-righteous proclamations of a fundamentalist preacher. Many of these people seem to feel genuine contempt for anyone with religious or spiritual leanings--most unfortunately, they don't even recognize the basic difference between blind, superstitious belief and spiritual truths discovered through deeper contemplation that just happens to dwell outside the realm of pure logic. Religion itself is now under persecution at times.

This is one of the things that concerned HPB most during her life. A crucial part of the message she hoped to impart to the world is that these extremes, in any form, are dangerous. It seems that a much better approach than zealotry, whether religious or materialistic, is to find a middleground--to look at any given situation with a modicum of detachment that allows one to weave seemingly disparate threads together.

This means balancing a reasoning, logical detachment with a soulful, inspired sensitivity in a way that brings out the best in both approaches while avoiding the pitfalls of either. Too much cold logic, as Jon showed us in his quotation of Darwin, is deadening and poisonous, but too much sentimentality and openness leads us down false paths too.

Permalink Reply by Catherine Austin on August 10, 2012 at 6:19pm
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Yes a synthesis beyond our swinging wildly between the pairs of opposites. It is not on the same plane but "above " and a new creation. I find my brain works well with analysis - it is Synthesis that is my down fall!  and yet I sometimes get the conscious sense of "being led", and am reminded " Except the Lord Build the House, in vain do the builders build". 

I have been tuning into the International Theosophical convention, and found I did not know of the schisms that had taken place before in Theosophy - great work in coming back to share a convention together. :-) I know I have had my challenges here to stay or to go... and am reminded that the First Object is what is most important, apart from personal/other grievances, which have their base in human nature, rather than in Theosophical Doctrines etc as I have heard.