Reading on in B.P. Wadia's article he states rather boldly:
Truth is sacred and can therefore stand the attack,
sacrilegious and severe. H. P. Blavatsky invites this
searching examination. Blind believers do her a disservice
when by example or precept they discourage the attitude of
critical questioning. Ours the mission to examine and
cross-examine this witness from the Occult World of Ancient
Adepts; ours the task to endeavor to break her evidence and
to encourage others to do so. If such statements as the nine
quoted above are unprovable then as honest men and women we
must reject this ”messenger” and consign to consuming fire
her falsehoods and frauds; for if these teachings are
unprovable then on her own testimony, by her own standard,
according to her own dicta she and her ”synthesis of
science, religion and philosophy” are worse than nonsense.
As she herself wrote: ”But this is the personal view of the
writer; and her orthodoxy cannot be expected to have any
more weight than any other 'doxy,' in the eyes of those to
whom every fresh theory is heterodox until otherwise
II, Original Edition, p. 438.)
Knowledge and not belief is what H. P. Blavatsky offered. If
today the world of knowledge does not to a greater extent
examine her teachings it is because her many followers are
denizens of the world of belief; alas! even a greater
number, adopting the appellation of her system of thought,
display crass ignorance of it.
Your comments and questions on these passages please.
Big question to approach right off the start is the
difference between evidence and proof. I'd submit that
evidence is objective, while proof is inherently subjective.
Evidence leads to proof, but the arrival at proof is an
internal process for each individual (their weighing of the
evidence with discriminatory consciousness). So, it doesn't
seem possible for any one being to 'prove' anything to
another being. One can present evidence, but 'proof' is for
each to decide on their own. The case is only proven to a
mind when it's convinced by the evidence witnessed.
I'm sure we've all had times when a case is proven to us
beyond a shadow of a doubt, but another, furnished with the
same evidence, remains unconvinced or even wholly set
against the idea!
It seems to me that all proof must be presupposed by a
standard of proof, whether subjectively held, as in the
natural or instinctual view that the objects of the external
world are real, or an objective standard of proof like the
scientific method. Both seem artificial and arbitrary.
Evidence and proof are by definition contingencies and aims
of the reasoning faculty. Is it even possible to 'prove' a
metaphysical statement? Refining the question a bit further,
I wonder if Reason is able to extend itself to apprehend
metaphysical objects at all? Should we bring the faculty of
Intuition into this discussion?
It is interesting to note some of the strange notions held
by mankind that became disproved. Like the world being
flat or the earth being the center of the solar system.
Evidence piled up to disprove those commonly held notions.
Is the process of proving something true or false a gradual
slow process usually?
Probably slow and gradual from a certain perspective, but
also can be (seemingly) overnight from another perspective.
Take an instance like Einstein... in one foul swoop he
killed several prevalent scientific ideas and gave birth to
new ones. But, of course, the groundwork for such a
revelation had been laid increasingly for generations (and
who knows the level of this groundwork on inner planes).
I suppose the process depends on the strength of the
evidence and the mind's who are weighing it. It's
interesting to consider current theosophical ideas in this
light, as the type of evidence they're furnished by is often
indirect and subtle - not enough to 'prove' the case to many
Which "nine quoted above" are the provable statements? for
I could give an example: Does a memberbelievein
the Masters of HPB's time, and if so, does a belief and then
reading of "one of the first things one should do is "open
ourselves up" to the influence of the Masters, and then one
that, and then has a very heady experience of being led to
this and that understanding, of hearing the kindest "voice"
within his/her mind in response to doubts and fears, and
gradually all of that settling down to a gentler pace and
yet a quiet knowledge that experiences show one is being led
and "opened up " even more in time and in a timely fashion.
That would come under a subjective "proof" that is well
worth being experienced. Each of our paths is unique and
each could have his/her own evidence. Of course it is said
that we who wish to follow our highest and best impulsesarebeing
guided, whether we know it or not!
I think the thrust of what BP Wadia is saying and perhaps
what HPB herself endorses is the sustenance of a critical
mind and an open mind. Open to new ideas, but willing
to test them and examine them for veracity and not taking
them as true merely because someone of authority says so.
Theosophy respects the sanctity of one's own mind and
conscience and does not ask us to believe anything.
I find a lot of puzzling questions start to erode the longer
I stay with them and keep thinking and asking questions
about them. I guess we have to gain confidence in our
internal ability to discover what is true and distinguish
what is false.
It is a good question. I am sure others will weigh in.
Open to new ideas, but willing to test them and examine them
for veracity and not taking them as true merely because
someone of authority says so.
Reminds me of a saying, I'll paraphrase: "Even if the
highest gods of the highest heaven come to Earth and preach
from the mountain tops, don't believe a word they say if
your heart doesn't feel it to be true."
Very good question. I don't typically use the word, though
the author of the original quote did. I would perhaps say
"intuitive faculty". I would say that we each must weight
the evidence (or ideas) with our own consciousness and trust
in our discernment. I'd say we're better off, in a sense, to
be dead-wrong in our discernment than to be right blindly.
Each of our paths is unique and each could have his/her own
So very true. And as much of this evidence may be of quite
an 'intimate' nature, it really may not lend itself as
evidence for anyone else, even if shared, since all we could
share is a story about an experience and never the
Truth is sacred and can therefore stand the attack,
sacrilegious and severe.
I was thinking that this can also apply to our approach to
ourselves. Through our own process of 'self-inspection' the
parts of us that can withstand scrutiny will be those that
are 'of truth', and those parts that are not rooted in truth
will be revealed by their inability to stand up to
So I suppose we can apply the same kind of analysis to
ourselves, our character, our thoughts and habits, etc., as
we might apply to our study of theosophical writings...
David is right to caution us (in part 2) that many of the core
teachings of Theosophy are not subject to empirical proof.
In the Proem to the Secret Doctrine HPB says,“all
these Stanzas appeal to the inner faculties rather than to the ordinary
comprehension of the physical brain.”(SD I 21).
I think our understanding of the teachings isawakenedrather
than acquired. It stirs within us from patiently and repeatedly
reflecting upon the teachings, not trying too hard to grasp at them in
their depth or entirety.
There are and will be times of growing conviction and certainty along
with many times of uncertainty and perplexity. A clue to the
method of teaching used by HPB and the Mahatmas is given in the Secret
"It is impossible,when
complicated facts of an entirely unfamiliar science are being presented
to untrained minds for the first time, to put them forward with all
their appropriate qualifications . . . and abnormal developments. . . .
We must be content to take the broad rules first and deal with
exceptions afterwards, and especially is this the case with study, in
connection with whichthe
traditional methods of teaching, generally followed, aim at impressing
every fresh idea on the memory by provoking the perplexity it at last
relieves.” (SD I 162)
I think the last few lines above are important whether we are studying
the stanzas concerning the awakening of cosmos or the teachings
concerning the doctrine of rounds and races. We need to work at our
study, reflection and meditation while at the same time allowing the
teaching to work on us - which I believe it will if we are sincere,
patient and sustained in our endeavours.
Peter; These are extremely important points you make here and with
great clarity.I think what we are really after in the end, in regards to
our study, is discovering the best frame of mind, the optimum attitude
or posture if you will in approaching the Teachings. We have many
bad habits from formal education which do not serve us well in
metaphysical and spiritual endeavors. Being patient with oneself,
being comfortable in not knowing, being open and receptive, yet
maintaining a measure of skepticism and honesty are all part of the
process wouldn't you agree?
I think you've put that very well, Gerry; good to bring in honesty. I
wouldn't want to suggest that staying with uncertainty and not-knowing
is a comfortable experience - some times it is far from it! Yet it does
seem to be a necessary part of any serious study of the subject.
I'm not sure that a measure of scepticism is anecessaryrequirement
to the study of the Secret Doctrine. Of course, if we already feel some
scepticism towards Theosophy and The Secret Doctrine then we will need
to take that into account and work with it. Perhaps it depends on what
we mean by scepticism?
In philosophy scepticism is the belief that real knowledge of things is
impossible. More generally a sceptic is someone who distrusts received
wisdom and ideas, particularly ideas relating to spirituality and
religion. By contrast, Theosophy claims that real knowledge of the
essence of things is attainable.
A willingness to study, examine and weigh up the teachings as best we
can seems essential if we are to awaken and deepen our own understanding
rather then rest on blind faith. This seems to be what B.P.Wadia and
your good self are advocating, if I've understood correctly.
I was not using the word skepticism in a technical or "history of
philosophy sense". I was using it in a more conventional
sense. "A healthy skepticisim" meaning an unwillingness to accept
something as true too easily and requiring proof and testing. This
was a quality ascribed to great souls like Thoreau and Gandhi.
Huntington Cairns in his excellent introduction to Plato's dialogues
made this point, "And he (meaning Plato) never hesitates to submit his
own ideas to the harshest scrutiny.." This is the attitude I am
Thanks Gerry, I have a better understanding now as to what you are
Scepticism is still a force in modern philosophy, by the way, though it
has its roots in Greek history. I tend to use the term
'healthy scepticism' in relation to 'sale offers that appear too good to
be true' or in relation to 'things not being quite what they appear.' I
guess for me it signifies a healthy distrust with regards to the world
of appearances and maya. The sufis have a saying, 'Trust in God but tie
your camel', which seems to carry something of that spirit.
Anyway, what is more important is what we mean and not the words we use.
What you advocate does indeed sound like a healthy approach to our own
While writing the Secret Doctrine, HPB saw the kind of scepticism that
was prevalent in the western world at that time as an affliction. She
'Plato divides the intellectual progress of the universe during every
cycle into fertile and barren periods. In the sublunary regions, the
spheres of the various elements remain eternally in perfect harmony with
the divine nature, he says; 'but their parts,' owing to a too close
proximity to earth, and their commingling with the earthly (which is
matter, and therefore the realm of evil), 'are sometimes according, and
sometimes contrary to (divine) nature.' . . . . We are in a barren
period: the eighteenth century, during which the malignant fever of
scepticism broke out so irrepressibly, has entailed unbelief as an
hereditary disease upon the nineteenth. The divine intellect is veiled
in man; his animal brain alone philosophizes. And philosophizing alone,
how can it understand the " SOUL DOCTRINE" ?'