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 proved.” (S.D.,Vol. 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.

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How does one "prove" metaphysical statements and accurate symbolical interpretations as stated in the Secret Doctrine?


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 (yet).


Which "nine quoted above" are the provable statements? for an example....

I could give an example: Does a member believe in 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 "does" 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 impulses are being guided, whether we know it or not!



The nine statements or quotations were at the beginning of the article and I omitted them here for a couple of reasons, one of them being space.  You can find them all here:

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."


When you say the heart, what are you referring to?


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.

Would love to hear other thoughts on that idea.


Each of our paths is unique and each could have his/her own evidence.

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 experience itself.


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 inspection.

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...

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Permalink Reply by Peter on August 21, 2012 at 4:21pm

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 is awakened rather 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 Doctrine:

"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 which the 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.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 22, 2012 at 9:41am

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?


Permalink Reply by Peter on August 23, 2012 at 7:03am

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 a necessary requirement 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.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 23, 2012 at 10:42am


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 advocating.

Permalink Reply by Peter on August 23, 2012 at 12:36pm

Thanks Gerry,  I have a better understanding now as to what you are advocating.  

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 ideas.

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 writes:

'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" ?'

(SD II 74)

Permalink Reply by barbaram on August 30, 2012 at 9:13pm

This is very enlightening.

It makes a lot of sense that the physical brain cannot comprehend the meanings of the stanzas due to its depth and the development of the inner faculties is warranted to grasp the teachings.