Friday, 11 December 2015

Theosophy Basics: Blavatsky on Freedom

Obviously, Blavatsky wrote extensively on her brand of traditionial esoteric global perrenialism,which integrates a very fine analysis of Hegel's philosophy of history. It is probably not one of the more popular or better understood aspects of her thought, I think because it is not in tune with the current modern form of sceptical empiricism . One important component of her admirably deep and perceptive semantic approach is the value of freedom, of which she developed a remarkably progressive perspective; the passages below are a few typical examples:

Blavatsky's universalist perspective entails that freedom of thought is an important value:
We hold to no religion, as to no philosophy in particular: we cull the good we find in each. But here, again, it must be stated that, like all other ancient systems, Theosophy is divided into Exoteric and Esoteric Sections. (Key, 19)

"Verily so," we answer. "But where is the alleged contradiction in this? Neither the Founders, nor the 'most prominent members,' nor yet the majority thereof, constitute the Society, but only a certain portion of it, which, moreover, having no creed as a body, yet allows its members to believe as and what they please." PHILOSOPHERS AND PHILOSOPHICULES [Lucifer, Vol. V, No. 26, October, 1889, pp. 85-91, CW11, 431]

Membership in the Theosophical Society does not expose the "Fellows" to any interference with their religious, irreligious, political, philosophical or scientific views. The Society is not a sectarian nor is it a religious body, but simply a nucleus of men devoted to the search after truth, whencesoever it may come.  [FORCE OF PREJUDICE Lucifer, Vol. IV, No. 23,July, 1889, pp. 353-360, CW11, 330]

A cosmopolitan sense of equality and respect of fundamental human rights for all is part of this perspective:
We have already said in The Theosophist: "Born in the United States of America, the Theosophical Society was constituted on the model of its mother country. The latter, as we know, omits the name of God from its constitution, lest, said the Fathers of the Republic, this word someday afford the pretext for a State religion; for they wanted to grant absolute equality in its laws to all religions so that all would support the State and all in their turn would be protected."   The Theosophical Society was established on this beautiful model.   THE NEW CYCLE [La Revue Theosophique, Paris, Vol.  I, No.  I, March 21, 1889, pp. 3-13, CW11, 123]

ENQUIRER. What do you consider as due to humanity at large?
THEOSOPHIST. Full recognition of equal rights and privileges for all, and without distinction of race, colour, social position, or birth.
ENQUIRER. When would you consider such due not given?
THEOSOPHIST. When there is the slightest invasion of another's right — be that other a man or a nation; when there is any failure to show him the same justice, kindness, consideration or mercy which we desire for ourselves. The whole present system of politics is built on the oblivion of such rights, and the most fierce assertion of national selfishness. The French say: "Like master, like man"; they ought to add, "Like national policy, like citizen." (Key, 230)

To begin with, no Fellow in the Society, whether exoteric or esoteric, has a right to force his personal opinions upon another Fellow. "It is not lawful for any officer of the Parent Society to express in public, by word or act, any hostility to, or preference for, any one section (3), religious or philosophical, more than another. All have an equal right to have the essential features of their religious belief laid before the tribunal of an impartial world. And no officer of the Society, in his capacity as an officer, has the right to preach his own sectarian views and beliefs to members assembled, except when the meeting consists of his co-religionists. (Key, 50)

In general, self-reliance, independent and original thinking is encouraged, in a spirit of inclusiveness. The position is one of neutrality, objectivity and open-mindedness; this is considered to be the basis of a non-sectarion, non-dogmatic position:

As a body, the Theosophical Society holds that all original thinkers and investigators of the hidden side of nature whether materialists--those who find in matter "the promise and potency of all terrestrial life," or spiritualists--that is, those who discover in spirit the source of all energy and of matter as well, were and are, properly, Theosophists. For to be one, one need not necessarily recognize the existence of any special God or a deity. One need but worship the spirit of living nature, and try to identify oneself with it. To revere that Presence, the invisible Cause, which is yet ever manifesting itself in its incessant results; the intangible, omnipotent, and omnipresent Proteus: indivisible in its Essence, and eluding form, yet appearing under all and every form; who is here and there, and everywhere and nowhere; is ALL, and NOTHING; ubiquitous yet one; the Essence filling, binding, bounding, containing everything, contained in all. It will, we think, be seen now, that whether classed as Theists, Pantheists or Atheists, such men are near kinsmen to the rest. Be what he may, once that a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought--Godward--he is a Theosophist; an original thinker, a seeker after the eternal truth with "an inspiration of his own" to solve the universal problems. [What are the Theosophists? The Theosophist, Vol. I, October, 1879, pp. 5-7, CW2, 98]

The Society, in its capacity as an abstract corporation, believes in nothing, accepts nothing, teaches nothing. The Society per se cannot and must not have any religion, for it contains all religions. Cults are, after all, but external vehicles, more or less material forms and containing more or less of the essence of the One and Universal Truth. In its essential nature Theosophy is the spiritual as well as the physical science of this Truth--the very essence of deistic and philosophical research. As visible representative of the universal Truth, since it contains all religions and philosophies, and since each of them contains in its turn a portion of this Truth--the Society could not be sectarian, have preferences, or be any more partial than, say, an anthropological or geographic society. Do the latter care to what religion their explorers belong, so long as each of their members bravely carries out his duty?   THE NEW CYCLE [La Revue Theosophique, Paris, Vol.  I, No.  I, March 21, 1889, pp. 3-13, CW11, 123]

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