Reprinted by Blavatsky Study Center
The Source Teachings of Theosophy (1)
by Richard Taylor
H.P.B. herself gives the idea of "source teachings" and warns against false prophets within Theosophy giving out their own warped ideas AS Theosophy itself. No ideas are left out, they are simply pointed out as later than the original stuff. It doesn't "include certain writers in a select group and leave others out."
No one can deny that H.P.B. and William Q. Judge were among the Founders of Theosophy in 1875, and The Mahatma Letters were from 1880-1884. Everything after this is later, and spins off from the original teachings.
Even as a ULT student, I recognize that my hero Robert Crosbie (the founder of ULT) is a student and giving his own understanding of what he learned from H.P.B. and W.Q.J. His writings are not Source Theosophy, neither are de Purucker's, neither are Leadbeater's. We are not playing favorites here, you see, we all trace our roots to the same place.
With no source teachings, there is no Source, no direction by which we may approach the Masters and their School except our own personal wanderings. In fact, we Westerners first learned about Masters and Theosophy from H.P.B., and if we ignore her direction most of us will be really directionless in Theosophy, and leap from thing to thing, learning very slowly.
Some may say that this is divisive, that it doesn't seem in keeping with the spirit of theosophy to "find the source within." But it is not divisive, it is unifying. Many of us think some second-generation writers were real poops and weirdos. But I recognize that most of what they knew, they learned from H.P.B. and the Masters. Their ideas can be traced back to the "source teachings."
Have you ever come across William Q. Judge and his work? He is rather practical, but he has one glaring defect in the eyes of many: he held to the lines laid down by H.P.B. after her death, while most everyone else went about "developing" the ideas according to their own likes and dislikes and psychism. Mr. Judge is extremely practical and humble and readable, but most T.S. people ignore him because he was declared anathema.
The idea of Source Teachings is not about arrogance or humility. Source Teachings is an idea, and people are the ones who are arrogant or humble about it. Many people who recognize the truth of source teachings are very humble.
The philosophy of Theosophy is beautiful when it is understood as a whole, and not adulterated by later, corrupt teachings which destroy the laws of analogy, correspondences and the sevenfold constitution of Man.
With regard to the Masters, and their direct representatives, H.P.B. and W.Q.J., there are no intermediaries. No one deserves our respect because they have written books or have ideas or lived a century ago. They deserve our respect when they are moral, accurate, and hold to the lines laid down by the Masters. Failing this, they are poor guides, and certainly not people to set up as "closer and more familiar to the teachers and the teaching." We will all come to know the Masters by following their teachings and their lines, not any intermediaries.
In my mind, whatever the Masters were silent on, on that we don't know Their opinion. We can have our own opinions, and of course we do, but we can't in good conscience teach our own ideas as the Masters ideas, and it is important to distinguish that "we see through a glass darkly" but They see clearly and certainly. I too have many ideas how Theosophy and Buddhism overlap, but those are MY ideas, inspired by the teachings, but I can't run around saying my ideas are the original teachings.
I don't see us living today as "third" or "fourth" generation writers and students, we too are secondary. Nothing stands between us and the Masters as long as we still have their original teachings and program. We thinkers and students today are every bit as important as Mr. Crosbie (ULT), Mr. de Purucker (Pt. Loma), Mrs. Besant (Adyar), etc. We too can comment on the original teachings and come up with our own ideas. We can read whoever primary or secondary we want to, but we are not subordinate to them, we are thinkers in our own right.
A common suggestion is that the Teachings be presented in a form that can be understood and worked with by the current generation and culture. Some even ask if the Teachings themselves should evolve.
I partially agree and partially disagree. I agree that the presentation of the teaching need to be in the language of the people, accessible and understandable. And I agree that that's our job, to keep the teaching available in that way.
But I don't agree that the Teaching evolves. If Theosophy is truly "truth" based on facts in nature, then it simply IS and does not change. However the presentation of those truths may vary from culture to culture, time to time.
I don't ever think we will outgrow the original stuff taught by H.P.B. and William Q. Judge, but I do think their written English will differ more and more from the spoken and written vernacular as the decades, and centuries go by.
The question is: how do we keep ourselves based firmly on the tradition handed down to us that tradition of eternal truths while keeping it current, at the same time avoiding the pitfall of "pandering" to popular prejudices, like and dislikes, thus altering or losing the essential truths.
It seems to me the only way to prevent this decay is to really know and master the original stuff, and be able to rephrase it in our own words at any time, differently for every audience (scientists, scholars, Christians, Buddhists, housewives, business people, farmers, kids, etc.) Learning the original stuff well also allows one to spot other people's interpretations and see if they are on track or not.
Theosophy has material that can be found here and there, scattered throughout the world's religions, all being tied together with some new materials. Doesn't that make it a hodgepodge? H.P.B. quotes Montaigne:
I have here made only a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the string that ties them.
The Secret Doctrine, I, xivi
From this it might be said that a "nosegay of culled flowers" is, in a sense, a hodge-podge, and that the "string" that links them is the real key offered by theosophy.
Some might say this. But as for me: No, no, and again I say no. Theosophy is a distinct path, it is the practice and study of the Great lodge through all time, at least if we are correctly understanding H.P.B. Theosophy does not teach Buddhism or Christianity per se, but mentions certain aspects of them as helpful comparisons to what the Masters intended to teach.
The reason that H.P.B. and her teachers bothered to bring in stuff from all other religions and cultures was that no one would bother to study Theosophy in such a skeptical age if it couldn't be shown to have some objective legitimacy. IF H.P.B. were to say "just follow this path I show, in 25 years you will be a chela and understand everything" in 19th century Europe, would a single person have signed up?
Rather, traces of past Theosophical thinkers and workers needed to be shown, in every culture, in every epoch. This is the single greatest mistake newcomers make with Theosophy as well. They think "synthesis" means "eclectic." It doesn't. (Try a dictionary if you doubt it.)
A synthesis is harmonizing what truly is from a homogeneous source. And that is the thesis of the Masters all religions are sprung from a common trunk ("Pre-Vedic Buddhism and Brahmanism") and must now be made to merge back into their parent source. The Masters preserve and practice that esoteric parent source which has existed unchanged through the millenia or so Theosophy teaches.
Theosophy is not constructed a posteriori (after the fact) from bits and pieces that H.P.B. happened to run across. It is a living tradition among the Adepts, and not a theoretical jargon and mishmash thrown together just to make the Secret Doctrine publication.
Theosophy is a priori the philosophical study of Nature, its laws and processes, and it forms the vehicle of attaining our highest natural state. Wherever the Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Neo-platonists, Brahmins etc. have been successful in this, H.P.B. quotes with approval. She also criticizes all these traditions harshly for their blatant and not-so-blatant failures.
What is her yardstick to judge? If Theosophy is truly a hodgepodge, how then can all organized religions be criticized? This is a nonsensical idea. The Masters do not live and teach some vague consortium of religious practices, doing puja one day, Catholic Mass the next, and attending a bar-mitzvah the third. Their path is what lies behind all exoteric paths, that white light out of which all colored light comes.
Insofar as Theosophy is the truth, of course it can be found here and there in part. But it is much, much more than a compilation and comparison of world tradition this was merely an exercise to show us little moles that there is a pursuit here and a discipline worth studying. But beyond exoteric Theosophy, there is Occultism, that single, certain knowledge of nature's mysteries, which again, are not a hodgepodge but a single, organic whole.
(1) Reprinted from the October, 1996 issue of Theosophy World. The article as originally published in Theosophy World was prefaced with an editorial note:
"[Following is a discussion of the source teachings of Theosophy by Richard Taylor on firstname.lastname@example.org, found in five messages over September 4 to 9, 1995. The materials have been merged then reviewed by the author.]"