Vicente Hao Chin Jr. – The Philippines
On Theosophical Unity
The issue of Theosophical unity is a complex one. We must first be clear as to what kind of unity we are talking about.
If it is about organizational unity – that is, merging all Theosophical organizations into one – then this looks improbable, at least in the foreseeable future. The ground is not yet well set.
If it is about cooperative unity among the different Theosophical organizations to further the mission of the Theosophical movement, then it is definitely possible as well as desirable.
Below are some thoughts on such an effort:
1. First, we need to state the obvious: the underlying principles of such cooperation should be the objectives of the Theosophical movement as laid down by the founders, including the Mahatmas in their letters. The essentials of these objectives would not be too difficult to define, even if there may be some grey areas. The three objectives of the TS, the spiritual life, character building, Theosophical philanthropy, and popularization of theosophy (this is an example of a grey area) are examples of bases for such unified vision and work.
2. Because of the existence of grey areas, such cooperative unity must accentuate the positive or the unitive facets when it comes to efforts to popularize Theosophy, rather than rub on the areas of disagreement. The International Theosophical Conferences are examples of such efforts where we strengthen the areas of unity rather than wrangle about the differences.
3. But the basic areas of disagreement cannot be avoided, and we cannot be blind to them as if they don’t exist because they will keep on popping up in the effort to popularize Theosophy. How can we handle this?
The Theosophical world is firmly founded on genuine freedom of thought, inquiry and belief. But at the same time, it is best that we come nearer to a consensus on what is this thing called Theosophy that we want to popularize. (I am speaking here on theosophy for the general public.)
To achieve this it will be helpful to have a friendly inter-theosophical forum among knowledgeable theosophists who will study and discuss perceived incongruities in basic or popular theosophy and see in what way we can develop an integrated body of teachings. I need to emphasize the word “friendly” or brotherly because any unfriendly or aggressive attitude will just derail such efforts to bring about a general consensus as to what is the theosophy that we wish to popularize. This need not be an official inter-organizational forum. A group of well-known and respected theosophists from various societies would be enough to lead other theosophists to a reasonable consensus. This can be initiated by, for example, Theosophy Forward or the International Theosophical Conference. The effort may fail, but it is worth pursuing.
Such a group will inevitably arrive at certain principles that will guide such a joint inquiry and research that will serve as the basis for arriving at a broad consensus. For example, they will most probably acknowledge that scientific findings that are reasonably conclusive should be given due consideration in case it conflicts with any Theosophical teachings, such as that there are no canals or forests on the physical surface of Mars.
For certain controversial areas, more joint research and exploration would be necessary. For example, is the astral body the kama rupa or the linga sarira? There is room for actual quasi-scientific research on this issue because of the vast information now available on out-of-body experiences, near-death experience, etc.
There will probably remain certain areas that are difficult to tackle, such as the definition of the monad (is it the atma-buddhi or the anupadaka monad?) primarily because they rely on the assertions of individuals rather than based on experience. Part of the problem is the use of the same terms for different things (monad, astral body, logos, etc.). It would have been helpful if a different term had been used when a later writer introduced a new idea or concept. Although this is water under the bridge, it is still possible to review the confusing nomenclature and create qualifying adjectives to distinguish one term from another (especially if theosophists cannot agree on the actual teachings), and present a less confusing body of teachings to the public.
4. An area of bitter dissension is about historical personalities, primarily C. W. Leadbeater and W. Q. Judge:
As much as possible, we must look forward and not backward. Many issues about the past probably can no longer be resolved at this time when the protagonists and witnesses are long dead. The effort of some ULT members to reopen the Judge case as if a new trial ought to be undertaken is most probably doomed to fail, and the one that will perhaps be harmed most by such an attempt to reopen will be the memory of Judge himself. At present, the whole theosophical world has maintained respect for Judge and to re-ventilate the whole controversy will just harm him more than it will help. Even a staunch pro-Judge writer such as Ernest Pelletier has concluded that the charges “could not be proved or disproved” (The Judge Case, p. xiv).
We must focus on the validity of the Theosophical teachings of these historical people rather than the moral issues about them. It is not that we are to become blind to such moral issues – for the latter have importance – but a hundred years of seemingly unending disputations should be enough to convince us that we are unable to arrive at a consensus on these issues. Much talent, time and resources have been wasted on the fruitless recycling of such issues that just divide us more. The farther we are from the eras of these historical personalities, the less are we in a position to judge personal moral matters. So let us move forward. Theosophy is immensely larger than any personality, including those of Blavatsky and the Mahatmas. We must not be bogged down by the issues about the personalities who tried to be vehicles of the reintroduction of the ageless wisdom. The imperfections of its advocates are secondary. Our primary agenda is about the Wisdom and its potential for human and social transformation. Let these be the foundations of Theosophical unity.
Unity in Theosophical work and mission is possible and desirable. Together, we will become far more effective in the effort to popularize theosophy and make it a practical living philosophy for everyone.