John Vorstermans - New Zealand
[Note from the editor: this series of articles is a "follow up" of an editorial that appeared on Theosophy Forward in July 2021, entitled INTERNATIONAL THEOSOPHY CONFERENCES ... ALAS .... . TO READ ALAS CLICK HERE ]
We know that something has life in it when there is activity, growth, open dialogue and a willingness to listen and share perspectives and insights.
It has been encouraging to witness International Theosophical Conferences (from now on ITC) over the last decade. Finally, the various arms of the modern Theosophical Societies came together to explore Theosophy. We all grew out of the Theosophical Society formed in 1875 and the published works of Helena P. Blavatsky, which are a part of our core, in one form or another.
During the one hundred years since we separated, each organisation has taken its unique paths exploring Theosophy. A bit like separate roots growing from a tree, they are still part of the tree seeking nourishment through different means. Nevertheless, because of our collective work, the Theosophical Society has grown and influenced many people to prove that there is such a thing as Theosophy, encouraging them to discover it by their means. Is this not one of our main goals?
I found it particularly interesting to meet the TS Point-Loma-Blavatskyhouse- and ULT students during the Adyar Conventions recently, getting to know them, exploring Theosophy with them, which I appreciated. I especially enjoyed making some new friends. They were all deep students of Theosophy and, at the core working to understand both Theosophy and themselves on a deeper level. We did not look at differences in perspective when we met, but instead we spoke about what inspired us. One of the particular positive aspects that came out of ITC’s annual gatherings was the recognition that Adyar in India is the home of all Theosophists. Therefore it has been a pleasure to see fellow seekers from other Theosophical organizations welcomed to their home by participating in the Adyar Convention.
One of the differences we observe in our respective streams, is how we have developed, explored, and understood Theosophy and what material and authors we might study. When working with a group of people, the group will naturally develop a framework for doing things, such as the method they might use to study Theosophy and apply it to their lives. However, the challenge of getting caught up in one methodology can limit our search. A framework is helpful, we cannot build anything without it, however, the structure collapses if you pull the framework away. For example, our belief systems are a framework upon which we base our view of reality or truth. Yet, absolute truth only becomes apparent when we step away from limited belief perceptions. I think that in order to perceive Theosophy, we need to let go of them.
The ITC initiative came together with good intentions, not to recreate one movement but to leave differences behind and share what we have in common. It worked well for many of the individuals who came together at the conferences and found new friends. However, it struggled at the political level, mainly because there was resistance to consider all perspectives because of preconceived personal viewpoints. Taking this perspective away is frightening for some of us, yet to truly explore Theosophy with an open mind, we would need to detach from personal views. As Helena Blavatsky says in the Golden Stairs,
... a clean life, an open mind, a pure heart, an eager intellect, an unveiled spiritual perception, a brotherliness for one’s co-disciple….
…are the very things we need to awaken within ourselves to be able to perceive Theosophy. Anything that closes our minds and hearts prevents this process from taking place. We need a sharp intellect to decern what is beyond the words and develop an unveiled spiritual perception, one without a framework of beliefs if there is to be any hope for discovering absolute truth.
Robert Bowen, a student of H. P. Blavatsky’s inner-group in London, wrote down his impression from sessions with H. P. Blavatsky on studying Theosophy and particularly The Secret Doctrine. He carefully wrote down what she said and then read them back to her later to confirm he had recorded her correctly. These notes were published around 35 years later by Bowen’s son, Captain P.G. Bowen, in a booklet entitled Madame Blavatsky on How to Study Theosophy. The notes were primarily on how to study The Secret Doctrine. Nevertheless, H.P. Blavatsky outlined some pertinent clues regarding how to study Theosophy which perhaps gives some context to this article.
“… The Secret Doctrine (SD) is only quite a small fragment of the Esoteric Doctrine known to the higher members of the Occult Brotherhood. It contains, she says, just as much as can be received by the World during this coming century… ‘The World’ means MAN living in the Personal Nature. The ‘World’ will find in the two volumes of the SD. all its utmost comprehension can grasp, but no more. But this was not to say that Disciple who is not living in ‘The World’ cannot find any more in the book than the ‘World” finds. Every form, no matter how crude, contains the image of the ‘creator’ concealed within it. So likewise does the author’s work, no matter how obscure, contain the concealed image of the author’s knowledge.”
Beyond the image, the words, there is a knowledge in The Secret Doctrine, and other works, which for those not living in ‘The World’ reveals a depth of understanding that no words can convey, which becomes apparent to those who have an unveiled spiritual insight. As a group of Theosophical Societies, we can be a dynamic force for Theosophy if we can move beyond our own personal views. As individuals in these movements, we are already doing this by meeting and exploring Theosophy together, sharing and understanding, which is a sign that we all have a common interest. From another perspective, the truth is not in the words on the pages in such work as The Secret Doctrine; rather, it is a means of connecting with the author and being open at the more profound understanding from the deeper wisdom and philosophy of the author. We have to have an awareness that is not limited to the personal, but a more profound insightful nature.
One of the strengths, and sometimes a challenge in the TS Adyar is that we accept the right of individual freedom of thought for every person, and that the teachings are not binding to any member of the Society. This “Freedom of Thought” helps to ensure that we do not dogmatise the views of the Theosophy Society and leaves open the journey each individual takes to develop an unveiled spiritual awareness that will one day be revealed to the genuine and true enquirer. When the idea behind “Freedom of Thought” works as intended, it allows for authentic dialogue where we listen to each other and make attempts to understand without any judgment.
The walls that once separated the various Theosophical organisations are much lower now because of what ITC initially was able to achieve. While there remains with some a political divide, mostly caused by imposed convictions, that prevents more open and unconditional dialogues, this has not prevented members of the various movements from coming together in their study and exploration to understand Theosophy in different parts of the world. There has always been a collaboration among the members when you look back at history and this will continue into the future.
I live in New Zealand, so it is not always easy for me to attend gatherings in Europe and the USA. However, here in New Zealand, we have developed a resource website we named Theosophy World, as part of an initiative from the Adyar Society, which makes Theosophical related information, articles, audio recordings, books, study material, videos etc. available from all the Theosophical organisations. At this level, we respect the contributions of all those renowned authors and publications which may prove helpful in the search for absolute truth.
Click on thr logo of Theosophy World to go there!