Radha Burnier – India
[Recognizing regeneration as the kernel of all Theosophical work, the International Theosophical Centre at Naarden, the Netherlands, jointly with the Federation of Theosophical Societies in Europe, organized two seminars in July 1990, with a number of office bearers, workers and members of the Society from different countries as participants. Proceedings of the seminar were published as a book under the title Human Regeneration: Lectures and Discussion (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij der Theosofische Vereniging in Nederland, 1990). This chapter (discussions) is here slightly revised.]
In the way in which we approach theosophy now, it seems there is no more need for the study of classic theosophical works such as The Secret Doctrine, or the Letters of the Masters or for the use of Sanskrit words. Is this correct?
CB: We definitely need the early literature of the T.S. like The Secret Doctrine and The Mahatma Letters. The question is how t approach these books. There is one point to which attention was drawn by Blava6ky as recorded in the Bowen notes. She said that you do not come to The Secret Doctrine to get a complete picture of the universe. Then you will only become confused. The Secret Doctrine can only lead towards the truth. it does not provide a picture of the universe through the mind or intellect; it awakens something that is deep within us, a seed that grows and which we begin to feel from within when we look at life, our own life, life around us, the universe. That quality in the literature is very precious and we must not lose it.
GW: Each kind of literature has its place in one's development. And everyone cannot start with The Secret Doctrine. At first a person reads a lot, or he may start reading about spiritualism, and just get used to the idea that there is something more than the physical earth. Afterwards, the books of Leadbeater are very attractive because he describes the laws of nature in an easy way. When you have accepted that these laws work, you fry to investigate them. Then you may end up with Taimni who points out the path which leads to self-realization. In his Talks on At the Feet of the Master Leadbeater explains the same thing as Taimni does in Self-Culture. Then we are at the point of fundamental change. Although we may read a lot of literature, to have this fundamental change take place inside us is really difficult. This fundamental change is of a different quality at each level of development and for each person. A change like getting rid of your cigarettes is fundamental for a certain period, but five years later you may have other priorities. So it is a difficult way, and each time you are in a certain phase, you take a different kind of literature to motivate your own development.
PO: In letter 59 of The Mahatma Letters there is a passage, relevant to our discussion. “You share with all beginners the tendency to draw too absolutely strong inferences from partly caught hints, and to dogmatize thereupon as though the last word had been spoken. You will correct this in due time. You may misunderstand us, are more than likely to do so, for our language must always be more or less that of parable and suggestion, when treading upon forbidden ground; we have our own peculiar modes of expression and what lies behind the fence of words is even more important than what you read. But still: TRY.”
RB: What is the use of books if they do not lead to an awakening, or to wisdom? And if you are awake and wise, what need have you of books? This is true of any book, whether The Secret Doctrine or The Mahatma Letters or any other books. I think the denomination ‘classic’ may be dropped. Why put a label on any book, and say: this is where we will get wisdom. It depends, as Curt said, on our approach to the literature. What is our purpose? Is it to seek, or some kind of ideology? If we only want a theosophical or spiritual ideology, then we can say: These are the sources from which you derive the ideology. Every communist derives his ideology from Marx. But theosophists should have no ideology. Our motto is: “There is no religion higher than Truth.” So if we study The Mahatma Letters or The Secret Doctrine it should be with an open mind, tying to see where the truth lies, which, as mentioned just now, may be behind the lines, not in the lines. The Secret Doctrine only leads towards the truth, for words are not truth. The word “love” is not the experience of love. That is why in one of the Mahatma letters, it is said: “Most, if not all, of our secrets are incommunicable. Illumination must come from within.” Otherwise, all that They would have to do is to print what they know, like a grammar book, and distribute it to the world. Then everyone would be wise! Light on the Path and similar books of wisdom have been given to the world, but we have not become wise because we do not know how to distill the truth from them, how to penetrate within the words, we have not made ourselves sensitive to truth.
We cannot say we do not need the classic books any more. As far as our discrimination allows, we should fry to see what books are worthwhile. There is a limited time at our disposal every day and during this life. There is no time to waste. We should see what is worthwhile and try to reach nearer to real experience.
Our approach is not one of saying: We do not need any books, throw them away, but: with what view are we taking up books? Do we want to become dependent on what a book says in order to come to conclusions about truth? Are we going to repeat parrot-like what is said ? Or is the aim to come to a wonderful, direct, new awareness of truth?
Let us not worry whether the words are Sanskrit, Latin, or some other language. The important thing is: What is the content of the word, of what is said? Sanskrit is used only because it has a rich philosophical and religious vocabulary. Take for example a word like tattva, which means “truth”. The word “truth” does not immediately convey what tattva does, for tattva means “what a thing actually is”, that-ness. The rose, the rose plant, that free, you, me, what are we actually? Not only what our senses tell us, not what our prejudiced minds say we are. What we actually are, not only at the outer physical level, but inwardly, wholly, is the truth. What is the depth in you, the totality of you? That is tattva. The word immediately conveys that-ness, such-ness, is-ness. There are many words like this in Sanskrit, and so it has been used. But it may be a burden to people who do not know it. Then let them do away with all the Sanskrit words. We are not concerned with words or books but with truth.
We do need the “classic” books. But no book should become a substitute for the experience of truth. There is no 'word of God', for it must be heard in the depth of one's heart, not read in print.
We must not become dependent on other people’s words, but books can be useful. A book is like a map. It gives you some kind of understanding. How accurate the map is, is a matter of enquiry. HPB wrote in a letter that there are mistakes in the Mahatma letters because they were transmitted through others, impressed on their minds. Where do the mistakes lie? We must not take things literally and argue over points which we cannot know for the moment. If we are really interested in the truth we must go to essentials and one day, when we become omniscient, many other things will be known.
To be continued