Theosophy

Secret Teachings

 Ted G. Davy – Canada

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Lavender, Ted’s favorite ... the flower stands for purity, serenity and caution …

"Since you asked that I send you a secret book which was revealed to me and Peter by the Lord, I could not turn you away or gainsay you. . . take care not to rehearse this text to many – this that the Savior did not wish to tell to all of us, his twelves disciples. . . ‘ (1)

Thus, James the Just, the brother of Jesus. Those early Christians who had importuned him to include them in the distribution of secret teachings were characteristic of a host of aspirants before and after them, in many cultures and traditions.

A delusion common to many seekers after truth when they start on their quest is the conviction, or at least a strong hope, that somewhere there exists a book which will reveal all they want to know. (No doubt many copies of The Secret Doctrine have been bought on the strength of its title!) Some expect to be able to advance swiftly along the path if only they can get their hands on writings which contain ‘exclusive’ teachings of spiritual (so-called) matters, and especially the ones which promise ‘powers’. Determined to find short cuts, though looking for them takes longer than the regular uphill climb, even the very intelligent are not immune. The fact that this very attitude retards progress is blithely ignored. But sooner or later must surely come the realization that it is wishful thinking, a waste of precious time and energy.

 The law of supply and demand operates. These days, there exists what is practically an industry to satisfy this want, because the same wishful thinkers also delude themselves that spiritual knowledge can be purchased. “Dollarsophia” – Blavatsky’s expressive term – is always with us. The delusion persists from generation to generation.

Others expect it to be handed to them on a platter. James’ followers were evidently in this category. So were two early members of the Theosophical Society, A.P. Sinnett and A.O. Hume. How was it possible that these two intelligent men could be so naive as to believe that the Truth which all have to unveil by their own efforts, would be revealed to them for the asking? Judging from the replies they received from the Mahatmas who corresponded with them, this is precisely what they expected. Yet—

“On close observation, you will find it was never the intention of the Occultists really to conceal what they had been writing from earnest determined students, but rather to lock up their information for safety-sake, in a secure safe-box, the key to which isintuition. (2)

“It is the common mistake of people that we willingly wrap ourselves and our powers in mystery – that we wish to keep our knowledge to ourselves, and of our own will refuse. . . to communicate it. The truth is that till the neophyte attains to the condition necessary for that degree of Illumination to which, and for which, he is entitled and fitted, most if not all of the Secrets are incommunicable. (3)

The Mahatma’s statement quoted above implies that esoteric teachings cannot be conveyed in any form to anyone not ready to receive them. A corollary might be that it is not possible for the profane to recognize an esoteric teaching, even when it stares them in the face.

Ultimately, there are no really secret writings, even those written cryptically. Any code can be broken. Once published, all writings are potentially exoteric, regardless of the adjective used to describe them. In theory, that is. An article on any subject written in an unknown foreign language is esoteric in one sense, and remains so until we either learn the language or obtain a translation.

The paradox is evident whatever and whosoever’s “esoteric” teachings are studied. Take H.P.B. 's Instructions, and Inner Group Teachings for example. Certainly there are passages therein that appear to be highly relevant keys to some of the teachings she had already shared in her published works. But how many are intuitive enough to recognize the keys; or are sufficiently knowledgeable of the teachings to be able to take advantage of them? For the most part, however, the material in these books is obviously exoteric. On the other side of the coin, some of the voluminous published writings of Blavatsky and Judge may well include certain restricted teachings. But in such instances, security would never be at risk: those who don’t know what they are looking for won’t find it without help.

So much for philosophizing. The fact remains that books labelled esoteric are on the market, and some carry the imprint of Theosophical publishers. This is not surprising. The Theosophical Movement has embraced a number of organizations that call themselves esoteric. From these have come teachings some verbal, some written. Originally published for the sworn-to secrecy faithful only, some of the writings have eventually been made available to the general public.

Interestingly, some such writings have remained classified for only a little while. For instance, within seven years of her death, many of H.P Blavatsky’s Instructions for E.S.T. members were added to the material gathered into the third volume of The Secret Doctrine. (Today these are more conveniently available in forms faithful to the originals in H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings Vol. XII, and The Inner Group Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky.)

Only a year or so ago, it would have been reasonable to ask, will there be others? A strong argument can be made for openness, and the above-mentioned precedents are positive factors. But a year or so ago, the answer would have been “probably not.” Happily, events have shown that response to have been not only pessimistic but very wrong.

First, it was learned that the writings of William Q. Judge to his E.S. will be included in the forthcoming third volume of his Collected Writings, Echoes of the Orient.

Even while waiting for that publication, one of the major Theosophical publishing events in recent times has taken place: the release of G. de Purucker’s Esoteric Teachings in twelve volumes. (4)

Admittedly, much of this material has been published previously in other books. However, to have it all available in such a series is obviously desirable. Those who think highly of de Purucker’s several works will need no persuading to study his Esoteric Teachings.

This new publication again raises the question of just what is esoteric? Certainly, as far as technical Theosophy is concerned, there is little or nothing in these twelve volumes that could not, would not also have been included in other writings by the same author. However, as wisely remarked in a fine introductory article by the compiler, W. Emmett Small, “Every truth has depths beyond what is openly stated, “ (5) – which is a useful thought to keep always in mind when approaching this sort of study.

Regarding technical Theosophy, G. de Purucker himself took it for granted “that every newly-entered student of the E.S. is more or less acquainted with our standard Theosophical literature, and it is necessary to point out that such acquaintance with Theosophy is almost a sine qua non for a correct understanding of what the Esotericist will be given to study.” (6) Beyond this, “. . .it is impossible to gain a correct philosophical or scientific understanding of the teachings of Esoteric Theosophy without gaining at the same time... an understanding of the ethical and the mystical.” (7) So in addition to the technical aspects, some instructions touch on the rules of conduct in this particular E.S. They are what might be expected, and these days would hardly be considered private, let alone esoteric.

For the most part, these books can only be assessed on the same basis as any other of de Purucker’s writings. Personally, I have always found his methods and explanatory style helpful. And to me, he is reliable – I trust him. Rarely if ever does he deviate from the Blavatsky teachings, and then mostly the elaboration. As with any study, we have to decide for ourselves if the elaborations are compatible with the standards we have chosen. The same holds true for de Purucker’s Esoteric Teachings.

For an important work as this, though, there should be another way to assess its value that does not stem directly from the teaching itself. Let us remember for whom it was written: what it meant to the original pupils is unquestionably more important than the nature of the impact it has on the reader fifty or sixty years later. Was there more to the teachings, the leadership, than is immediately apparent from the writings?

One criterion that can be applied is summed up in the proverb, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating." In the case of Gottfried de Purucker, we can only look at those whom he taught. Now the following has to be very personal, which is regrettable, but unavoidable. Some of his pupils are still alive; others have been with us until recently. Those I have known have demonstrated exceptional qualities: as students of Theosophy they have been outstanding; by their examples they have demonstrated how the Theosophic life should he lived; and in their various ways they have served the Cause admirably.

As far as I am concerned, that’s the proof, and is itself sufficient incentive to study the Esoteric Teachings of G. de Purucker.

“I would therefore urge upon you all, my brothers on the Path... to enter into the adytum of these studies with a self-forgetful devotion to the common good of all that lives,” wrote de Purucker. (8) “I pray that the beginning may come from you,” James exhorted his followers. (9) So be it.

Notes and References

  1. The Apocryphon of James. Translated by Francis E. Williams. In The Nag Hammadi Library, ed. James M. Robinson, p. 30.
  2. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, p. 279 (p. 275 3rded.)
  3. ibid. p. 283. (p. 278 3rd ed.)
  4. G. de Purucker, Esoteric Teachings. In twelve volumes. Point Loma Publications, Inc. 1987.
  5. W. Emmett Small, ibid.Compiler’s Preface, p. i in each volume.
  6. G. de Purucker, ibid. Vol. I, “The Esoteric Path: Its Nature and Its Tests,” p. 1.
  7. ibid. p. 1.
  8. ibid. p. 3-
  9. Apocryphon of John, op. cit. p. 36.

[From: The Eclectic Theosophist, April-May 1988]

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