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The Campbell Library Newsletter

The Campbell Theosophical Research Library

An Educational Resource of The Theosophical Society in Australia

No 16 — March 2007


Theosophy and Orthodoxy

Henry S. Olcott, President-Founder of the Theosophical Society, whose death centenary was commemorated on 17 February 2007, may have sounded the essential keynote of the work before the fledgling TS when he said in his Inaugural Address at the Mott Memorial Hall in New York, 17 November 1875:

We are of our age, and yet some strides ahead of it, albeit some journals and pamphleteers more glib than truthful, have already charged us with being reactionists who turn from modern light (!) to medieval and ancient darkness! We seek, inquire, reject nothing without cause, accept nothing without proof: we are students, not teachers.

His colleague and co-worker, Helena P. Blavatsky, may have gone a step further in declaring one of the central aspects of the Society’s work:

In its capacity of an abstract body, the Society does not believe in anything, does not accept anything, and does not teach anything. (“The New Cycle”, H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. XI)

The above statements, by two principal co-founders of the TS, clearly delineate the fact that though deriving its name from the Greek word theosophia (“divine wisdom”), the Theosophical Society does not make of Theosophy an orthodoxy nor an ideology. In other words, the position of ‘official’ theosophical teacher has been declared vacant from the very inception of the Society! It encourages its members to inquire, to investigate and to study for themselves the vast breadth and depth of the Wisdom Tradition and to come to their own realisation of its eternal truths.

Alas, the energetic vision of the founders did not prevent some members over the decades from erecting pedestals to ‘authorities’ in the theosophical philosophy, going so far as to say who was ‘right’ and who was ‘wrong’. But the Theosophical Society, as an organic body, has always refused to buy into the ‘authority’ game and has remained faithful to its three Objects which point to an unsectarian and undogmatic direction for its life and work.

At the very core of the great spiritual traditions of the world there is a compelling call: one must see with one’s own eyes. When religion, philosophy or even science become an ideology, that is, a set, irreversible, exclusivist worldview, the beauty and transformative power of direct seeing is absent and the forces of separation and suspicion grow stronger, thus making the world a darker place. When we see for ourselves any intrinsic truth, like suffering, it leads to a new understanding as well as to compassionate action, for it represents the awakening of a deeply integrated perception within ourselves called buddhi in the theosophical tradition. In such a perception, seeing and acting are one.

As long as the Theosophical Society remains true to the spirit that animated its foundation it will remain relevant in a turbulent world. The words of Madame Blavatsky, in her message to the American Convention of 1888, deserve reflection and consideration:

Orthodoxy in Theosophy is a thing neither possible nor desirable. It is diversity of opinion, within certain limits, that keeps the Theosophical Society a living and a healthy body, its many other ugly features notwithstanding. Were it not, also, for the existence of a large amount of uncertainty in the minds of students of Theosophy, such healthy divergencies would be impossible, and the Society would degenerate into a sect, in which a narrow and stereotyped creed would take the place of the living and breathing spirit of Truth and an ever growing Knowledge.

Pedro Oliveira

New additions to the Library:

Reminiscences of Colonel H. S. Olcott by Various Writers; second edition, Chennai : The Theosophical Publishing House, 2006, 177 p.

This second edition of a book published originally in 1931, carries some additional material and is brought out to commemorate the centenary of Col. H. S. Olcott’s passing. It is divided in three parts: 1. Reminiscences by Contemporaries; 2. Appreciation by Others; 3. Thoughts of Colonel H. S. Olcott. A very timely publication in honour of a great man.

The Buddhist Catechism by H. S. Olcott; third edition, Chennai : The Theosophical Publishing House, 2006, 116 p.

Originally published in 1881, this little book has been published in more than twenty languages, and was widely used in the Buddhist educational movement which Col. Olcott established in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Contents include the life of the Buddha, the Dharma or Doctrine, the Sangha, the Rise and Spread of Buddhism, Buddhism and Science, and the Fourteen Propositions accepted by the Northern and Southern Buddhists as a Platform of Unity.

Theosophy in the Qabbalah by Grace F. Knoche, Pasadena : Theosophical University Press, 2006, 179 p.

In this clear presentation, Grace F. Knoche concentrates on principal Qabbalistic themes: the emanation of the universe, the Sefirothal Tree of Life and its cosmic and human symbology, the Four Worlds of creation, the Four Adams or Heavenly Archetypes, and the composite structure of our being and its bearing on sleep, death, and initiation. (From the blurb.)

D. M. Bennett – The Truth Seeker by Roderick Bradford. Amherst, New York : Prometheus Books, 2006, 412 p.

This is the first complete biography of freethought publisher and social activist D. M. Bennett. Inspired by Thomas Paine, Bennett founded the Truth Seeker in 1873, devoted to science, morals and freethought. His work was praised by the Founders of the Theosophical with whom he was in contact. A review of this book is due to appear in Theosophy in Australia magazine later in the year.

The Snake and the Rope – Problems in Western Science Resolved by Occult Science by Edi D. Bilimoria; Chennai: The Theosophical Publishing House, 2006, 307 p.

Science claims to be objective and to deal only with proven facts, but innumerable conflicting theories that science propounds remain unresolved. In this original and well-illustrated book, the author, an engineer and musician, argues with ample supporting evidence that since time immemorial the universal secret wisdom of the Adepts, known as Occult Science, has had answers to all unresolved problems. (From the blurb.)

The Case for Reincarnation by Leslie D. Weatherhead (a lecture given to the City Temple Literary Society),
third impression, published by M. C. Peto, Surrey, UK, 1961, 20 p.

An objective examination of the doctrine of reincarnation by an influential Christian preacher of his time.

Sakti and Sakta – Essays and Addresses by Sir John Woodroffe, Madras : Ganesh & Co., 2006 reprint, 467 p.

Perhaps one of the most complete presentations of the profound philosophy and spiritual practice inherent in the Tantric tradition. Certainly a classic in its field

This Newsletter is published quarterly.
Editor: Pedro Oliveira, Education Coordinator of the Theosophical Society in Australia.
The Theosophical Society in Australia is not responsible for opinions expressed herein.


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