Theosophy has to change, and it is the perfect tool for changing the world. Theosophy is the bridge between Science and Theology, as HPB pointed out at the conclusion of The Secret Doctrine. At the time of her death in 1891, she was preparing the following article, which was published in the April 1893 issue of Lucifer:
ON AUTHORITIES IN GENERAL AND THE AUTHORITY OF MATERIALISTS, ESPECIALLY
[Lucifer, Vol. XII, No. 68, April, 1893, pp. 97-101]
In assuming the task of contradicting “authorities” and of occasionally setting at nought the well established opinions and hypotheses of men of Science, it becomes necessary in the face of repeated accusations to define our attitude clearly at the very outset. Though, where the truth of our doctrines is concerned, no criticism and no amount of ridicule can intimidate us, we would nevertheless be sorry to give one more handle to our enemies, as a pretext for an extra slaughter of the innocent; nor would we willingly lead our friends into an unjust suspicion of that to which we are not in the least prepared to plead guilty.
One of such suspicions would naturally be the idea that we must be terribly self-opinionated and conceited. This would be false from A to Z. It does not at all stand to reason that because we contradict eminent professors of Science on certain points, we therefore claim to know more than they do of Science; nor, that we even have the benighted vanity of placing ourselves on the same level as these scholars. Those who would accuse us of this would simply be talking nonsense, for even to harbour such a thought would be the madness of conceit—and we have never been guilty of this vice. Hence, we declare loudly to all our readers that most of those “authorities” we find fault with, stand in our own opinion immeasurably higher in scientific knowledge and general information than we do. But, this conceded, the reader is reminded that great scholarship in no way precludes great bias and prejudice; nor is it a safeguard against personal vanity and pride. A Physicist may be an
undeniable expert in acoustics, wave-vibrations, etc., and be no Musician at all, having no ear for music. None of the modern bootmakers can write as Count Leo Tolstoi does; but any tyro in decent shoemaking can take the great novelist to task for spoiling good materials in trying to make boots. Moreover, it is only in the legitimate defence of our time-honoured Theosophical doctrines, opposed by many on the authority of materialistic Scientists, entirely ignorant of psychic possibilities, in the vindication of ancient Wisdom and its Adepts, that we throw down the gauntlet to Modern Science. If in their inconceivable conceit and blind materialism they will go on dogmatizing upon that about which they know nothing—nor do they want to know—then those who do know something have a right to protest and to say so publicly and in print.
Many must have heard of the suggestive answer made by a lover of Plato to a critic of Thomas Taylor, the translator of the works of this great Sage. Taylor was charged with being but a poor Greek scholar, and not a very good English writer. “True,” was the pert reply; “Tom Taylor may have known far less Greek than his critics; but he knew Plato far better than any of them does.”* And this we take to be our own position.
We claim no scholarship in either dead or living tongues, and we take no stock in Philology as a modern Science. But we do claim to understand the living spirit of Plato’s Philosophy, and the symbolical meaning of the writings of this great Initiate, better than do his modern translators, and for this very simple reason. The Hierophants and Initiates of the Mysteries in the Secret Schools in which all the Sciences inaccessible and useless to the masses of the profane were taught, had one universal, Esoteric tongue—the language of symbolism and allegory. This language has suffered neither modification nor amplification from those remote times down to this day. It still exists and is still
* [Prof. A. Wilder. Also quoted in Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, p. 109 from Intro. to Taylor’s Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries p. 27, 4th. ed.; p. xix, 3rd ed. 1875 (Rpr. by Wizards Bookshelf, 1980.) ]
taught. There are those who have preserved the knowledge of it, and also of the arcane meaning of the Mysteries; and it is from these Masters that the writer of the present protest had the good fortune of learning, howbeit imperfectly, the said language. Hence her claim to a more correct comprehension of the arcane portion of the ancient texts written by avowed Initiates—such as were Plato and Iamblichus, Pythagoras, and even Plutarch—than can be claimed by, or expected from, those who, knowing nothing whatever of that “language” and even denying its existence altogether, yet set forth authoritative and conclusive views on everything Plato and Pythagoras knew or did not know, believed in or disbelieved. It is not enough to lay down the audacious proposition, “that an ancient Philosopher is to be interpreted from himself [i.e., from the dead-letter texts] and by the contemporary history of thought”;* he who lays it down has first of all to prove to the satisfaction, not of his admirers and himself alone, but of all, that modern thought does not woolgather in the question of Philosophy as it does on the lines of materialistic Science. Modern thought denies Divine Spirit in Nature, and the Divine element in mankind, the Soul’s immortality and every noble conception inherent in man. We all know that in their endeavors to kill that which they have agreed to call “superstition” and the “relics of ignorance” (read “religious feelings and metaphysical concepts of the Universe and Man”), Materialists like Prof. Huxley or Mr. Grant Allen are ready to go to any length in order to ensure the triumph of their soul-killing Science. But when we find Greek and Sanskrit scholars and doctors of theology, playing into the hands of modern materialistic thought, pooh-poohing everything they do not know, or that of which the public—or rather Society, which ever follows in its impulses the craze of fashion, of popularity or unpopularity—disapproves, then we have the right to assume one of two things: the scholars who act on these lines are either moved by personal conceit, or by the fear of public
* [M. A. Jowett, The Dialogues of Plato; Introduction to the Timaeus Vol. III, p. 524 (2nd ed.) 1875]
opinion; they dare not challenge it at the risk of unpopularity. In both cases they forfeit their right to esteem as authorities. For, if they are blind to facts and sincere in their blindness, then their learning, however great, will do more harm than good, and if, while fully alive to those universal truths which Antiquity knew better than we do—though it did express them in more ambiguous and less scientific language—our Philosophers will still keep them under the bushel for fear of painfully dazzling the majority’s eyes, then the example they set is most pernicious. They suppress the truth and disfigure metaphysical conceptions, as their colleagues in physical Science distort facts in material Nature into mere props to support their respective views, on the lines of popular hypotheses and Darwinian thought. And if so, what right have they to demand a respectful hearing from those to whom TRUTH is the highest, as the noblest, of all religions?
The negation of any fact or claim believed in by the teeming millions of Christians and non-Christians, of a fact, moreover, impossible to disprove, is a serious thing for a man of recognized scientific authority, in the face of its inevitable results. Denials and rejections of certain things, hitherto held sacred, coming from such sources, are for a public taught to respect scientific data and bulls, as good as unqualified assertions. Unless uttered in the broadest spirit of Agnosticism and offered merely as a personal opinion, such a spirit of wholesale negation—especially when confronted with the universal belief of the whole of Antiquity, and of the incalculable hosts of the surviving Eastern nations in the things denied—becomes pregnant with dangers to mankind. Thus the rejection of a Divine Principle in the Universe, of Soul and Spirit in man and of his Immortality, by one set of Scientists; and the repudiation of any Esoteric Philosophy existing in Antiquity, hence, of the presence of any hidden meaning based on that system of revealed learning in the sacred writings of the East (the Bible included), or in the works of those Philosophers who were confessedly Initiates, by another set of “authorities”—are simply fatal to humanity. Between missionary enterprise—encouraged far more on political than religious
grounds*—and scientific Materialism, both teaching from two diametrically opposite poles that which neither can prove or disprove, and mostly that which they themselves take on blind faith or blind hypothesis, the millions of the growing generations must find themselves at sea. They will not know, any more than their parents know now, what to believe in, whither to turn for truth. Weightier proofs are thus required now by many than the mere personal assumptions and negations of religious fanatics and irreligious Materialists, that such or another thing exists or has no existence.
We, Theosophists, who are not so easily caught on the hook baited with either salvation or annihilation, we claim our right to demand the weightiest, and to us undeniable proofs that truth is in the keeping of Science and Theology. And as we find no answer forthcoming, we claim the right to argue upon every undecided question, by analyzing the assumptions of our opponents. We, who believe in Occultism and the archaic Esoteric Philosophy, do not, as already said, ask our members to believe as we do, nor charge them with ignorance if they do not. We simply leave them to make their choice. Those who decide to study the old Science are given proofs of its existence; and corroborative evidence accumulates and grows in proportion to the personal progress of the student. Why should not the negators of ancient Science—to wit, modern Scholars—do the same in the matter of their denials and assertions; i.e., why don’t they refuse to say either yea or nay in regard to that which they really do not know, instead of denying or affirming it a priori as they all do? Why do not our Scientists proclaim
* We maintain that the fabulous sums spent on, and by, Christian missions, whose propaganda brings forth such wretched moral results and gets so few renegades, are spent with a political object in view. The aim of the missions, which, as in India, are only said to be “tolerated” (sic) seems to be to pervert people from their ancestral religions, rather than to convert them to Christianity, and this is done in order to destroy in them every spark of national feeling. When the spirit of patriotism is dead in a nation, it very easily becomes a mere puppet in the hands of the rulers.
The first portion of the article can be read here
Bearing in mind the scientific changes in the world going on in her time (this was several years before Einstein's Theory of Relativity was published, we can take some inspiration for today's world as well. The important points are:
1) Just because someone is an expert in their field does not mean they are protected from bias and prejudice, personal vanity and pride
2) We claim the right to argue upon every undecided question, by analyzing the assumptions of our opponents, and
3) Between missionary enterprise-encouraged far more on political than religiousgrounds-and scientific Materialism, both teaching from two diametrically opposite poles that which neither can prove or disprove, and mostly that which they themselves take on blind faith or blind hypothesis, the millions of the growing generations must find themselves at sea. The will not know, any more than their parents know now, what to believe in, whither to turn for truth.
What are your thoughts and what do we do to ask the questions that bridge this gap?