THEOSOPHY, Vol. 26, No. 6, April, 1938
ALL men profess to pay homage to Truth as above all. To fail of such acknowledgment would be equivalent to a confession of basic dishonesty, so, perforce, men present, uphold and defend their respective religious creeds and philosophies as being the truth and alone the truth. The motto of the Theosophical Movement, "There is no religion higher than Truth," the churches, East and West, paraphrase to read: "There can be no truth higher than our beliefs." This latter attitude eliminates free inquiry at the very outset, while Theosophy invites and encourages the most searching inquiry at all times.
But it may be asked: "Conceding that Theosophy's approach to the problem clears the atmosphere for unbiased inquiry, why should I give greater credence to the declaration that Theosophy is Truth than to the same assertions made by the various sects?" This is a fair question. The answer is that, whereas the various religions demand blind belief in their dogmas, Theosophy does not and never will appeal for the blind acceptance of its doctrines and tenets. Its appeal is based on the inherent reasonableness of its teachings and their power to offer a rational explanation of all the problems and mysteries of existence. Theosophy points out that the heart and spirit of all its tenets are contained in a few fundamental principles, the truth of which is axiomatic. This recognition depends upon the direct perception of the Spirit in man, once he has rid himself of the biases and personal desires which veil the eye of the Soul.
The physical eyes and the other senses apprehend only the external aspect of things; the eye of soul can look directly upon ideas and penetrate into the very kernel of matter. This distinction between the consciousness in the body or the lower brain-mind, and the Consciousness of the Soul, indicates two methods for the acquisition of knowledge. These methods are verily a pair of opposites, and the same gulf exists between them as exists between that primary pair of opposites, Spirit and Matter. One method, which we may designate as the method of matter, is based on the five physical senses and their intelligent synthesis, the terrestrial mind. By its very nature this mode of consciousness can perceive only the surface aspect of things. The limitations inherent in this method, which is relied upon by the scientific world, act as a complete bar to the discovery of the absolute truth or the ultimate reality behind and within appearances. External investigation of the world around us can, at best, provide only relative and partial truth, which ought to be called "information" rather than knowledge.
The method which leads to absolute Truth is the one used and taught by the Great Teachers of Theosophy in all ages. It may be stated in three words: "Man, Know Thyself." It is the method of Spirit, proceeding on the axiom that the whole manifested Kosmos, visible and invisible, is embodied consciousness, which can be known only through the state of consciousness within man himself. The process of knowing is one of ever greater self-realization, or a series of progressive awakenings, culminating in complete self-realization. As stated in The Secret Doctrine:
Whatever reality things possess must be looked for in them before
or after they have passed like a flash through the material world;
but we cannot cognize any such existence directly, so long as we
have sense-instruments which bring only material existence into
the field of our consciousness. Whatever plane our consciousness
may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane
are, for the time being, our only realities. As we rise in the scale
of development we perceive that during the stages through which
we have passed we mistook shadows for realities; and the upward
progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each
advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached
"reality"; but only when we have reached the absolute
Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from
the delusions produced by Maya(1). (I, 39-40.)
The contention that knowledge of Reality is to be found only by looking within the depths of our own Consciousness may meet with the objection that such a method is not unknown outside of Theosophy. It may be urged that abstract reflection and introspection have always been employed by the speculative philosopher and metaphysician, and that they have not heretofore resulted in the discovery of Truth, as witnessed by the differing philosophical systems and theories extant in the world. It is not contended that introspective search is peculiar to Theosophy. To be a man means to be a thinker, and it is as natural for the mind to look within as for it to look without. The turning of the consciousness away from the objective universe and towards one's subjective self is practiced more or less by all men. The Theosophical or occult method which leads to the acquisition of direct and certain knowledge is a particular kind of contemplation known as concentration or Yoga, and this involves immeasurably more than what is commonly regarded as introspection. In The Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna defines yoga as "skill in the performance of action" and as "equal-mindedness." Yoga requires the adoption of a certain attitude towards life and the performance of action on the basis of that attitude. The attitude is the recognition of the spiritual unity of all Beings and complete resignation to the supreme law of harmony governing the universe. The actual life must then conform to this recognition, resulting in a life devoted to the welfare and progress of all souls. Without leading the life, no amount of "looking within" will cause Nature to open the portals of her secret chambers.
The intellectualist finds it difficult to understand why this method of acquiring spiritual knowledge should depend on purity of motive and a life dedicated to altruism. Why, he reasons, can not the same results be obtained by anyone willing to follow the directions given, as in the ordinary scientific modes of inquiry. Part of the answer lies in pointing out that in even the so-called "inductive" method great care is taken to minimize every possibility of error in observation and experiment. Errors may arise from a number of causes, from the instruments employed, changes in the object observed, and impediments and unknown factors in the medium between the observer and the object studied. Theosophy, while recognizing the mechanical and exterior possibilities of error, goes further and declares that the senses are by their very nature deceptive. The admonition to the disciple is: "Mistrust thy senses; they are false." This is followed by the directions: "But within thy body -- the shrine of thy sensations -- seek in the Impersonal for the 'Eternal Man'; and having sought him out, look inward: thou art Buddha."
If the method of looking outward is surrounded by constant inaccuracies and errors, even more so is the method of looking inward. Mistakes in introspection arise in the psychic, mental and moral departments of our being. The body is the vehicle of the "Eternal Man," but it is also "the shrine of our sensations"; the latter must be overcome before the Divine Ego and Knower can enlighten the mind. Many are the inner obstacles to meditation. After the coarser psychic impediments are removed, obstacles of a subtler nature such as pride, vanity, doubt and ambition are encountered. Every obstacle is like a center around which the thought and meditation revolve in a rigid orbit, barring further penetration into the depths of consciousness. The most serious obstacle to success in concentration is meditation with the seed of separateness embedded in the heart. Such a seed is really the source and parent of all other "mental deposits." This is why the unremitting practice of Brotherhood is a sine qua non to the attainment of knowledge, of TRUTH.