SHALL WE ASSERT THEM?
The Path, September, 1893
TO THE PATH:—Please resolve a doubt. Are members of the T.S. required to become flabby in character upon entering the Society, and to give up their convictions for fear of a vague future dogmatism? I ask this because in some of our magazines I have seen objections raised to a free promulgation of one’s ideas on such subjects, for instance, as the Adepts or Masters, Reincarnation, Karma, and so on. If we are so required, then I would ask why we have a free platform in the T.S., and when were the statements made in the President’s inaugural address of 1875 withdrawn’?
Fraternally, S. F. HECHT
Admitted to the T.S. May 5, 1892
This question seems easy to answer. It is presumed that the correspondent refers to an objection to my plainly stating either in our journals or in any other way my own personal beliefs. It is evident that S.F.H. is thinking of the objection made in the Theosophist by N.D.K. to my plainly saying I believe in the existence of the Masters of whom so often H.P.B. spoke. N.D.K., taking up a letter of mine, quoted this sentence: “And when we come to examine the work and the foundation of the T.S. and its policy, I find it perfectly proper for me to assert, as I do in accordance with my own knowledge and belief, that our true progress lies in our fidelity to Masters as ideals and facts.” S.F.H. is perplexed because N.D.K. seemed to object to that, but the perplexity need not exist nor need we become flabby in our convictions.
For, as will be seen by reading, and not straining, the sentence quoted, the “policy” of the T.S. referred to by me therein is that of leaving everyone quite free to express his views on all these points. Although N.D.K. would appear to think I meant that the T.S. policy was for it to make these declarations, it is easy to see by consulting the constitution that its policy is the opposite. The policy is freedom to members and perfect neutrality on the part of the T.S. To have any other, or to say that merely because one is in a society such as ours, or is an officer, he cannot give his own opinions so long as he accords the same privilege to another, would be a monstrous thing, contrary to our constitution and quite against a long history in which, from H.P.B. and Col. Olcott down, all members have had perfect freedom of expression. So S.F.H. need have no fear; our policy of freedom is not altered; all have a right to their convictions; and it is certain that if anyone is becoming flabby the oldest members of the T.S. will at once adjure him to strengthen his sincere convictions and not hesitate to give them expression, always allowing to everyone else the same liberty of thought and speech. And to aid our correspondent we will give some further light if possible.
Let us take first H. P. Blavatsky. She began in the T.S., with its free platform, immediately to preach and promulgate her own personal view that the Masters were facts, and facts of very great magnitude, and this she did and continued against the most violent opposition and the fiercest ridicule. She also proclaimed unequivocally, as Cagliostro did many years before in Paris, a belief in the occult machinery of the Cosmos with all that that implies. Moreover, in the name of the Master she did very wonderful phenomena, which one of the same Masters has said, as published by Mr. Sinnett, have puzzled men for a good part of a century. And while thus freely expressing her own views she allowed the same freedom to all others, and was herself the agent for the taking into the T.S. of many who did not believe as she did but who often scouted at her convictions. Then, further, she proclaimed a system of philosophy with all her ardor just as she had a right to do, and merely laid it before the world within the pale of a free Society, which is not compelled to accept but whose members fortunately do in great part. And in saying they are thus fortunate I am now giving expression to my own views.
Next consider the career of Col. H. S. Olcott since he began the work of the T.S., President then as he now is, and as we hope he will remain. He is our highest officer. Yet he has not failed to assert his undying belief in the Adepts and Masters universal and particular. It is a good example for those who have the same belief. It was done in the T.S., not as officer but as man, as individual member, and it would be a poor sort of constitution that would have prevented him. Long ago he said they existed and tried to prove it. He worked with the Psychical Research Society of London to prove to them the existence of the Masters and the truth of the doctrines given out by them as to occult phenomena. That may have appeared to be disastrous, but it was done with good intent and still under the constitution, for if against the constitution why was he not charged and put out? Because it was within his right. And in various places since then he has made the same assertions. At the Convention of the European Section in 1891 he publicly said on the platform that the Masters existed and that he had seen them himself, and spoke also of more than the two most spoken of in the T.S. and its literature. Then last, and now, he repeats it all with greater detail and particularity in his own series of Diary Leaves in his own magazine which has always been called the only organ the T.S. has. For, mark you, the PATH and Lucifer have never been made the organs of the T.S.; nor, indeed, should they be.
Mr. Sinnett stands out in high relief among those who have in public and private, within the T.S., asserted with all his strength his belief in the Masters’ existence and tried his very best to prove his assertion. His books, his pamphlets, ‘his speeches in public and private, all show this. Was he wrong, was he not fully justified under the constitution? And has he not gone even further and taken up the cudgels in battle for his views?
It very clearly appears, then, that under the Constitution we all have the fullest right to proclaim our views, not once but as often as we see fit, so long as we give others the same right and do not say that the T.S. as a body is responsible, for it is not. This is the beauty of our law. We are free just as the United States constitution is free and proclaims for no creed and no sort of god but leaves all men to say what they please, if they do not interfere with the liberty of others.
Entry into our ranks in no way infers a becoming flabby, by which is supposed the querent means a fear of saying what and in what each individual believes, because this is a brotherhood free from dogmatism. Earnestness and sincerity are not dogmatism at all, and it is undeniable that a reform in philosophy and thought such as ours could never prosper if our members were to grow flabby in this or in any other particular. Then again, if some of us have found that for us the Masters exist, it is our human universal duty to tell others, so that they may find out also or be able to show by good substantial proof that we are wrong. When they shall have proved this to our satisfaction it will be time for us to disband, for then will have fallen the theory of the possible spiritual evolution of man, and we can then leave the field to the scientific materialists who not long ago declared the possibility of that high evolution. But as this is a reductio ad absurdum we may all continue our preachments of views, some for and some against man’s great inheritance. The PATH will continue to say its editor believes in humanity and in the great Masters of Wisdom.