The secret doctrine

Both about the secret doctrine
and H.P. Blavatsky's seminal work 'The Secret Doctrine'
An article by Geoffrey Farthing

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Geoffrey Farthing

Geoffrey Farthing
T.D., C. Eng,. M.I.E.E.
Geoffrey Farthing - biography

First published in 'The Theosophist' September 1971
(N. Sri Ram - Editor)

'The Secret Doctrine' is available online at:

THE secret doctrine is the expression of the Ageless Wisdom. In broad terms it is any exposition of Atma Vidya (The highest form of spiritual knowledge; lit., "Soul-knowledge".) - true Occultism, which H.P. Blavatsky (H.P.B.) says includes all the other Vidyas (sources of Knowledge, Occult Science). It could be in any language, hieroglyphs, symbols and even in part in allegories and stories. The latter, however, would need knowledge and intuition for a perception of their meaning. H.P.B.'s The Secret Doctrine is probably the most complete exposition we have but it is still, necessarily, quite incomplete. Always the knowledge it seeks to convey is greater, richer; far more wonderful in actual potency than anything could be that merely presents it to our minds. As given us in The Secret Doctrine the great knowledge we call Theosophy is a concept. True, it is one which far transcends our normal intellectual range. Even intellectually the secret doctrine takes a long time to learn. A short statement of even the principles does not seem possible. The meaning is so deep that much illustration and allusion is necessary. The bald statement, for example, that the Universe is a Unity, is easily comprehensible in terms of words but it takes years of continual acquaintance with the idea before its ramifications begin to unfold. They cannot be stated simply as some writers have assumed. Unity is the key to an understanding, for instance, of MONAD. This too is a basic concept underlying many other aspects of the doctrine. It is essential to an understanding of the principles, the elements of the constitution of the Universe and man, of soul in a general and particular way, of consciousness in all its modes running through all levels of being and all kinds of beings. The idea of Monad as the final spiritual element in everything, and of monads in differentiated existence, runs as a thread through all this teaching.

It may be considered that this is stretching the idea or the principle of Unity too far, but unless it is considered as the essence of all unitary and generic being it has no reality other than as "union”, the aggregation of parts, which is not by any means the same thing.

Some people will see in the secret doctrine, particularly H.P.B.'s The Secret Doctrine, a limitation, a limitation of areas of interest and knowledge to what is only specifically dealt with in it. Further, some will regard it as a technical subject with which they need not be concerned, but if we are interested in understanding the total life process, and its aspects and activities, typified for example in the multifarious activities of man, it is something we cannot afford to ignore. It provides us with a large framework of ideas - basic concepts - into which all the experience of both ordinary physical life and the experience of the psychic, emotional, mental and spiritual realms fit.

In-so-far as it has been given out to us the secret doctrine provides us with a ground work plan of all existence and its workings. It gives us a glimpse, in broad terms, of the totally inclusive Law which, governs the whole universal process of life in all its infinite variety of expression. It tells us of the powers in Nature and of their correspondences in us. It explains to us the mysteries of our own internal subjective natures and activity. All the most poignant feelings of man are herein embraced. All his appreciations, ecstasies, relationships in terms of feeling, and his highest .aspirations, are dealt with and included in the vast field of insight that continually unfolds to the persistent student.

No aspect of life in what we call Nature nor any activity of man's, whether it be his work, his play, his arts, his achievements, or even his failures, is inconsiderable to the growing interests and awareness of the student. In short, the secret doctrine deals with a knowledge of life.

Just reading here and there in H.P.B.'s The Secret Doctrine or in her [earlier work] Isis Unveiled shows the extent of the field covered in those two expositions alone, even with their limitations. Of the full extent of the Ageless Wisdom expressed in the secret doctrine as a whole there could not be any end. In our study of such of the secret doctrine as has been made available to us by the Adepts in the Wisdom, wonderful as it is, we must remember that it is only partial and also that our intellectual appreciation of it is only the beginning of our study. However well we know our part of the doctrine in that way, we are still completely ignorant of what it portrays or tells us about. This fact cannot be overstressed. The secret doctrine can in no way be learned as information stored the mind. It deals with life and until certain areas of our being are quickened into life by our efforts to perceive the truths touched on, we shall in fact never see them, never know what the doctrine is about. This acquisition of real knowing is what is behind the phrase "expansion of consciousness". This does not mean becoming possessed of more information, that is, extending our area of learning even to the learning of so-called secrets or esoteric data. It means an expanding awareness - an increase in the breadth and depth of our perceptive faculties or, as has been said so many times that we scarcely notice its significance, a growth of awareness. This means that we are able to apprehend and comprehend a wider range of phenomena on the one hand and on the other to sense a growth of inner effective ability within our selves. The means of development of these inner abilities is the practice of true Occultism.

Because the inner worlds are the greater and more significant realms of being, by far, than the physical, the secret doctrine concerns itself mostly with these realms. A knowledge of "occultism," in the broadest sense, of this kind is Theosophy. H.P.B. is emphatic that occultism is not just the occult arts, whether these are in terms of mantra or ceremony. The word Theosophy has for a generation or so come to have very wide meanings, to embrace almost anything. It has thereby been sacrilegiously degraded or even desecrated. It is a sacred science' dealing with "being" at the very highest levels of "Being," and in the widest, including the most pure and holy, context. We have become accustomed to use the word Theosophy in a more trivial sense - in terms of petty human quarrels or matters of elementary ethics - its grandeur is un-sensed. More often than not our severely restricted vision in these matters, amounting almost to total blindness, is the result of our not having sufficient regard to what the Master Initiates made available to us through H.P.B. Too often we have imagined we know what They have said. In her works not only is the vast panorama of universal life, in universal. terms, on a universal scale, presented to us but very broad hints as to our own inner natures which link us inseparably with these universals, are explained. Further broad hints as to the ways and means of quickening our growth are also included for good measure.

At this juncture, and because the above words might give us a totally wrong incentive for study, and study is an absolute essential for most of us to gain any insight into the true nature and extent of Theosophy, it must be explained what we are about when we become Theosophical students in earnest. To make an understanding of this really meaningful is very difficult. The difficulty arises because of our complete identification with what is referred to in Theosophical literature as "personality". For most of us this is what, and all, we feel and consider ourselves to be. It is "I" and all that pertains to "I" and makes us "us". All our ideas of reincarnation and karma are related to this "I". All our endeavours at spiritual development are in terms of it. In subtle ways all our ideas of brotherhood are reflex imaginings born out of self (I)-interest. We (I) stand better with our fellows, in our views and feelings, when we practise what we call brotherhood. But even in this our concern directly, even if subtly and indirectly, is mostly self-interest. This is not cynicism. It is hard fact and we, to be really honest, must see that it is so. All our ideas of the after-life are coloured by it. Our total concern for Theosophy is limited by it. It may sound trite but this self-interest or self-concern, which it is safe to say almost none of us are without, is selfishness - the kind of selfishness referred to in our books of instruction. Desire and fear are large elements in it. It is a subtle constituent of our natures which success in any of our enterprises feeds as pride and ambition.

The Secret Doctrine, in that it would have us transcend this limitation and complete bar to esoteric knowledge, first gives us the rules of life by which the evil or disastrous effects of this self-concern can be lessened, and second, it directs our attention away from it. It does this in two ways: by having us regard the universal and impersonal in Nature, by having us direct attention outwards so that interest shifts from self-interest. We then begin to enjoy a larger, freer life. Secondly, it presents us with the idea of a higher Self, in two aspects, one related to us, each of us, individually, and the other, through Unity, to the ONE SELF, of which all Selves are, as it were, flames of the One Fire.

There are many members of the Society who glibly associate this higher individual Self with their normal feelings of "I-ness". That it has something to do with it cannot be denied, but any connection between the Self and any self-concern indicates for a certainty that a wrong view of the Self is being taken. This is the yard stick by which we can check our ideas of the Self. In real terms, of course, the fact that we have ideas about the Self indicates again our total ignorance of it. When we know anything about our Self (to use an expression loosely) we are It. It is then our Self. We have moved into another realm of consciousness. This does not happen suddenly but our Self does begin to influence us as the proper results of our living in the physical world begin to quicken the connection with the "higher" elements of our selves. Let it be said again, we are always all one being, but consciousness has to expand, as we say, into the realms of the Self.

The immediate and proper purpose of The Secret Doctrine is to initiate and further this process. It enables us to embark on the journey and to travel in confidence, in the light of some understanding even though at our normal mental levels to start with. Continual study of H.P.B.'s The Secret Doctrine keeps us supplied with the interest, incentive and mental food required to sustain us. But it must be remembered that what we get in The Secret Doctrine is only food; exciting, enthralling, mental food. This has to be digested.

Digestion is by living - by living in the light of our newly found knowledge. This is not a dissertation on "the way". The continual exercise of the necessary restraints on our lower natures, the continual outward turning of attention to Nature, the sympathetic observation of our fellows in all the exigencies and predicaments of their lives, and the continual longing for understanding and enlightenment leading to a cessation of self-interest and a willingness to put oneself at the service of the cause of Truth in any aspect, opens the way, gradually, into the larger realms of Being which are our heritage. This heritage is always there for us to claim but no one will come and give it to us unearned, pray we never so hard.



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