Compass Newsletter Summer 2016 No.32
“Be what he may, once that a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought — Godward — he is a Theosophist; an original thinker, a seeker after the eternal truth with “an inspiration of his own” to solve the universal problems.”
(HP Blavatsky, The Theosophist, October, 1879)
It can be difficult to hold ‘original’ ideas in a world that attempts to almost grind us into an homogeneous lump. Alternative views are either dismissed completely or contested with such incredulity it sometimes seems easier to give in and ‘go with the flow’. But by doing this how do things change? How does progress take place? It may be argued that progress is inevitable, that ‘it will happen!’. So why bother at all?
In the 1960’s Scientific Philosopher Thomas Kuhn introduced his theory of ‘paradigm shifts’. In some detail he explained how a dominant set of ideas is replaced by another, more radical set. Things may have changed if left alone and in their own time but this gave a feeling of almost inertia to others who viewed the received wisdom of the day and understood it didn’t fit how they felt, a sense ‘there was something more’.
For the majority, who were content to ‘go with the flow’, this ‘something more’ simply didn’t exist. For those who felt there was something deeper, more explanatory, not in a wider sense but a deeper one, going with the flow was not an option. A paradigm shift was beginning. Reviewing History (even casually) reveals there is never just one paradigm shift but paradigm ‘shifts’. There may be shifts within shifts. A paradigm shift doesn’t happen in a moment of time but may be viewed as a process, in which old concepts or ideas are displaced and new ones emerge. In the scientific area this is achieved through testing theories and building on the findings of these tests. In Spiritual realms the same process goes on but using the means pertaining to Spirit rather than matter (it could be argued that both, science and deeper spiritual writings, are closer now than have ever been.) Did Theosophy give us a paradigm shift? Are we still in the ‘process period’? Is the resistance to new ideas still to be overcome?
Grace Knoche, a former leader of this Society, in one of her regular newsletters gave encouragement and insight, writing:
“it can never be a simple matter to go against the current; it demands courage and stamina to persist year in and year out along a course that, even if we know deep down it is the true path for us, may at times, appear the opposite to our personal self. Yet that is our role, and when we reflect on it, we are infinitely warmed and strengthened not alone by our ordinary happenings that occur unexpectedly but primarily by an inner affirmation that we couldn’t have asked for a more magnificent opportunity. To be allowed by karma to aid, in however minor degree, in the compassionate order of the universe, this is to be given a boon that the soul yearns for in its moments of purest clarity.”
Existing paradigms are invested with emotional, intellectual, and yes, spiritual values which will resist and take some time to be be replaced, not necessarily dis-placed, but rather modified and enlightened by the new paradigm. Popular or public opinion is our dharma to meet and endure and answer questions the old paradigm may have forgotten needed to be answered. In a world which is absorbed in a state of 24 hour narcissism are we aware of an emerging paradigm shift? Earlier in her newsletter Grace Knoche wrote, “If at times everything seems at cross purposes, as though every effort made is countered by opposition, let us remember that ours by its very nature and goal is an upstream endeavour.”
We may all have our paradigm shift moments. The following article by H.P. Blavatsky may be of interest.
A Paradoxical World
Open your ears . . . when loud rumour speaks!
I, from the Orient to the drooping West,
Making the wind my post horse, still unfold
The acts commenced on this ball of earth:
Upon my tongue continual slanders ride,
The which in every language I pronounce;
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.
I speak of peace, while covert enmity,
Under the smile of safety, wounds the world:
And who but Rumour, who but only I . .
Why, I can smile. and murder while I smile;
And cry content, to that which grieves my heart;
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occasions . . .
WE live in an age of prejudice, dissimulation and paradox, wherein, like dry leaves caught in a whirlpool some of us are tossed helpless, hither and thither, ever struggling between our honest convictions and fear of that cruellest of tyrants–PUBLIC OPINION. Yea, we move on in life as in a Maelstrom formed of two conflicting currents, one rushing onward, the other repelling us downward; one making us cling desperately to what we believe to be right and true, and that we would fain carry out on the surface; the other knocking us off our feet, overpowering, and finally drowning us under the fierce, despotic wave of social propriety and that idiotic, arbitrary and ever wool-gathering public opinion, based on slander and idle rumour. No person need in our modern day be honest, sincere, and righteous in order to curry favour or receive recognition as a man of worth. He need only be a successful hypocrite, or have become for no mortal reason he himself knows of–popular. In our age, in the words of Mrs. Montague, “while every vice is hid by hypocrisy, every virtue is suspected to be hypocrisy . . . and the suspicion is looked upon as wisdom.” Thus, no one seeming to know what to believe, and what to reject, the best means of becoming a paragon of every virtue on blind faith, is–to acquire, popularity.
But how is popularity to be acquired? Very easily indeed. Howl with the wolves. Pay homage to the favourite vices of the day, and reverence to mediocrities in public favour. Shut your eyes tight before any truth, if unpalatable to the chief leaders of the social herd, and sit with them upon the dissenting minority. Bow low before vulgarity in power; and bray loud applause to the rising donkey who kicks a dying lion, now a fallen idol. Respect public prejudice and pander to its cant and hobbies, and soon you will yourself become popular. Behold, now is your time. No matter if you be a plunderer and murderer combined: you will be glorified all the same, furnished with an aureole of virtues, and allowed even a broader margin for impunity than contained in the truism of that Turkish proverb, which states that “a thief not found out is honester than a Bey.” …
(HP Blavatsky, Lucifer, February 1889)
So it seems the popularity of Public Opinion is nothing new and how easy it is to ‘go with the flow’ rather than stick to principles if, after robust examination and reflection, we understand them to be valid and true. Ours indeed is an upstream endeavour but a noble, true and just one. Let us be ‘frank and fearless’ thinkers and understand we are following in the footsteps of great ones. To keep Theosophy ‘clean’, waiting for the paradigm shift to reach the critical tipping point, is a worthy and sacred task we chose in the mists of time past.
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