I went to a Theosophy class at Theosophy Hall in downtown Los Angeles last night with my most excellent roommate Pedro. I enjoyed the experience. I wasn’t sure what was going on during the presentation and ensuing discussion – were they seeking the truth? conveying the truth? – yet the experience was so intellectually stimulating that I left feeling quite aware of my surroundings.
One guy gave me some free printed matter, which I read today. I also did some background research on the oh-so-trustworthy Internet. (I trust you can hear the measured sarcasm on that last point.)
My impressions are not all roses, though.
I like that the Theosophists encourage free thought. This critique on my first impressions of the study is made in the spirit of free thought.
I agree with Theosophists when they say life is continuous. With death comes birth. Matter begets matter, in a way (though strictly speaking matter does not increase, it merely rearranges.)
But I disagree with Theosophists when they say we are each a distinct personality or soul which is continuous or permanent.
I believe there to be one consciousness, as Theosophy states. But I disagree with the idea that there is something apart from matter. The one consciousness is matter in different forms. Matter is spirit, not a vehicle for spirit.
I agree with the Theosophists when they say there is consciousness in a stone, an atom, a planet. I believe Space has consciousness, yes. Science shows “empty space” to be quite full indeed. And where there is anything, there is consciousness.
I do not believe, as the Theosophists believe, that there is such a thing as “the progression of the soul.” There are only curves, not some brave charge “forward.” There is no ultimate forward or backward. Einstein proved this with his theory of relativity.
The Theosophists state that there is such a thing as a “spiritual evolution” and that such an evolution moves “forward” into “higher” states of being.
Theosophists have a faulty understanding of the word “evolution.” You, dear reader, probably have it wrong too. It’s so simple. Evolution is a very specific concept. It has nothing to do with strength, intelligence, “karma”, or anything else.
Evolution is simply adaptation. Most self-described evolutionists don’t even understand this, nor do the creationists. If you need to fly, you get wings. If you need to slither, you get scales. If you need to breathe, you get lungs or gills. If you need to do photosynthesis, you get chlorophyll. If you need to sit there and not move for a few million years, you get to be a heavy-ass boulder. Whatever you role is, that’s what you’re suited for. If the environment changes or you leave your environment, your features probably won’t work anymore. You die.
For example, if your navigation system depends on abundant light, and suddenly you get lost in a system of caves, some other being who has been testing out a snazzy new way of seeing in the dark called “echolocation” takes your place. You know what animal that is. The lowly bat. And he happens to be alive when you’re dead. That’s evolution, dudes and dudettes. It’s really simple. Unfortunately, our big human ego is constantly trying (and failing) to understand everything in terms of superiority and inferiority, and so we can’t seem to grasp the very simple concept of evolution, which has nothing to do with worthiness or forward advancement towards some objective Betterment.
Note: When the economist Herbert Spencer used the phrase “survival of the fittest” to describe natural selection, “fittest” meant in that context “best-suited,” not “most superior” nor “looks best in a bathing suit.” A bigger glove is not necessarily better. You need the size that fits your hand, and that’s that.
I find it egotistical when I hear anyone talk of “lower” and “higher” life forms. A human is not higher than an ant. It is different, and suited for different purposes. Ants are good at finding one grain of sugar, while humans are good at thinking symbolically. Humans may or may not be more complex than other life forms and materials, but complexity does not equal height.
The ability to think in moral or ethical terms is an adaptation, not an advance or evidence of an immaterial soul. We have morals and ethics because we are not naturally good at knowing what we’re supposed to do. If anything, the existence of morals and ethics among humans speaks of our poorly tuned instincts for living in the civilization our intellect planned. Instinct suits the rest of the animal and plant kingdom just fine. Just because we don’t know how to use the tool called “instinct” in our current technological and mass societal context, that doesn’t make us better or worse than anyone else. We have morals and ethics because we have outsourced instinct to a linear way of thinking. Make sense? Bear with me.
We are not separate from nature, and we are no more different from the rest of nature than an ant is different from an elephant. Everything is different, everything is special, and every life form must be understood on its own terms.
I do like Theosophy, as a religion, as a group of people. It’s not a cult. Just a bunch of smarties trying to find a religious understanding that suits them. They’re just looking for a reason to live, and such a thing is difficult to do when you’re of above-average intelligence in a “secular” world. Thus this quasi-historical, quasi-scientific religion (yes, it’s a religion, even if a weak one) was formed to satisfy the craving for immortality of the ego.
We all have irrational needs. We all need to believe in immortality on some level. Theosophy is just one in a long line of budding traditions that tries to pass itself off as a rational replacement for religion. There is no rational replacement for religion, and we all need religion. Please call it religion, okay? It’s religion. That’s fine.