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Patterson vs. Besant re HPB and Masters

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  • kpauljohnson
    Folks, Jerry s remarks yesterday about faith in Masters being a sine qua non reminded me of something published in Lucifer a few months before HPB s death. It
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2002
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      Jerry's remarks yesterday about faith in Masters being a sine qua non
      reminded me of something published in Lucifer a few months before
      HPB's death. It is an article by H.T. Patterson, in response to an
      article by Annie Besant which was published without HPB's consent and
      which HPB says she would never have allowed to be published.

      Besant's article is noteworthy in a number of ways, but rather than
      quote it at any length I will let Patterson's quotes stand for

      ...there seems to be a grain of erronous opinion in them [Besant's
      words] from which a large and poisonous growth may spring. If this
      is so, it is only true brotherliness to point it out. It lies first
      in the statement that "If there are no Masters the Theosophical
      Society is an absurdity and there is no point in keeping it up." And
      again in another statement which says "Once accept the philosophy you
      must accept her (H.P.B.)." May not much harm be done by the holding
      of such views? May they not tend to keep out many who would be
      benefited by being in, and for whom the Society was largely founded?
      Are not the statements in their nature somewhat dogmatic? Have we
      not still in our natures some of that intolerance which forcing
      rather than leading, persecuted in the name of righteousness? For
      there are subtle transformations in our characters, which will bring
      the old faults out in new guises, and we are none, not one, quite
      free from intolerance. The churches have creeds; but applicants for
      admission are usually given to understand that they need not be fully
      accepted; and they seldom are. The Theosophical Society has no
      creeds, but its members seem scarcely able to avoid making them in
      spite of all efforts to the contrary. And watchfulness as to the
      Theosophical movemen must lead those who believe in the Masters to
      see how strenuously they and their mouth-piece H.P.B. are working
      against the development of them. If this Theosophical movement is to
      be carried on successfully through the first three or four
      generations of the first seventy-five years of the coming century, we
      must be very heedful. What do the Constitution and by-laws of the
      Society, what does the application for admission into it, tell us?
      Not one word as to belief. They simply contain provisions which
      tend to guarantee liberty and cultivate tolerance. Is it not
      contrary to their spirit to say: "Once accept the philosophy you myst
      accept her"? Accept what philosophy? The Society has none...

      We constantly cry out that we have no creeds, no dogmas, no beliefs,
      and we almost as constantly, or at any rate very frequently give the
      lie to this...And why speak of the Society as an absurdity without
      Masters? Are its objects, especially the first, nothing? If those
      objects were even partially lived up to, and again as we
      say, "especially the first," would no good come of it? Most
      certainly, and it is perhaps this good which the Masters are seeking,
      rather than the acceptance of any philosophy, or any recognition of
      themselves. {HPB adds a note here: "Our Brother, Mr. Patterson, is
      quite correct.'}

      If the Society has an authoritative leader, beliefs will be accepted
      simply on authority, and a belief thus accepted is almost of
      necessity perverted...Such a reliance is against the presumable wish
      of the Masters. We must seize on our own truth and digest it
      ourselves: and if we do we cannot so pervert it...

      The honest materialist, the honest agnostic, the honest spiritualist,
      the honest christian-scientist, the hoenst dogmatic Christian, may be
      an honest disbeliever in H.P.B. and the Masters, and an honest member
      of the Theosophical Society, too, provided he is enlisted in the
      cause of humanity. {HPB adds a note here: "I have repeated these
      words for years: it is my *stereotyped answer* to enquirers who ask
      me whether belief in the MASTERS is obligatory in joining the T.S."}

      This article is found in BCW XIII, pp. 115-121. There is no question
      that the Besant position won out not just in the Adyar TS, but
      throughout the movement. There is also no question that taking this
      fork in the road was disastrous in terms of the original mission of
      the Society. What might things be like if people had heeded
      Patterson, who was implicitly endorsed by HPB?

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