By Clare Goldsberry
Theosophy Helps Us Ask the ‘Right’ Questions
Most of those who seek out and attend our Theosophical Society Phoenix Study Group are certainly ‘seekers;’ and many of those are looking to find the answers to life’s big questions. Many come to the TS with the idea that since organized mainline religions have failed them, and other groups – including those of the self-help variety – have failed to provide them with the answers, the Theosophical Society can give them the answers.
But, as I tell students in my spiritual and esoteric religions classes, the questions are often more important than the answers. I emphasize that idea because I – nor do any of us in the Phoenix Study Group of the TS—have the answers. The primary reason that we do not have the answers is that most of us are asking the wrong questions.
I am reading for the third time, a little book I bought about a decade ago at Wheaton when Quest (the book publishing arm of the Society) was cleaning out its remainders – older books that never sold – and having a special sale during the summer conference. The book, The Conquest of Illusion by J. J. Van Der Leeuw, was first published in 1928, and reprinted in 1966 in a Quest paperback edition. I paid .50 cents for it but would have paid multiple times that amount had I known that this little book contained pearls of great price.
Van Der Leeuw talks about the world of illusion (or maya in the Sanskrit of the Eastern philosophies – Hinduism and Buddhism) which is duality; the relative and the Absolute; or a conceptual subjective world-image that we each have, and the Ultimate or Absolute. We mostly have a world-image of the dual nature of the subjective and our world-image is just that – our world image. We each perceive our world differently. The dual nature of the relative world “out there” is conceptual, made up of concepts that have names, like the photo above: mountains, forests, sky and clouds. We know what those things are but they are also “relative” to our world-image. They are changeable (mutable) and thus impermanent.
Van Der Leeuw says: “. . . there are not two worlds, one of relativity and one of the Absolute; there is but one world of ultimate Reality, the Absolute, which when approached in its multiplicity is the relative.” The Absolute is the very center of our consciousness, and “. . . that which we become is not relative to anything else; It is everything and everything is within It.” The Absolute is the absence of all relativity; hence “the Absolute cannot be expressed in terms of relativity,” thus Van Der Leeuw tells us, “We must guard against the illusion of duality.”
Since we are always subject to our world-image that is illusion, we are not even capable of asking the right questions because the questions come from the veil of illusion under which we live; “. . . the questions are asked from the standpoint of illusion and the intellect is bound to this same illusion,” states Van Der Leeuw. “Our questions and answers are thus born of illusion and until we, in ourselves, conquer that illusion it is impossible to approach the mystery of creation at all.”
However, Van Der Leeuw offers us hope in that our intense desire to know the Truth – the Absolute – is the motivation to ask questions in the first place, even if they are coming from the illusions of our world-image. “Even in wrong questions there is virtue according to the measure of their sincerity and wholeheartedness.” He proceeds to tell us that to be able to ask the right questions, “. . . we must surrender our world-image and all that belongs to it and, in the world of the Real, try to experience the Mystery itself.”
So rather than giving us the answers, Theosophy helps us learn to ask the right questions. We are learning to see the world – and our world-image – differently; as a realer Reality consisting of the Absolute rather than the separateness of duality.
That is why we invite you to come to our new class, Introduction to Theosophy, held the first Sunday of every month where we will study a book written by one of the long-time Theosophists, Robert Ellwood, Theosophy: A Modern Expression of the Wisdom of the Ages. This class will begin the first Sunday in October, (Oct. 2). Check our website calendar for time and place.
We look forward to seeing you there!
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