Particles of Gold

By Sarah B. and William A. Dougherty
Sunrise came into being as the result of our belief that men and women in all walks of life in every country had thoughts and experiences worth sharing with others -- experiences which meant the difference between success and failure, between joy and unhappiness, between a broad and a narrow horizon of life. -- James A. Long

Opening the 54th year of Sunrise provides an opportunity to review the reasons for its founding and continuance. As it is a theosophical magazine, we may find some insight by examining the impulses behind the Theosophical Society. This Society was founded almost 130 years ago, not to create a new religion or set of orthodox beliefs, but to form the core of a genuine brotherhood of humanity and to encourage the search for truth through "free and fearless investigation" -- investigation not hemmed in by authorities, ancient or modern. Its founders sought particularly to foster compassion and the practical expression of altruism in people's lives.

Over the decades the modern theosophical movement has grown into a banyan tree with several trunks and many branches. A wide variety of organizations and spiritual instructors trace themselves back, wholly or in part, to H. P. Blavatsky and her teachers: the Theosophical Societies, the United Lodge of Theosophists, The Temple of the People (Halcyon, California), the Anthroposophical Society, the Lucis Trust and Arcane School, the Agni Yoga Society, and the Church Universal and Triumphant -- among many, many others. Some of these groups differ very widely in teaching, literature, and approach, but however different they may be, most still have at their heart one or more of the Theosophical Society's principal objectives: universal brotherhood, knowledge of self and nature, and study of the world's religions, philosophies, and sciences.

The pernicious effects of past intolerance and dogmatism upon our world are obvious and, because these forces are rooted in human nature, today they are as alive as ever. We see them in varying degrees everywhere: in science, religion, academia, politics, and unfortunately in the theosophical movement. Despite its watchword of universal brotherhood, when members and organizations have disagreed or come into conflict, all too often they have treated each other as apostate or worse. While this has begun to change, one still finds people who are appalled if their organization or fellow members voice, publish, or cite material from "heretical" teachers and institutions, or works that purport to be inspired or dictated by spiritual adepts or Ascended Masters -- except, of course, those works within their own tradition or approved of by themselves. They fear that less perceptive souls will be misled by erroneous teachings and their own organization will be tainted by association. Whatever the merits or demerits of particular books, authors, ideas, or organizations, this attitude is orthodoxy pure and simple, and organizations supporting such positions have in fact become sects, whether they recognize it or not.

H. P. Blavatsky repudiated this narrow outlook in her own periodicals. It is hard to imagine more diverse material than appeared in the early volumes of her Theosophist, each issue of which contained the notice: "The Editors disclaim responsibility for opinions expressed by contributors in their articles, with some of which they agree, with others, not. Great latitude is allowed to correspondents, and they alone are accountable for what they write." In 1888 she answered readers of her new journal, Lucifer, who "cannot see why it should not be a purely Theosophical magazine,"

in other words, why it refuses to be dogmatic and bigoted. Instead of devoting every inch of space to theosophical and occult teachings, it opens its pages "to the publication of the most grotesquely heterogeneous elements and conflicting doctrines." This is the chief accusation, to which we answer -- why not? Theosophy is divine knowledge, and knowledge is truth; every true fact, every sincere word are thus part and parcel of Theosophy. One who is skilled in divine alchemy, or even approximately blessed with the gift of the perception of truth, will find and extract it from an erroneous as much as from a correct statement. However small the particle of gold lost in a ton of rubbish, it is the noble metal still, and worthy of being dug out even at the price of some extra trouble. -- "What Is Truth?," February 1888, p. 431

And let us not forget that one man's rubbish may be another man's compost. Who can say what will stimulate a person to awaken to a new insight or move farther along the pathway toward truth?

As a magazine offering "theosophic perspectives," Sunrise continues to take its stand squarely on brotherhood and on each individual's "free and fearless investigation" of himself, human knowledge, and the cosmos. It encourages seeking truth whole-heartedly -- and in the process not only loving our neighbor as ourself, but respecting his or her individual discernment and right to differ. Its editors decline to promote orthodoxy or sectarianism, and do not consider opinions and statements that appear in the magazine as authoritative. Most importantly, its pages will continue to be a forum for people to share the thoughts and experiences which have made a difference in their lives. In this way Sunrise seeks to forward the original objectives of its founder and the founders of the Theosophical Society.

(From Sunrise magazine, October/November 2004; copyright © 2004 Theosophical University Press)

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Beware of fear that spreadeth, like the black and soundless wings of midnight bat, between the moonlight of thy Soul and thy great goal that loometh in the distance far away. Fear, O disciple, kills the will and stays all action. -- H. P. Blavatsky