Logic and Wisdom


Why did H.P.B. write in The Key to Theosophy, in the sub-section on "Theosophy and Education," about the value of logical thinking? She wrote there that true education "should produce the most vigorous and liberal mind, strictly trained in logical and accurate thought, and not in blind faith." She wrote also: "If we have to believe in a divine principle at all, it must be in one which is as absolute harmony, logic, and justice, as it is absolute love, wisdom, and impartiality."

Can we, by combining logic and wisdom, find a way to understand what logic is? Does it require us to proceed from universals to particulars or from particulars to universals, or to combine both procedures? Do we take one fundamental fact and try logically to fit other facts to it, or do we from the many facts logically determine the one source?

In this respect, it is interesting to read in Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge (page 58):

Q. Apparently, then, the whole basis of occultism lies in this, that there is latent within every man a power which can give him true knowledge, a power of perception of truth, which enables him to deal first hand with universals if he will be strictly logical and face the facts [Italics ours]. Thus we can proceed from universals to particulars by this innate spiritual force which is in every man.

A. Quite so: this power is inherent in all, but paralyzed by our methods of education, and especially by the Aristotelian and Baconian methods. Hypothesis now reigns triumphant.

The questioner goes on to say:

It is curious to read Schopenhauer and Hartmann and mark how, step by step, by strict logic and pure reason, they have arrived at the same bases of thought that had been centuries ago adopted in India, especially by the Vedantin system. It may, however, be objected that they have arrived at this by the inductive method. But in Schopenhauer's case at any rate it was not so. He acknowledges himself that the idea came to him like a flash; having thus got his fundamental idea he set to work to arrange his facts, so that the reader imagines that what was in reality an intuitive idea, is a logical deduction drawn from the facts.

H.P.B. adds:

This is not only true of the Schopenhauerian philosophy, but also of all the great discoveries of modern times. How, for instance, did Newton discover the law of gravity? Was it not by the simple fall of an apple, and not by an elaborate series of experiments?

Should, therefore, experiments be performed to prove a logical deduction from known facts instead of "to see what happens" as is so often the case? Is the latter the reason why, for instance, so many new drugs are discarded? Certain facts are observed and experiments are made without logical thought working to a conclusion by taking in all the known facts. A drug brings down the body's temperature. Logical thinking stops there, whereas the thought should be continued: What is the cause of the rise in temperature? What other symptoms are there? What organs are affected? What effect does the drug have on other organs? These questions are not logically worked out, but experiments are made to the detriment of so many men and animals. In the case of the drug thalidomide, used by pregnant women as a tranquillizer, did the manufacturers and the doctors who prescribed it try to find out logically what the result on the unborn child would be? No; one fact alone mattered to them: it was a tranquillizer. Are there not other methods, harmless to mother and unborn child, which would make the months of pregnancy pass smoothly? As it is, the result of indiscriminate administration of the drug has been that thousands of children were born limbless or otherwise deformed.

Do we not ourselves suffer in life through lack of logical thought which takes in all aspects of a subject?

Logic has to be such that it will bring us wisdom. And wisdom is not only the knowledge of all the facts of a case but also intuitive understanding of them. The question arises: How shall we reach intuition? Is it not reached by realizing that logically love produces harmony, justice produces impartiality? Both justice and love are built upon accuracy of detail; harmony is only possible by impartiality. Cogitation along these lines is very helpful.

Consideration of the First Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine is a good exercise in logical thinking. First we have the fact given us of the One Absolute principle, beyond human thought. We have to prove this to ourselves by logical thinking. Let us say to ourselves, "If this first fact is true, then this Absolute Principle must be the root of all. But, if it is beyond thought, it must be the unknown or rootless root. And, since we are dealing with the unthinkable ALL, there can be no attributes, for attributes can be thought of. Again, if it is the Absolute ALL, it cannot be affected in any way, for there are no parts in it to affect or to be affected by one another." We are forced, logically, to the conclusion that all we can say about it is, "IT IS" or, "It is Be-ness."

How shall we understand Be-ness? How shall we symbolize it? How shall we understand the ALL? We ask ourselves, "What is it that we know that is unaffected by anything within it, that has no limits, yet contains all?" We answer—"Space." But space can be measured as being the distance between objects in it, as far as we can see space. So we must stretch our idea of Space, and think of the absolute abstract conception of Space which is unthinkable, being unlimited, for thought divides as it deals with forms. In this way we get into the habit of logical thought.

It is also necessary to learn that logical thought is accurate thought. Hence we see the necessity of being accurate in learning our Fundamental Propositions. For example, if we do not see the straight, uninterrupted line of thought from the absolute Principle to the last phrase in the Third Fundamental, we have only grasped words and have not exercised logical thought. If in the Third Fundamental we miss the import of the two great phases of progress, first through natural impulse, and then through self-induced and self-devised efforts, we shall not understand how our goal is to be reached. If we forget that the progress of every being is "checked by its Karma," we miss the logical line of thought which would include Karma and Reincarnation as the necessary laws of our evolution. If we miss out the significant fact that each soul is one with the Universal Over-Soul, itself an aspect of the Unknown Root, we fail to see that logical line from the First to the Third Fundamental and our relationship to the ALL.

In ordinary life we often fail to work out our ideas to their logical conclusion and so get caught and say, "I did not intend this to be the result of what I did!" We do not consider the possible consequences of what we plan and we miss out vital facts so that even our premises are sometimes wrong.

When we find "misstatements" or "errors" in our Theosophical literature, they only seem to us so because we judge on insufficient knowledge. So often we pass on cursorily and say, "Oh, an error!" when a little logical thinking would show us otherwise. We need to remember that accurate logical thought leads us to knowledge. Combined with harmony-love and impartiality-justice, it will lead us to wisdom, i.e., the understanding of facts, not their mere collation.

Let us above all learn accuracy!




Before Pythagoras, the followers of science were called, not philosophers, but wise men....Pythagoras, being asked if he called himself a wise man, denied himself that name, and said that he was not wise, but a lover of wisdom. And thence it happened afterwards that all students of wisdom were called lovers of wisdom, that is, philosophers; for philo and sophia in Greek are equivalent to love and wisdom. Whence we may see that these two words make up the name philosopher, that is to say, lover of wisdom; which we may observe is not a term of arrogance, but of humility.

—Dante


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