By Dorothy Le —
Theosophy was founded in the 19th century and can be traced back to ancient Gnosticism and Neoplatonism. Their philosophy holds the beliefs that one can experience a deeper spiritual reality through meditation and revelation. They also believe that all religions on the outside may appear different, but the core of each religion is the same and are one.
Wes Amerman is a representative of Theosophy, and Religio had a chance to speak with him during a religious discussion at The World Alliance of Religions’ Peace (WARP) Office, which was held at the University of California, Irvine. Organized by the nonprofit peace group HWPL, the WARP office is “a forum for dialogue centering on world peace in interfaith relations and scriptural texts.”
Religio Magazine: Can you share about your role in Theosophy?
Wes Amerman: Most theosophists consider themselves students rather than spiritual instructors. The authority really lies within each individual. I came here to learn and when I learn something, I pass it on to someone else. All the great teachers took that approach. They refer to those that come before them.
By following the paths that all these leaders have shown us, it takes away the issue of authority. So much of religion is based on authority. Think about the abuses of religion. That’s why young people don’t want anything to do with religion, because it has been used to dominate and control.
It doesn’t mean that religion wasn’t true, but these institutions come along with goals and purposes that have nothing to do with what the teachers say. We have people going to war and yet they all pray to what they say is the same God. However, Theosophy points to all the great teachers of the world and say, “let’s study ourselves and discover the spiritual possibilities of human beings.”
We must tear away those outer forms and find a common thread that these teachings share and find truth. If it is true, it’s going to agree with what is true, no matter who said it. We have to find those principals, and that’s what Theosophy teaches, and once we have those universal principals, everything else will fall into place.
What we first need a conception of God, so that it won’t allow people to use it to control other people. The more universal it is, the less there is something that I can claim or you can claim. We also need an idea of cycle, and cause and effect, of justice and karma. Once we figure out the universal principles, we can have dialogues like this. It has always been a struggle, with people trying to figure out how to communicate. It’s not easy because we haven’t done it.
The three main cores of Theology are to form a unity and brotherhood, study religion, philosophy, and science, and investigate the laws of nature and powers within mankind. Even though these are universal cores which will benefit each person, why is it so hard to accomplish for some? We don’t know how to practice peace. We just know how to go to war. There’s a lot of money for war. Where is the money for peace?
The real battle is within ourselves. That’s where the real war is and that’s what scriptures teach us. We only have a vague sense of what is possible, which is why it’s good to study the lives of Jesus, Buddha, Prophet Muhammad, study the best people you can find.
Those are the people who will help us resolve the conflict, and that conflict is the core of every human being. Also, we don’t know our own history. We don’t know our own personal lineage, or our own culture except pop culture. We don’t know our own religions and how much they have changed over the years.
Imagine the difference between the Christianity today and Christianity from 200 A.D. It’s huge. And since we don’t know our own background, we don’t have a scale of time that gives us room to imagine what it is, and we think “well, civilization has been around for a couple of thousand years.” Well maybe not. I suspect we have been around a lot longer, and that’s what Theosophy teaches.
RM: How do you see Theosophy fitting into the WARP offices?
WA: We aren’t here just to learn about religions but we are here to learn about spiritual ideas, in terms of human possibility, universal principles. We will discover where our roots are. We have to dig into religions to see what they really mean, what has been covered up. Most of the world is covered up and we just see the outside of it. We don’t understand what it is on the inside.
RM: We’ve heard a lot of people talking about how valuable this platform is and the work of HWPL. From your own standpoint and that of Theosophy, what value does HWPL have for you?
WA: Any group that works for the brotherhood of humanity is what we call Theosophical Moment. It is any effort to end the suffering of individuals, and also any group that works to further a dialogue, and is contributing constructively to the human family.
The real principle is universal brotherhood and I think that is what HWPL does and what the WARP offices are doing, which is all for one purpose.
RM: As an interfaith publication, we would like to follow this work and see how religions would be working together. How do you plan to work with HWPL including all the religions here, and what do you hope to achieve?
WA: It really is about learning about ideas and principles. I want to do everything I can to support that. I’m looking for a chance to somehow be useful. And to help this process of getting together is worth supporting and it’s a good dialogue. HWPL can have all of their own perspectives but it’s an honest one. They are very clear on what their background is. And they are willing to open up and say, “Hey, we have some different people here.” And I have seen people of all different religions come and I am very pleased to see them coming back.
RM: What do you think Theosophy and other religions here must do to really help in the work of establishing peace?
WA: It’s a slow progress. Plato once said “Ideas rule the world.” So whatever ideas are out there, with these kinds of dialogues or discussions, if those ideas are made real, then it furthers that cause for brotherhood, peace, whatever you’d like to call it. What do you have to do? Make sure we establish our fundamental principles. Figure out what the real basis is and work from there. Be as unselfish as we can be, and be willing to listen to other people’s perspective.
But there has to be a real dialogue. It may not start out perfect, but it doesn’t mean that it is not worth doing. It’s worth trying. The alternative is division, bloodshed, war, all the bad things that happen when these dialogues don’t happen. These types of dialogues need to be encouraged. Tell everyone, “Get with the program!” Go out and talk to people with different views but still find a common ground. Peace takes work. It means you get beat up sometimes…
What do we do with our great spiritual leaders? We assassinate them. We string them up, just like Jesus Christ. They are all in some way crucified, literally or figuratively, for being who they are and for taking those kinds of risk. And in some cultures, it is dangerous to do what we are doing here. It’s a risk but we need to take those kinds of risks. We haven’t come together properly to discuss how to achieve peace. It really is for the future of humanity.