The Middle Way Between
Blind Belief and Skepticism
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
In the first half of 21st century, our cultural and social environment promotes skepticism regarding ethical values and wisdom. At the same time, however, a new and different way of life emerges which is based on the notion of universal brotherhood, and stimulates in everyone’s consciousness the harmony of thought, feeling and action.
Just below the surface of human soul there is a significant amount of despondency and disbelief.  It results from an absence of wisdom. Its roots are relatively deep.  In order to eliminate the illusion of pessimism, it is not enough to make an effort to “think of something good”.
A religious belief that is blind and devoid of practice, and on the other hand a skepticism that is also unable to see, represent the two sides of the counterfeit coin called spiritual ignorance.
These extremes strengthen one another. Artificial faith in a personal God and superstitious practices constitute emotional mechanisms to escape from fear or despondency. There can be no real progress along these lines.
The present society is partially run by thoughtless machines and those who search for wisdom are not too numerous. They must challenge routine and refuse automatic belief with its ritualisms. Following an uphill path, they are self-responsible and adopt a universal vision. They make daily efforts in self-improvement and seek to attain altruistic goals. They find the source of blessings in a correct balance between the abstract and the concrete. Each one of them feels literally responsible for the future of the planet.
The friend of wisdom knows that whatever he sows, he harvests. And he is aware of the fact that whatever he does not sow, he does not harvest; except, perhaps, in appearance or in a passing way. The injustices one may suffer will be compensated in due time.
It is not worthwhile therefore to take anything that belongs to others, or feel envy regarding them. It is beneficial instead to sow good things, to plant the seeds of brotherhood and build a simple life, never looking for external applause. It is enough to seek for the approval of his conscience.
Learning from Defeat
Since the eighteenth century, many social movements have failed for one and simple reason. Instead of directly promoting brotherly consciousness and mutual help, they spread blind belief in an ideology, or a party, or institution. Their leaders postponed the building a solidary society and economy. They wanted to get to political power before changing society. They thought that it was necessary. Actually, they limited themselves to making propaganda.
As to dogmatic and centralized religions, for 2,000 years they have been largely defeated in their noble goals. Most religions followed a path similar to the Marxist road.  Instead of stimulating the practice of wisdom and ethics, they taught people to believe in words, in “sacred” images and rites. The theosophical movement is not above the problem. Due to the phenomenon of pseudo-theosophy, a vast number of theosophical associations suffer from the same disease.  
The moral failure of major idealistic movements and institutions has caused the material consumerism and skepticism we now see everywhere.  The main lesson is that words cannot replace action. No speech is stronger than the daily practice from which it emerges. We need to pay attention to what we do, and to the way we do things. We must also be vigilant as to what we think, and say.  
The cultural inheritance of religious dogmatism is multidimensional, and its paralysing effect is strong. From the ancient habit of separating words from actions spring the demagogues in politics, the professional gurus, pseudo-theosophical organizations and many a form of subtle self-delusion.
The citizens are seen by such “leaders” as a mass of clients and consumers. According to the warning in the New Testament (John, 2: 14-15), they are mainly interested in the credit cards of people. The merchants got control of the temple, and new age  teachers, avatars and priests sell supreme initiations for reasonable sums of money. They imitate the Catholic Middle Age tradition of selling indulgences and safe armchairs in Heaven to those who could pay for it. And there is no need to mention the current levels of corruption among the professional politicians in some countries. However, no form of ignorance can avoid the dawning of Ethics in the present century, which was predicted by Helena Blavatsky. [1]  
The Love for Truth Heals Human Soul
Selfishness is a disease of modern times and can be overcome. Regarding the distance between words and action, the social aspect of the soul healing is expressed in movements for voluntary simplicity, environment preservation, social justice, ethics in politics, cooperativism and other grassroots forms of mutual help.
These actions have been silently spreading through different countries and continents. It is easy to see why the big media tries to ignore them. On the ethical and spiritual realms, the healing comes through the direct individual living of the wisdom, which needs no mediation of organized creeds or centralized institutions.
The planetary citizenship emerges with a new form of spirituality which is actually ancient. In the 21st century, a thread of consistency – though imperfect and fragile –  starts to  unite  all aspects of life, economical, social, environmental and spiritual. The experimental way has life as its laboratory, and research constitutes one of its main priorities. Helena Blavatsky, who brought the philosophy needed for building the future civilization, reproduced in “Isis Unveiled” a couple of sentences from Narada, an ancient Hindu philosopher:
“Never utter these words: ‘I do not know this – therefore it is false’. One must study to know, know to understand, understand to judge.” [2]
To every friend of wisdom there is a practical advantage in adopting a philosophical teaching. If the teaching is true – an idea which must be duly examined – one’s belief in it will lead one to live according to its precepts; and this will produce good fruits in due time. One’s belief must be dynamic, open to the unknown and ready to be reformulated, as one makes progress in his daily efforts to get rid of illusions.   Every idea must be examined.
“Do the Masters of the Wisdom really exist?”, someone asks.  
If I  do not know about that, I will research and test the possibility of living in a wiser way by applying in my life the teachings given by them. 
“Is there a Law of Karma and Justice?”, another individual asks.  
I may see that the law is a fact if I observe its workings in daily life and realize that the teaching about it is present in every religion.
“Is there a law of reincarnation?”
Perhaps.  I will  investigate it. What hints and signs can I detect of its existence? Would it make sense to learn a significant part of the art of living in one incarnation, just to lose all lessons learned as I abandon the physical vehicle at the end of visible life? The idea is absurd.
“Nothing is created in nature, nothing is lost, everything is transformed, or recycled”, says the Law formulated by Lavoisier. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the Sun”, explains the Jewish Bible in Ecclesiastes, chapter one, making a clear reference to the Law of Cycles and Reincarnation.  
Effective forms of learning are usually gradual. One must gather evidences little by little and with patience, so as to attain a direct perception and not just believe in something. This axiom is true with regard to reincarnation and every other significant issue. One has to know at the same time that one’s vision is imperfect, and must be constantly tested and improved.
In philosophy, words are sacred tools for they are used in the search for truth. However, they are not above questioning. They do not constitute magical talismans in which one must thoughtlessly believe. The difference between  belief and direct perception is the great watershed. It is better to follow our own view, making mistakes and correcting them, than to believe something without the solid foundation given by experience, and learn nothing, or very little. One must listen to others, examine the various points of view and then make one’s own firm decision.
The way to learning is experimental and experiential. Life is an alchemical laboratory. We must test in the daily practice each thought we feel is true. With regard to the great universal axioms, students must use the combined methods of study, contemplation, analogy and inference. In due time an intuitive perception will emerge which will have to be regularly tested, and confirmed once and again by the observation of facts.
What does it mean then to be independent researchers?
It does not mean to stop acting in cooperation. It is not being egocentric. It is to think by oneself in the great questions of life. It is also following that which seems correct to us. It is to be independent with regard to the false consensuses based on blind belief and automatic skepticism which  surround us in “modern” life. Thus we silently help prepare the foundations of a brotherly civilization.
How then should I practice that in which I believe?
Nobody can decide that for me.
Up to what extent can I, or will I, live up to that which I believe?
It is up to me to answer that question. No other person can say what are the limits of my possibilities along the path to wisdom.
In any case, only a daily practice that is freely chosen can justify the fact of having a noble ideal in life. It does not matter whether the one’s self-discipline is “hard” or “moderate”. It must be adequate for us: feasible and with a degree of difficulty. From the living relation between ideal and practice, an inner peace and a well-being are produced that nothing can disturb.
[1] See part three of the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, Carlos Cardoso Aveline, The Aquarian Theosophist, 2013, pp.  191-255. The title of Part Three is “Looking Ahead: Towards 2075 and Beyond”.
[2] “Isis Unveiled”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, volume I, p. 628.
The above text is a translation from the Portuguese language article “O Caminho Experimental”, by CCA. The text is available at our associated websites.
In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.