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Theosophy

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satyān nāsti paro dharma

 

सत्यान्नास्ति परो धर्मः


Theosophy is the majestic wisdom-religion of the archaic ages and is as old as thinking man. It was delivered to the first … thinking human beings on this earth, by highly intelligent spiritual entities from superior spheres. This ancient doctrine, this esoteric system, has been passed down from guardians to guardians to guardians through innumerable generations until our own time. Furthermore, portions of this original and majestic system have been given out at various periods of time to various races in various parts of the world by those guardians when humanity stood in need of such extension and elaboration of spiritual and intellectual thought.

Theosophy is not a syncretistic philosophy-religion-science, a system of thought or belief which has been put together piecemeal and consisting of parts or portions taken by some great mind from other various religions or philosophies. This idea is false. On the contrary, theosophy is that single system or systematic formulation of the facts of visible and invisible nature which, as expressed through the illuminated human mind, takes the apparently separate forms of science and of philosophy and of religion. We may likewise describe theosophy to be the formulation in human language of the nature, structure, origin, destiny, and operations of the kosmical universe and of the multitudes of beings which infill it.’

– Gottfried de Purucker

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Theosophy mean ‘divine wisdom,’ ‘wisdom of the gods’ (theoi) or ‘God’ (theos). It is the wisdom studied and taught by those who have transcended common human knowledge and have acquired a direct insight in the nature of the universe and nature. It is the knowledge behind every genuine religion and spiritual philosophical system the world has known, knows and will know. It is the core of wisdom which is the hidden truth within every phenomenon and being.

The logo[1] chosen by  the Theosophical Society contains the phrase There is no Religion Higher than Truth. This is a translation from the Sanskrit satyān nāsti paro dharmaḥ The word ‘religion’ is the most used translation of the Sanskrit concept ‘dharma’ in this connection, but it has a wide range of meanings. Dharma in derived from ‘dhṛ’ (dhri) which means ‘to support.’ Dharma is variously interpreted as religion per se (not religion), as ‘the spiritual support of life,’ ‘virtue’ ‘the basis on which all other truths rest,’ as ‘duty’ or ‘innate duty’ or ‘task’ of ‘specific spiritual task for every individual living being or group of living beings’, ‘morality.’ Dharma can also be translated as ‘object.’ In Buddhism ‘dharma’ is ‘the good doctrine’, i.e. the totality of teachings of the Enlightened beings. It is therefore worthwhile pondering privately about wide spectrum of meaning to the logo ‘There is no religion higher than dharma.’ It is also the basis of theosophical ethics: The Truth is the only value theosophists search for, the ultimate basis of all their activities and teachings, and their reliability in affairs of the mind as well as worldly affairs. There is no ethics higher than Truth.’

Truth, Satya, however transcends the limitations of the human mind – it is the ultimate divine essence and basis of all, and no individual theosophist or other being can claim to ‘possess’ the truth. Human beings have manifold approaches, characters, understandings, and they have founded numerous religions. The result of the proposition of Truth is therefore unlimited tolerance and respect for other’s ideas, and brotherly effort to penetrate to deeper levels of understanding by joint efforts. All genuine religions, spiritual philosophical systems and occult sciences have their root in Satya.

Theosophy is a term used in the Greek inspired world for over millennia, and has synonyms in other languages. The modern Theosophical Society was founded in 1875, to remind the world once again of the existence of universal truth and its all-supportive influence throughout the ages. Theosophy in its true meaning is beyond dogma, beyond any established religion, but rejects nor despises any of them. One can be a theosophist and adherent to any religion, or no religion, at the same time.

The Theosophical Movement. The founders behind the Theosophical Society were a small number of oriental teachers, who, on basis of their knowledge of cyclic influences on the evolution of humankind and their culture, wished to give humankind a new spiritual impulse – which meant both reinstating ancient universal wisdom by revealing their essence rather than their forms, and unveiling certain truths which had until then be hidden for humankind at large, thus adding to the occult knowledge available for our further development and support for our own and future cultures.

These oriental founders (though not all of them were oriental by geography) became known as ‘Masters’ or ‘Mahatmas’ (literally ‘great souls’) and are from an eastern point of view bodhisattvas – advanced (but, by nature, not faultless) human beings whose very essence is bodhi – wisdom or enlightenment. The very motivation to do this, as it always is with like efforts, was compassion: heartfelt understanding of the problems with which humankind is struggling, and they do so by teaching in a modern form as much of the perennial knowledge as humankind can handle and use for good purposes.

These Masters are usually called Masters of Wisdom and Compassion. Sometimes ‘Peace’ is added. Therefore wisdom and compassion, and peace are, besides Truth, core terms of Theosophy and theosophists.

A Theosophist seeks true, universal, eternal wisdom and knowledge, and practices compassion for humanity, indeed for all living beings.

The outer Theosophical Society was formally established in New York by a group of interested students, and of which Henry Steel Olcott (August 2, 1832 – February 17, 1907)) became President for life, Mme. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831 -1891) took the function of ‘Corresponding Secretary’ and William Quan Judge (April 13, 1851 – March 21, 1896) was co-founder. Blavatsky, a Ukrainian born lady (from the city of Ekaterinoslav, also known as Dnepropetrovsk), was the  ‘messenger’ and occultly trained pupil of the Masters for fulfilling this task of extreme self-sacrifice in the world. The inner initiative came from the Oriental teachers, who mostly stayed on the background, and who have become known as ‘Masters’ or ‘Mahatmas’

The Theosophical Society has a number of objects which reflect its purpose and intention:

(there are various formulations which differ slightly, but not in principle)

  • To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or   color.
  • To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science.
  • To investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.

It has also been phrased as:

1. To diffuse amongst men a knowledge of the Laws inherent in the Universe.
2. To promulgate the knowledge of the essential unity of what is fundamental in nature.
3. To form an active Brotherhood amongst men.
4. To study the ancient and modern religions, sciences and philosophies.
5. To investigate the powers innate in man.

It has been added that ‘no doctrine, no opinion, by whomsoever taught or held, is in any way binding’ for someone who wishes to call him- or herself a theosophist. At the same time, theosophical literature is full of doctrine concerning the fundamental processes in the cosmos, scientific issues, (ancient) symbolism and the purpose of life. These were given to us by mentioned Masters as a support, as a very useful basis for consideration and further development of humanity, last but not least the development of scientific thinking. Studying these doctrines is of great value for the individual and for humankind at large. They represent a part of the universal dharma or support for the development of the human mind. However, should any doctrine be taken for granted or being transformed into a dogma, we would reach the opposite of what is our purpose: we would create stagnation instead of freedom, and put barricades on the road to ultimate truth and understanding. Only the free human mind with its innate powers – many of which are too subtle to belong to general awareness – can  penetrate beyond the limits of restrictions.

The (genderless) term ‘Brotherhood’ signifies our common ‘parent’ or source as individual; but in essence it refers to all manifestations of Universal Mind – which are non-separate, in other words, all beings. We can regard each of us as pilgrims towards self-conscious knowledge of our source. This implies that, whatever mistakes we make and others make, we remain brothers as a natural fact, and we have the duty, not to correct, despise, let alone scold others, but by in ourselves, with the best of our mind and the purest of our intuition, to seek Truth and to live pure according to that truth.

When human individuals grow in the understanding of the depths of their own creed and those of others, we will naturally approach realization of universal religion – however kaleidoscopic its forms of expression. Studying the essences of various religions ultimately leads to heartfelt and true (not imposed) brotherhood. At the same time we will notice that the understanding of our own creeds deepens, and that they contain layer of truth which have so far gone unnoticed – but nevertheless were given to us hundreds or thousands of years ago by our own preceptors: genuine prophets, messiahs, buddhas, avataras or of whatever type they were, and whatever names they may have received. Some may have given more than others according to time and people’s receptivity and intelligence, some teachers have veiled or unveiled some of their teachings more than others, and all did there work in the right way. Each of them had a task to fulfill for the combined compassionate and wise efforts of the gods to help humankind. This is how most theosophists think about these matters.

The comparative study of religions and ideas of ancient and modern cultures leads to distillation of the universal from the temporary. Truth is Truth, independent of the form in which teachers have poured it – and that is where a genuine seeker searches for, without stain. Moreover such study leads to respect for each other’s ideas, recognizing the depth in each of the systems, makes us approach the same universal verities from different viewpoints, and leads to universal tolerance. Even such seemingly unbridgeable differences in view as ‘God the Creator’ (of the Semitic Religions), versus polytheism as in Hinduism and the total rejection of a God and a Creator in Buddhism and Jainism as taught by great religious teachers against different cultural context are not contradictory, if one understands the real meaning of the teachings.

The third object of the Theosophical Society to investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.

This is the same as regular science does. But here is meant in the first place the occult laws of nature and the occult powers innate in man. The prevailing physical sciences of our days tend to limit themselves to the study of physical matter, and tries to explain all phenomena of existence from the properties of this physical matter. Even if science studies the soul and the mind, it usually looks to the outward phenomena only, without coming to an in-depth understanding of the wholeness of trans physical nature. Theosophy proves beyond doubt that ‘there is more under (and above) the sun than physical matter alone.’ Much more. If we want to reach real understanding of nature, the universe, and the human being, we should not hesitate to search deeper, and loosen our hold on the predominant biases of materialistic science, first by study of ancient scriptures, and secondly by careful and truthful experimentation based on scriptural knowledge. This will take time, much time, and utmost care and ask responsibility. There exist other forms of matter than physical matter – and knowledge of these can lead us to correct knowledge and understanding of the relation between life and death, ‘other’ states of consciousness, nature’s forces, the meaning of ‘the divine,’ ‘the magical’ or ‘miraculous.’ Ultimately nothing is ‘otherworldly.’ All in the universe, outer and inner can be known by humanity, and humanity will become acquainted with the total universe during his evolution. According to theosophical teachings we are only in the beginning state of development of the mind, and we know almost nothing compared to what we will know.

Theosophy before Blavastky

The term ‘theosophy’ was not invented by the founders of The Theosophical Society. It was, as far as known, first used in the modern sense of the word as  θεοσοφία by Ammonius Saccas  who worked in Alexandria. An article will be published shortly on this site about Theosophy before Blavatsky.

The above was a very brief outline of the general meaning of Theosophy and the purposes of the Theosophical effort.

“The operations of the human consciousness are threefold, if you analyse them carefully; and these threefold operations men have designated by the words RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY and SCIENCE. They are not fundamentally three different things, but they are like three sides of a triangular pyramid, or like three views or ways of looking at Truth. Religion sees one side. Science sees another side, and Philosophy sees a third side; and their unified vision proclaims the recondite facts of being. We cannot separate them, it is unnatural to do so, and it is for that reason that the Theosophist flatly refuses to do so.” [Man in Evolutionpp. 15-16]

See further

Articles on Theosophy

Of special interest:

Literature

 

Detailed Table of Contents

  1. see article The Seal of The Theosophical Society [<<]