Theosophy and the Theosophical Society

BAC H.P. Blavatsky to the American Conventions 1888-1891, TUP, 1979
BCW H.P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings, TPH, 1950-91
Echoes    Echoes of the Orient, W.Q. Judge, PLP, 1975-87
EST Esoteric Teachings, G. de Purucker, PLP, 1987
FSO Fountain-Source of Occultism, G. de Purucker, TUP, 1974
Key The Key to Theosophy, H.P. Blavatsky, TUP, 1972 (1889)
LHM Letters That Have Helped Me, W.Q. Judge, TUP, 1981 (1891)
ML The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, A. Trevor Barker (comp.), TUP, 2nd ed., 1926
Ocean The Ocean of Theosophy, W.Q. Judge, TUP, 1973 (1893)
OG Occult Glossary, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1996
TG Theosophical Glossary, H.P. Blavatsky, Theos. Co., 1973 (1892)
WoH The Wisdom of the Heart, Katherine Tingley, PLP, 1978

Theosophy: A compound Greek word: theos, a “divine being,” a “god”; sophia, “wisdom”; hence divine wisdom. Theosophy is the majestic wisdom-religion of the archaic ages and is as old as thinking man. It was delivered to the first human protoplasts, 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.’ (OG 176-7)

    ‘Theosophy is that ocean of knowledge which spreads from shore to shore of the evolution of sentient beings; unfathomable in its deepest parts, it gives the greatest minds their fullest scope, yet, shallow enough at its shores, it will not overwhelm the understanding of a child. . . . Embracing both the scientific and the religious, theosophy is a scientific religion and a religious science.
    ‘It is not a belief or dogma formulated or invented by man, but is a knowledge of the laws which govern the evolution of the physical, astral, psychical, and intellectual constituents of nature and of man.’ (Ocean 1)

    ‘Theosophy is . . . the archaic wisdom-religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims to civilization.’ (BCW 2:89) ‘[It is] the substratum and basis of all the world-religions and philosophies, taught and practised by a few elect ever since man became a thinking being. In its practical bearing, theosophy is purely divine ethics . . .’ (TG 328)

    ‘Theosophy, broadly stated, is universal brotherhood; . . . the effort to convert our lower nature into higher nature, and thus to aid in the great process of evolution going on throughout the macrocosm.’ (Echoes 3:128)

    ‘Theosophy was once the universal religion of mankind, and it is destined to be the universal religion of the future. Even now its great principles are permeating thought and action everywhere . . . Theosophy is the essence of all religions. It satisfies the intellect; it is logical, scientific and clear; and it steals into the heart with its message of brotherliness and compassion like the aroma of a flower . . . The teachings of theosophy alone can bring hope to poor, storm-tossed humanity. . . .
    ‘Think of theosophy not so much as a body of philosophic or other teaching, but as the highest law of conduct, which is the enacted expression of divine love or compassion. . . .
    ‘Universal brotherhood has no creeds or dogmas. It is built on the basis of common sense. It teaches that man is divine, that the soul of man is imperishable, and that brotherhood is a fact in nature, and consequently takes in all humanity. . . .
    ‘Theosophists are striving to attract the attention of humanity to a consciousness of the essential divinity of man. Our purpose is . . . to show humanity that there is an open door to the path of peace and of success – moral and spiritual success. That door can be found through the study of theosophy and its application in daily life. If one lives a true, noble, unselfish, clean, intelligent life, he is a theosophist.’ (WoH 71-2, 77, 90)

    ‘. . . Theosophy is not a religion, we say, but RELIGION itself, the one bond of unity, which is so universal and all-embracing that no man, as no speck – from gods and mortal down to animals, the blade of grass and atom – can be outside of its light. Therefore, any organization or body of that name must necessarily be a UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD. . . .
    ‘The genesis of that WISDOM-RELIGION in which all theosophists believe, dates from [the earlier races]. So-called “occultism,” or rather esoteric science, has to be traced in its origin to those beings who, led by karma, have incarnated in our humanity, and thus struck the key-note of that secret science which countless generations of subsequent adepts have expanded since then in every age, while they checked its doctrines by personal observation and experience. . . . Beings from other and higher worlds may have it entire; we can have it only approximately. . . .
    ‘Every . . . religion, or religious offshoot, be it considered orthodox or heretical, wise or foolish, started originally as a clear and unadulterated stream from the mother-source. The fact that each became in time polluted with purely human speculations and even inventions, due to interested motives, does not prevent any from having been pure in its early beginnings. . . .
    ‘. . . Theosophy claims to be both “RELIGION” and “SCIENCE,” for theosophy is the essence of both. . . . Truth is one, even if sought for or pursued at two different ends. . . . [Religion and science] can be reconciled on the condition that both shall clean their houses, one from the human dross of the ages, the other from the hideous excrescence of modern materialism and atheism. . . .
    ‘[Theosophy] is divine science and a code of ethics so sublime that no theosophist is capable of doing it justice . . .’ (BCW 10:163, 166-7, 171-3)

    ‘. . . Theosophy is the shoreless ocean of universal truth, love, and wisdom, reflecting its radiance on the earth, while the Theosophical Society is only a visible bubble on that reflection. Theosophy is divine nature, visible and invisible, and its Society human nature trying to ascend to its divine parent. Theosophy, finally, is the fixed eternal sun, and its Society the evanescent comet trying to settle in an orbit to become a planet, ever revolving within the attraction of the sun of truth. It was formed to assist in showing to men that such a thing as theosophy exists, and to help them to ascend towards it by studying and assimilating its eternal verities. . . .
    ‘Theosophy, on earth, is like the white ray of the spectrum, and every religion only one of the seven prismatic colours. Ignoring all the others, and cursing them as false, every special coloured ray claims not only priority, but to be that white ray itself, and anathematizes even its own tints from light to dark, as heresies. Yet, as the sun of truth rises higher and higher on the horizon of man’s perceptions, and each coloured ray gradually fades out until it is finally re-absorbed in its turn, humanity will at last be cursed no longer with artificial polarizations, but will find itself bathing in the pure colourless sunlight of eternal truth. And this will be Theosophia.’ (Key 57-8)

    The three objectives of the Theosophical Society are: 1. to form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour; 2. to encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science; 3. to investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.

    ‘The very root idea of the [Theosophical] Society is free and fearless investigation.’ (BCW 2:102)

    ‘Orthodoxy in theosophy is a thing neither possible nor desirable. It is diversity of opinion, within certain limits, that keeps the Theosophical Society a living and a healthy body . . .
    ‘According as people are prepared to receive it, so will new theosophical teaching be given. But no more will be given than the world, on its present level of spirituality, can profit by. It depends on the spread of theosophy – the assimilation of what has been already given – how much more will be revealed, and how soon.
    ‘It must be remembered that the Society was not founded as a nursery for forcing a supply of occultists – as a factory for the manufacture of adepts. It was intended to stem the current of materialism, and also that of spiritualistic phenomenalism and the worship of the dead. It had to guide the spiritual awakening that has now begun, and not to pander to psychic cravings which are another form of materialism. . . .
    ‘Many who have never heard of the Society are theosophists without knowing it themselves; for the essence of theosophy is the perfect harmonizing of the divine with the human in man, the adjustment of his god-like qualities and aspirations, and their sway over the terrestrial or animal passions in him. Kindness, absence of every ill feeling or selfishness, charity, good-will to all beings, and perfect justice to others as to one’s self, are its chief features. He who teaches theosophy preaches the gospel of good-will; and the converse of this is true also – he who preaches the gospel of good-will, teaches theosophy. . . .
    ‘Theosophists are of necessity the friends of all movements in the world, whether intellectual or simply practical, for the amelioration of the conditions of mankind. We are the friends of all those who fight against drunkenness, against cruelty to animals, against injustice to women, against corruption in society or in government, although we do not meddle in politics. We are the friends of those who exercise practical charity, who seek to lift a little of the tremendous weight of misery that is crushing down the poor. But, in our quality of theosophists, we cannot engage in any one of these great works in particular. As individuals we may do so, but as theosophists we have a larger, more important, and much more difficult work to do. . . . The function of theosophists is to open men’s hearts and understandings to charity, justice, and generosity . . . Theosophy teaches the animal-man to be a human-man; and when people have learnt to think and feel as truly human beings should feel and think, they will act humanely, and works of charity, justice, and generosity will be done spontaneously by all.’ (BAC 5-8 / BCW 9:243-7)

    ‘[T]he ethics of theosophy are more important than any divulgement of psychic laws and facts. The latter relate wholly to the material and evanescent part of the septenary man, but the ethics sink into and take hold of the real man – the reincarnating ego. We are outwardly creatures of but a day; within we are eternal. Learn, then, well the doctrines of karma and reincarnation, and teach, practice, promulgate that system of life and thought which alone can save the coming races. Do not work merely for the Theosophical Society, but through it for humanity.’ (BAC 29-30 / BCW 12:156)

    ‘If theosophy prevailing in the struggle, its all-embracing philosophy strikes deep root into the minds and hearts of men, if its doctrines of reincarnation and karma, in other words, of hope and responsibility, find a home in the lives of the new generations, then, indeed, will dawn the day of joy and gladness for all who now suffer and are outcast. For real theosophy is ALTRUISM, and we cannot repeat it too often. It is brotherly love, mutual help, unswerving devotion to truth. If once men do but realize that in these alone can true happiness be found, and never in wealth, possessions, or any selfish gratification, then the dark clouds will roll away, and a new humanity will be born upon earth. Then, the GOLDEN AGE will be there, indeed.
    ‘But if not, then the storm will burst, and our boasted western civilization and enlightenment will sink in such a sea of horror that its parallel history has never yet recorded.’ (BCW 11:202)

    ‘Union is strength. It is by gathering many theosophists of the same way of thinking into one or more groups, and making them closely united by the same magnetic bond of fraternal unity and sympathy that the objects of mutual development and progress in theosophical thought may be best achieved. . . . “[W]here two or three are gathered” in the name of the SPIRIT OF TRUTH – there that spirit of theosophy will be in the midst of them.
    ‘[T]he T.S. cannot be destroyed as a body. . . . [N]either friend nor enemy can ruin that which is doomed to exist, all the blunders of its leaders notwithstanding. That which was generated through and founded by the “high masters” and under their authority if not their instruction – MUST AND WILL LIVE. Each of us and all will receive his or her karma in it, but the vehicle of theosophy will stand indestructible and undestroyed by the hand of man or fiend. . . .
    ‘Belief in the masters was never made an article of faith in the T.S. But for its founders, the commands received from them when it was established have ever been sacred. And this is what one of them wrote in a letter preserved to this day: “Theosophy must not represent merely a collection of moral verities, a bundle of metaphysical ethics epitomized in theoretical dissertations. Theosophy must be made practical, and has, therefore, to be disencumbered of useless discussion . . . It has to find objective expression in an all-embracing code of life thoroughly impregnated with its spirit – the spirit of mutual tolerance, charity and love.” ’ (BCW 7:160-1, 164-5, 169-70)

    ‘[T]he masters have said this is a transition age . . . We are working for the new cycles and centuries. . . . Hence we are not working for some definite organisation of the new years to come, but for a change in the manas and buddhi of the race.’ (LHM 2:8)

    Mahatma KH: ‘The chiefs want a “brotherhood of humanity,” a real universal fraternity started; an institution which would make itself known throughout the world and arrest the attention of the highest minds.’ (ML 24)

    ‘[T]he present theosophical movement was intended to be the spiritual-intellectual nursery from which will be born the great philosophical and religious and scientific systems of future ages – indeed, the heart of the civilizations of the coming cycles.
    ‘In every important age, theosophical movements in various parts of the globe have been founded. A few succeeded; most of them lived for a while, did some good, achieved a certain amount of the work that was to be done, and then failed, becoming a church, a sect, a dogmatic set of beliefs. Such periodic efforts to instill into men’s hearts the ageless verities will continue throughout future time, until human beings shall have so evolved that they will welcome light when it comes, and will honor it as the most precious gift that they have.
    ‘Thus it was that in 1875 two men of buddha-like soul took upon their shoulders the challenge of making themselves karmically responsible in a sense for the sending out of a new message which, by the force of its innate vigor and the persuasive power of its truths, would induce men to think. From then on science began to have stirrings of new ideas; fresh impulses were injected into the thought-atmosphere of the world and, not least, the ideal of working toward an eventual universal brotherhood among all peoples took firm hold. The chief objective was to have these ancient spiritual principles work as a leaven in human thought, in the religious and philosophical strata and, ultimately, in the social structure itself. H.P. Blavatsky was inspired to write her masterworks, Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine – not for the purpose of founding another religion, but to restate once again and in fuller measure the archaic wisdom-tradition of mankind in its more esoteric aspects. As such, she was one of the links in the serial line of teachers who come at certain stated periods for the passing on of esoteric light and truth. She came at the beginning of a new messianic cycle and the ending of an old one, and thus was the messenger for the age to come.’ (FSO 5-6)

    ‘It is the duty of the T.S. to continue to be the leader in the thoughts of men, to carry on the work which H.P.B. did, and to keep the link with the Lodge unbroken. H.P.B. did what she had to do; and what we are doing is merely carrying on the same building of the Temple of Truth in which, so it is hoped, will live as realities for ages the living spirit of love and wisdom, the new religion of mankind. . . .
    ‘[A] new era, psychical and physical, is opening for mankind. Great events are in the making today. There will soon be a need for men and women of outstanding spiritual power and of intellectual force, and the masters are preparing for this need. . . . The teachings that you have been receiving are such as have not been divulged for tens of thousands of years in the past, except under the most stringent and rigid conditions . . .
     ‘[T]he first rule of chelaship is “To live to benefit mankind,” combined with a pure life, a clean heart, an eager intellect, an unveiled spiritual perception. Where these are, there you will find the masters with you.’ (EST 2:102-3, 108)

compiled by David Pratt. January 1998.

Studying theosophy

Key concepts of theosophy