The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
August 2004 Vol. 7 Issue 6
Theosophy is not something new; it is not the invention of one or two men or women, either modern or ancient; it is not a progressive system which is subject to change from day to day, following upon experiments in the realm of science, where any morning we may wake up to find that that which we had thought to be Truth has actually had to be changed, modified, or altered. A passage from our teachings will show you in language much better than I could employ, just where Theosophy comes from:
Theosophy is the primeval one truth taught humanity in the infancy of its races by every first messenger -- the Planetary Spirit whose remembrance lingers in the memory of mankind as Elu of the Chaldees, Osiris the Egyptian, Vishnu, and the first Buddhas -- for there was a primeval revelation and it still exists; nor will it ever be lost to the world but will reappear. The wisdom religion has been esoteric in all ages: it was ever one and the same and being the last word of possible human knowledge was therefore carefully preserved. It is the substratum and basis of all the world-religions and philosophies -- but its doctrines are the exclusive possession of none of them. They are the birthright of every human soul and pertain exclusively to man's knowledge of his own nature and the higher life of the soul. It was the universally diffused religion of the ancient and prehistoric world. Proof of its diffusion, authentic records of its history, a complete chain of documents, showing its character and presence in every land, together with the teaching of its great adepts, exist to this day in the secret crypts and libraries belonging to the Occult Fraternity.
This ancient wisdom which was preserved by the elect of mankind literally
from the birth of humanity on this planet, has been
restated for us by one of that Brotherhood who was sent to the Western world,
and whom we know as H. P. Blavatsky. It was she who
founded the Theosophical Society and gave Theosophy to us. Now this does not
mean that Theosophy is limited to the writings of Blavatsky.
That is not true. You will find the literary records of Theosophy spread
everywhere. For example, you will find traces of Theosophy amongst the writings
of the early Christian Fathers; you will find it in the teachings of Jesus in
the New Testament; you will find it in the Egyptian "Book of the
Dead," and in the teachings, literally, of all the great sages and seers
that the world has ever known. You will find Theosophy in the Upanishads of
And yet, strange as they may appear, the writings of Blavatsky were not the mere synthesis, if you understand me, of what those different religions contained — and this is a very important point. They derive from the mother-root from which these great teachings originally came. I want to emphasize this because Theosophy itself is the esoteric doctrine, the truth about mankind and the universe; the truth about the human soul and its pilgrimage, and what we are here for, and what the whole universe is about. These truths are preserved by a living Brotherhood of holy men, and it was that Brotherhood from whom came the great teachers. It is that Brotherhood which is the root from which all the great religions sprang — a root imbedded in the consciousness of living man. -- A. Trevor Barker
We will continue reading and discussing the Tao Teh Ching by Lao-tzu, beginning with verse 15. Those attending are encouraged to bring any translation of this Chinese classic that appeals to them, and we will compare the various versions when they differ. Extra copies will be available for use at the meeting.
Feel free to drop in at any meeting!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
Our topic this month is "Can Truth Be Found?" We will be discussing such questions as: How does truth relate to opinion, belief, knowledge, and wisdom? Is it outside us or within? Is it the same for all or different for each person? Is it absolute or relative? How can we recognize it and know we have found it? What do the world's religions, philosophies, and sciences say about truth and the methods of obtaining it? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
September 16: Moving towards Brotherhood
October: The Infinity Within
November: What Is Theosophy?
The topics for the monthly discussions are chosen by members of the Northwest Branch. If there is a subject that particularly interests you, or if you have ideas or suggestions about the meetings, please do not hesitate to email or mail them to the Branch or to mention them after the meetings.
There is but one cosmos. There can be but one fundamental truth about that cosmos. -- G. de Purucker
In pondering the question "What is truth?" we can arrive at only a broad conception of what it is. Truth with a capital T may be defined as Reality with a capital R. The Oxford English Dictionary defines truth as "agreement with reality"; it must agree, for the two are essentially one. So, what is reality? The OED definition is "that which underlies and is the truth of appearances and phenomena."
Perhaps there is a great or absolute Truth which we can never know. We do know certain things, however, so there must be relative truths -- truths which we can perceive even in this world of appearances and illusion (maya). A maxim in the Persian Javidan Khirad reads: "Truth is of two kinds -- one manifest and self-evident; the other demanding inces-santly new demonstrations and proofs." The latter will in time become universally obvious, and then the two will once more be one.
James A. Long described truth as the horizon that "ever eludes us but is always before us":
When we want to know what is beyond the horizon, we travel the road that leads toward it. But when we arrive, the horizon has moved on; and it will always move on. Just so with truth: we shall never reach the "last horizon," because there will always be another and another. -- Expanding Horizons, p. 64
Truth has at times been equated with dogma -- a word with a long history. Originally from the Greek dokein, "to seem," dogma has come to mean a doctrine authoritatively imposed or established. It is what in mathematics would be considered a "closed set." This is obviously counter to an "open set" in which one could add new, or delete invalid, information as circumstances require. Even in its technical teachings theosophy is wholly non-dogmatic and its students subscribe to the statement made by Jesus: "If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not" (John 12:47). Each one of us must find the key of nature within and test the knowledge of the world for ourselves, as the sages do with esoteric truths. Every human being has within himself the touchstone by which to test reality.
What then is proof and why is it so important? Proof may be defined as conclusive evidence. We need, however, to be careful of the validity of the evidence for it can con-found and even destroy earthly lives. Our inner touchstone can become our true guide in life; it should not be able to be swayed as our intellect can be when working alone, divorced from that inner guidance. There is an infallible test, according to G. de Purucker, by which to judge any teaching -- this test is universality. If a teaching is true in all contexts, under all conditions, in all aspects of nature, to all major philosophic and religious insights, then it must be true in principle. This means agreement at the heart of things and on all levels. Verse 54 of the Dhammapada states:
The fragrance of flowers does not travel against the wind, be it that of sandalwood, of tagara, or jasmine. But the fragrance of the virtuous man travels even against the wind. The virtuous man pervades all directions with his purity. -- Canto 4, trans. H. Kaviratna
Nature, universal nature, operates by laws regardless of any teaching being true or false; yet it is the true conception thereof, the wonderfully beautiful one, which we will see forever. To see the beauty of the universe is to catch a glimpse of truth. As John Keats wrote in his "Ode on a Grecian Urn":
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," -- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
There is more courage in facing the world with undisguised truth, than in descending into a wild beast's den. -- Eastern Wisdom