What is Theosophy?

By Lo Guest

First and foremost let me assure you that Theosophy is not just another dry, dusty "Philosophy" for academics only. On the contrary, Theosophy is a bright, living beam of light in our troubled world, which all who want to, can see and follow. Theosophy is kind, compassionate, understanding and forgiving, but at the same time it is a hard taskmaster. You ask how something with all these attributes can at the same time be a hard taskmaster? The answer is very simple: Theosophy becomes your conscience, and we all know that this is the hardest of taskmasters for who can truly say that they can escape their conscience?

As soon as you become aware of the ancient truths Theosophy teaches, and which the world has nearly forgotten, you'll be grateful that over 100 years ago an outstanding woman lived, and spent her life, strength and efforts to bring back to the world those fundamental truths which had been taught over the millennia by the sages and prophets all over the world.

Her name was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, affectionately known as HPB. Madam Blavatsky, together with her teachers, the Mahatmas (the great teachers) restated the ancient truths for the end of the 19th century and the coming turbulent 20th century. In a letter written by her to the annual Convention of American Theosophists in 1888 she says:

"Many who have never heard of the Society are Theosophists without knowing it themselves; for the essence of theosophy is the perfect harmonising of the divine with the spiritual in man, the adjustment of his god-like qualities and aspirations and their sway over the terrestrial and animal passions in him.
Kindness, absence of every ill feeling or selfishness, charity, goodwill to all beings and perfect justice to others as to oneself, are its chief features. He who teaches Theosophy, preaches the gospel of goodwill, and the converse of this is true also -- he who preaches the gospel of goodwill, teaches Theosophy."

In this modern world Theosophy serves the purpose quietly, without power and glory, keeping alive the Ancient Truths without which humanity cannot live and there is nothing spectacular about it. Theosophy promises no instant enlightenment, nor contact with other worlds or spirits or paranormal phenomena. But I can still hear the question being asked: "What is Theosophy?" Followed by many other questions such as: "What does it mean in everyday life? Is it hard to understand? Is it difficult to learn? Do we have to sit for hours studying books?" I would say "no" to each of these, because the main role that Theosophy should have in our daily lives is to give us an awareness to foster our compassion and tolerance for the joys and sorrows of our fellow men and remember the age-old maxim: "Do unto others, what you would like others to do unto you."

One of the leaders of the Theosophical Society and co-founder of it in 1875 was William Quan Judge who defined Theosophy in the following manner: "The strength of Theosophy lies in the fact that it is not defined. This means that evolution, slowly progressing, will bring out new truths and new aspects of old truth, thus absolutely preventing any dogmas or "unequivocal definitions". [from HPB by Sylvia Cranston. p. 145]

There is another question which is often asked with regard to the meaning of Theosophy and that is: "Is Theosophy a Religion?". I am always surprised about this question for nowhere in the many books written explaining Theosophy is a Theosophical God ever mentioned. True, the Greek words "Theo" and "Sophia" translated into English mean "God" and "Wisdom" respectively. They mean "wisdom" and "knowledge" of that which gives us Life, surrounds us and is within us. Theosophy therefore means a continuous searching for the Truth by trying to understand the mystery that surrounds us. Perhaps what Theosophy is trying to teach and is searching for, is best explained by saying that it is exploring the ethical and spiritual contents of life the world over. If we then understand religion the way Cicero, the Roman statesman, orator and scholar did, the word religion takes on a very different meaning. Cicero explained that the word religion, "religere" in Latin, means "to gather together again that which once was one."

Many people are trying to interpret Theosophy as a religion, using old and new texts in an attempt to make the words in them say that Theosophy is searching for the God above all Gods. They do not realise that this idea hampers its free thinking, searching spirit and creates dogmas.

Perhaps the reason for this is that we are too frightened to acknowledge that we alone are responsible for all our actions and that the mystery we call God is within ourselves, is our true Self; the spark that never dies.

G. de Purucker states in his book Man in Evolution the following: "Now 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 Evolution by G. de Purucker pp. 15-16]

The best guideline to the aims of Theosophy have been stated in the objects of the Theosophical Society which read as follows:

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.

Clearly these objects are learning, searching ones, asking everyone to think for himself and to learn to recognise the unity of everything that exists. These objects have no religious connotations of a God guiding or protecting man or of a god asking for blind obedience and faith. Madame Blavatsky's book presents a comprehensive view of cosmic and human evolution, bringing together mystic, religious and scientific material from many cultures in her efforts to illustrate the universality of Theosophy's basic concepts.

Perhaps we all need to remember that theosophy is trying to teach us to be "humane" in the fullest sense of the word.

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