THINGS COMMON TO CHRISTIANITY & THEOSOPHY
Mar 24, 2006 06:41 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
THAT the Theosophical Society is not opposed to Christianity in either its
dogmatic or pure form is easily demonstrated. Our constitution forbids it
and the second object of the Society does also. The laws of our body say
that there shall be no crusade against any religion, tacitly excepting, of
course, the few degraded and bestial religions now in the world; the second
object provides for a full and free study of all relations without bias and
without hatred or sectarianism. And our history also, offering to view
branch societies all over the world composed of Christians, refutes the
charge that the Society as such is opposed to Christianity. One instance is
enough, that of the well-know Scottish Lodge, which states in its printed
Transactions No. IX, "Theosophists who are Christians (and such are the
majority of the Scottish Lodge)...Therefore Christians who are sincere and
who know what Theosophy means must be Theosophists..." If members of this
Society have said to the contrary it has been from ignorance and a careless
thinking, for on the same ground we should also be opposed to all other
religions which have any formalism, as has Christianity. Generally speaking,
then, the Society is not and cannot be opposed to Christianity, while it may
lead to a denial of some of the men-made theories of that Church.
But that is no more than branches of Christianity have always been doing,
nor is it as much a danger to formal Christianity as the new standards of
criticism which have crept into the Church.
Nor can it be either that Theosophy as a whole is opposed to Christianity,
inasmuch as Theosophy is and must be the one truth underlying all religions
that have ever been among men.
A calm and sincere examination of all the world's religions reveals the fact
that in respect to ethics, in respect to laws, in respect to cosmogony and
cosmology, the other religious books of the world are the same in most
respects as those of the Christians, and that the distinguishing difference
between the latter's religion and the others is that it asserts an
exclusiveness for itself and a species of doctrinal intolerance not found in
If we take the words and the example of Jesus as the founder of
Christianity, it is at once seen that there is no opposition at all between
that form of religion and Theosophy. Indeed, there is the completest
New ethics are not brought forward by Theosophy, nor can they be, as ethics
of the right sort must always be the same. In his sermons and sayings are to
be found the ethics given out by Buddha and by all other great teachers of
all time. These cannot be altered, even though they hold up to weak mortals
an ideal that is very difficult to live up to and sometimes impossible to
realize in daily life.
That these rules of conduct laid down by Jesus are admittedly hard to follow
is shown in the behavior of Christian states toward each other and in the
declarations of their high prelates that the religion of Jesus cannot be the
basis for diplomatic relations nor for the state government. Hence we find
that the refuge from all this adopted by the theologian is in the statement
that, although other and older religions had moral truth and similar ethics
to those of Jesus, the Christian religion is the only one wherein the
founder asserted that he was not merely a teacher from God but was also at
the same time God himself; that is, that prior to Jesus a great deal of good
was taught, but God did not see fit until the time of Jesus to come down
among men into incarnation.
Necessarily such a declaration would seem to have the effect of breeding
intolerance from the high and exclusive nature of the claim made. But an
examination of Brahmanism shows that Rama was also God incarnate among men,
though there the doctrine did not arouse the same sum of intolerance among
its believers. So it must be true that it is not always a necessary
consequence of such a belief that aggressive and exclusive intolerance will
The beliefs and teachings of Christianity are not all supportable by the
words of Jesus, but his doctrines are at all times in accord with Theosophy.
There is certainly a wide difference between the command of Jesus to be poor
and have neither staff nor money and the fact of the possession by the
Church of vast sums of money and immense masses of property, and with the
drawing of high salaries by prelates, and with the sitting of prelates among
the rulers of the earth upon thrones, and in the going to war and the
levying of taxes by the Pope and by other religious heads.
The gathering of tithes and enforcement of them by law and by imprisonment
at the instance of the Protestant clergy are not at all consistent with the
words of Jesus. But all of the foregoing inconsistent matters are a part of
present Christianity, and if in those respects a difference from or
opposition to them should seem to arise from Theosophical teachings we must
admit it, but cannot be blamed. If we go back to the times of the early
Christians and compare that Christianity with the present form, we see that
opposition by Theosophy could hardly be charged, but that the real
opposition then would be between that early form of the religion and its
present complexion. It has been altered so much that the two are scarcely
recognizable as the same. This is so much so that there exists a Christian
sect today called "Early Christian."
Every one has at all times a right to object to theological interpretations
if they are wrong, or if they distort the original teaching or introduce new
notions. In this respect there is a criticism by Theosophy and Theosophists.
But thinkers in the world not members of this Society and not leaning to
Theosophy do the same thing.
Huxley and Tyndall and Darwin and hosts of others took ground that by mere
force of truth and fact went against theological views, Galileo also, seeing
that the earth was round and moved, said so, but the theologian, thinking
that such belief tended to destroy the power of the church and to upset
biblical theories, made him recant at the risk of his liberty and life.
If the old views of theology were still in force with the state behind them,
the triumphs of science would have been few and we might still be imagining
the earth to be flat and square and the sun revolving about it.
Theosophical investigation discloses to the student's view the fact that in
all ages there have appeared great teachers of religion and that they all
had two methods of instruction. One, or that for the masses of people, was
plain and easy to understand; it was of ethics, of this life and of the
next, of immortality and love; it always gave out the Golden Rule.
Such a teacher was Buddha, and there can be no controversy on the fact that
he died centuries before the birth of Jesus. He declared his religion to be
that of love. Others did the same. Jesus came and taught ethics and love,
with the prominent exception of his prophecy that he came to bring a sword
and division as recorded in the Gospels.
There is also an incident which accents a great difference between him and
Buddha; it is the feast where he drank wine and also made some for others to
drink. In regard to this matter, Buddha always taught that all intoxicating
liquors were to be rigidly abstained from. The second method was the secret
or Esoteric one, and that Jesus also used.
We find his disciples asking him why he always used easy parables with the
people, and he replied that to the disciples he taught the mysteries, or the
more recondite matters of religion. This is the same as prevailed with the
Buddha also had his private teachings to certain disciples. He even made a
distinction among his personal followers, making classes in their ranks, to
one of which he gave the simplest of rules, to the other the complex and
difficult. So he must have pursued the ancient practise of having two sects
of teachings, and this must have been a consequence of his education.
At twelve years of age he came to the temple and disputed with the learned
rabbis on matters of law. Thus he must have known the law; and what that law
was and is it is necessary to ask. It was the law of Moses, full of the most
technical and abstruse things, and not all to be found in the simple words
of the books.
The Hebrew books are a vast mine of cypher designedly so constructed and
that should be borne in mind by all students. It ought to be known to
Christians, but is not, as they prefer not to go into the mysteries of the
Jews. But Jesus knew it. His remark that "not one jot or tittle of the law
would pass" show this. Most people read this simply as rhetoric, but it is
not so. The jots and tittles are a part of the books and go to make up the
cypher of the Cabala or the hidden meaning of the law.
This is a vast system of itself, and was not invented after the time of
Jesus. Each letter is also a number, and thus every word can be and is,
according to a well-known rule, turned into some other word or into a
number. Thus one name will be a part of a supposed historical story, but
when read by the cypher it becomes a number of some cycle or event or a sign
of the Zodiac or something else quite different from the mere letters.
Thus the name of Adam is composed of three consonants, A, D, and M. These
mean by the system of the cypher respectively, "Adam, David, and Messiah."
The Jews also held that Adam for his first sin would have to and did
reincarnate as David and would later come as Messiah.
Turning to Revelations we find traces of the same system in the remarks
about the numbers of the beast and the man. The Cabala or hidden law is of
the highest importance, and as the Christian religion is a Hebraic one it
cannot be properly studied or understood without the aid given by the secret
teaching. And the Cabala is not dead nor unknown, but has many treatises
written on it in different languages. By using it, we will find in the Old
Testament and in the records of Jesus a complete and singular agreement with
Examine for instance, the Theosophical teachings that there is a secret of
esoteric doctrine, and the doctrine of inability of man to comprehend God.
This is the Brahmanical doctrine of the unapproachableness of Parabrahm.
In Exodus there is a story which to the profane is absurd, of God telling
Moses that he could not see Him. It is in Exodus xxxiii, 20, where God says
Moses could see him from behind only. Treat this by the rule of the Cabala
and it is plain, but read it on the surface and you have nonsense.
In Exodus iii, 14, God says that his name is "I am that I am." this is AHYH
ASHR AHYH, which has to be turned into its numerical value, as each letter
is also a number. Thus A is 1, H is 5, Y is 10, H is 5. There being two
words the same, they add up 42. The second word is A, 1; SH, 300; R, 200
making 501, which added to 42 gives 543 as the number of "I am that I am."
Now Moses by the same system makes 345 or the reverse of the other, by which
the Cabala shows God meant Moses to know God by his reverse or Moses
himself. To some this may appear fanciful, but as it is the method on which
these old books are constructed it must be known in order to understand what
is not clear and to remove from the Christian books the well-sustained
charge of absurdity and sometimes injustice and cruelty shown on their face.
So instead of God's being made ridiculous by attributing to him such a
remark as that Moses could only "see his hinder parts," we perceive that
under the words is a deep philosophical tenet corresponding to those of
Theosophy, that Parabrahm is not to be known and that Man is a small copy of
God through which in some sense or in the reverse we may see God.
For the purposes of this discussion along the line of comparison we will
have to place
Christianity on one side and put on the other as representing the whole body
of Theosophy, so far as revealed, the other various religions of the world,
and see what, if anything, is common between them.
First we see that Christianity, being the younger, has borrowed its
doctrines from other religions. It is now too enlightened an age to say, as
the Church did when Abbe Huc brought back his account of Buddhism from
Tibet, that either the devil or wicked men invented the old religions so as
to confuse and confute the Christian. Evidently, no matter how done, the
system of the Christian is mixed Aryan and Jewish. This could not be
otherwise, since Jesus was a Jew, and his best disciples and the others who
came after like Paul were of the same race and faith. The early Fathers
also, living as they did in Eastern lands, got their ideas from what they
found about them.
Next a very slight examination will disclose the fact that the ritual of the
Christian Church is also borrowed. Taken from all nations and religions, not
one part of it is either of this age or of the Western hemisphere The
Brahmans have an extensive and elaborate ritual, and so have the Buddhists.
The rosary, long supposed by Catholics to be a thing of their own, has
existed in Japan for uncounted years, and much before the West had any
civilization the Brahman had his form of rosary.
The Roman Catholic Christian sees the priest ring the bell at a certain part
of the Mass, and the old Brahman knows that when he is praying to God he
must also ring a bell to be found in every house as well as in the temple.
This is very like what Jesus commanded. He said that prayer must be in
secret, that is, where no one can hear; the Brahman rings the small bell so
that even if ears be near they shall not hear any words but only the sound
of the bell.
The Christian has images of virgin and child; the same thing is to be found
in Egyptian papyri and in carved statues of India made before the Christian
came into existence. Indeed, all the ritual and observance of the Christian
churches may be found in the mass of other religions with which for the
moment we are making a rough comparison.
Turning now to doctrine, we find again complete agreement with the dogmatic
part of Christianity in these older religions.
Salvation by faith is taught by some priests. That is the old Brahmanical
theory, but with the difference that the Brahman one calls for faith in God
as the means, the end, and the object of faith. The Christian adds faith in
the son of God. A form of Japanese Buddhism said to be due to Amitabha says
that one may be saved by complete faith in Amita Buddha, and that even if
one prays but three times to Amita he will be saved in accordance with a vow
made by that teacher.
Immortality of soul has ever been taught by the Brahmans. Their whole system
of religion and of cosmogony is founded on the idea of soul and of the
spiritual nature of the universe. Jesus and St. Paul taught the unity of
spiritual beings-or men-when they said that heaven and the spirit of God
were in us, and the doctrine of Unity is one of the oldest and most
important of the Brahmanical scheme.
The possibility of arriving at perfection by means of religion and science
combined so that a man becomes godlike-or the doctrine of Adepts and
Mahatmas as found in Theosophy-is common to Buddhism and Brahmanism, and is
not contrary to the teachings of Jesus. He said to his disciples that they
could if they would do even greater works-or "miracles"-than he did. To do
these works one has to have great knowledge and power.
The doctrine assumes the perfectibility of humanity and destroys the theory
of original sin; but far from being out of concordance with the religion of
Jesus, it is in perfect accord. He directed his followers to be perfect even
as the Father in heaven is. They could not come up to that command by any
possibility unless man has the power to reach to that high state.
The command is the same as is found in the ancient Aryan system. Hence,
then, whether we look broadly over the field at mere ritual dogma or at
ethics, we find the most complete accord between Theosophy and true
But now taking up some important doctrines put forward by members of the
Theosophical Society under their right of free investigation and free
speech, what do we discover?
Novelty, it is true, to the mind of the western man half-taught about his
own religion, but nothing that is uncommon to Christianity.
Those doctrines may be, for the present, such as Reincarnation or rebirth
over and over again for the purpose of discipline and gain, for reward, for
punishment, and for enlargement of character; next Karma, or exact justice
or compensation for all thoughts and acts. These two are a part of
Christianity, and may be found in the Bible.
Reincarnation has been regarded by some Christian ministers as essential to
the Christian religion. Dr. Edward Beecher said he saw its necessity, and
the Rev. Wm. Alger has recorded his view to the same effect. If a Christian
insists upon the belief in Jesus, who came only eighteen centuries ago after
millenniums had passed and men had died out of the faith by millions, it
will be unjust for them to be condemned for a failure to believe a doctrine
they never heard of; hence the Christian may well say that under the law of
reincarnation, which was upheld by Jesus, all those who never heard of Jesus
will be reborn after his coming in A.D. I, so as to accept the plan of
In the Gospels we find Jesus referring to this doctrine as if a well
established one. When it was broached by the disciples as the possible
reason for the punishment by blindness from birth of a man of the time.
Jesus did not convert the doctrine, as he would have done did he see in his
wisdom as Son of God that it was pernicious. But at another time he asserted
that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elias the ancient prophet.
This cannot be wiped out of the books, and is a doctrine as firmly fixed in
Christianity, though just now out of favor, as is any other.
The paper by Prof. Landsberg shows you what Origen, one of the greatest of
the Christian Fathers, taught on preŽxistence of souls. This theory
naturally suggests reincarnation on this earth, for it is more natural to
suppose the soul's wanderings to be here until all that life can give has
been gained, rather than that the soul should wander among other planets or
simply fall to this abruptly, to be as suddenly raised up to heaven or
thrown down to hell.
The next great doctrine is Karma. This is the religion of salvation by works
as opposed to faith devoid of works. It is one of the prime doctrines of
Jesus. By "by their works ye shall know them," he must have meant that faith
without works is dead.
The meaning of Karma literally is "works," and the Hindus apply it not only
to the operations of nature and of the great laws of nature in connection
with man's reward and punishment, but also to all the different works that
man can perform.
St. James insists on the religion of works. He says that true religion is to
visit the fatherless and the widows and to keep oneself unspotted from the
world. St. Matthew says we shall be judged for every act, word, and thought.
This alone is possible under the doctrine of Karma.
The command of Jesus to refrain from judgment or we should ourselves be
judged is a plain statement of Karma, as is, too, the rest of the verse
saying that what we mete out shall be given back to us. St. Paul, following
this, distinctly states the doctrine thus: "Brethren, be not deceived; God
is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that also shall he reap." The
word "whatsoever" includes every act and thought, and permits no escape from
the consequences of any act. A clearer statement of the law of Karma as
applied to daily life could hardly be made.
Again, going to Revelations, the last words in the Christian book, we read
all through it that the last judgment proceeds on the works-in other words,
on the Karma-of men. It distinctly asserts that in the vision, as well as in
the messages to the Churches, judgment passes for works.
We therefore must conclude that the religion of Jesus is in complete accord
with the chief doctrines of Theosophy; it is fair to assume that even the
most recondite of theosophical theories would not have been opposed by him.
Our discussion must have led us to the conclusion that the religion of
Karma, the practise of good works, is that in which the religion of Jesus
agrees with Theosophy, and that alone thereby will arrive the longed-for day
when the great ideal of Universal Brotherhood will be realized, and will
furnish the common ground on which all faiths may stand and from which every
nation may work for the good and the perfection of the human family.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† William Q.
Paper read before
Aryan (N.Y.) T.S., 1894
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Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application