[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Basic Ideas of Theosophy

Feb 06, 2008 09:00 PM
by nhcareyta

Basic Ideas of Theosophy

by Geoffrey A. Farthing

[The following article has been excerpted from Geoffrey A. Farthing's 
book Deity, Cosmos and Man, "The Scope and Framework of the Science," 
Part I, Chapter II, pp. 11-20.   Mr. Farthing's book is an excellent 
introduction to Theosophy as given in the writings of Madame H.P. 
Blavatsky and her Adept Teachers.  For more information on this book, 
see Deity, Cosmos and Man.]


The field of Esoteric Science [Theosophy] is as vast as life itself, 
for it embraces the whole of Nature, visible and invisible. 
Nevertheless, the more one advances in its study, the more one 
recognizes that this limitless scheme of things, though 
having "neither conceivable beginning nor imaginable end," is an 
orderly, integrated whole, in which every part is intimately related 
to every other part. It may be compared to a wheel in which the hub, 
spokes, and rim, although distinctive in form and function, are 
inseparable parts of one whole. It follows that the student may begin 
his exploration from any point he chooses; sooner or later, he will 
reach every corner of the field.

In this book, the order in which the various aspects of the subject 
are approached is determined by the three principles which are 
characteristic of the whole system. These are: the principle of 
unity, the principle of law, and the principle of evolution. The 
contents of the chapters in which the subjects are studied in greater 
detail are briefly summarized in the numbered sections below.

1. The unity of all things

All existence is one thing. This one thing is variously called the 
One Life, the One Reality; it is the source of Being, and of all 
beings; it is in everything?in fact, it is everything, for there is 
nothing else.

¼ the root of all nature, objective and subjective, and everything 
else in the universe, visible and invisible, is, was, and ever will 
be one absolute essence, from which all starts, and into which 
everything returns. (1)

In all subsequent study, this fundamental fact must never be lost 
from sight; all forms that come into being, from atoms to men, are 
animated by the same Life; the forms disintegrate, the Life remains. 
We human beings are one with it; our life is that Life.

Explaining how Theosophy views "God, Soul, and Man," Mme Blavatsky 

In their origin and in eternity the three, (2) like the universe and 
all therein, are one with the absolute Unity, the unknowable deific 
essence ¼ (3)

[See what H.P. Blavatsky writes about the first fundamental 
proposition in The Secret Doctrine.]

Although for purposes of study we divide the field of Esoteric 
Science into various aspects, it must constantly be reaffirmed that 
the aspects are facets of a unity. The moment one lets this idea slip 
from the mind, "(and it is most easy to do so when engaged in any of 
the many intricate aspects of the Esoteric Philosophy) the idea of 
separation supervenes, and the study loses its value." (4)

2. Origins

The universe and all that is in it are subject to a timeless process 
described as "Days and Nights," alternating periods of activity and 
rest. According to the occult teaching, there is no creation, in the 
sense of something being made out of nothing. There is indeed nothing 
new under the sun.

We believe in no creation, but in the periodical and consecutive 
appearances of the universe from the subjective on to the objective 
plane of being, at regular intervals of time, covering periods of 
immense duration. (5)

There is therefore nothing that can properly be called a beginning, 
for what is commonly called creation is only the periodical re-
emergence of things?forms or entities?which already existed. With the 
coming of night, everything seems to disappear, merged into a uniform 
darkness; as the sun rises, all things once more reappear?
temporarily, just as their disappearance had been temporary. The time-
scale may vary from the few hours of life of an insect or the three-
score years and ten of the life of man, to the almost incalculable 
duration of a sun or a universe. Nevertheless, whether the periods be 
long or short, the alternation remains, a manifestation of the 
universal law of periodicity. 

[For more information, see Geoffrey Farthing's Origins:  Part I and 
Origins: Part II.]

3. The sevenfold nature of Cosmos and man

One of the esoteric keys to the understanding of life is analogy, as 
given in the Hermetic axiom, "As above, so below." The universe is 
the macrocosm, the great ordered whole, and man is its miniature 
reflection, the microcosm. Our experience of ourselves shows us that, 
as human beings, we function in a variety of ways, in physical action 
and in such modes of consciousness as thinking, feeling, and 
dreaming. Esoteric Science teaches that these modes of consciousness 
occur at different levels, from the sensory or objective to the 
deeply inner or subjective. Furthermore, these levels themselves are 
a reflection, in the individual, of universal planes of being: just 
as individual physical action takes place on the physical plane, 
using the material of that plane, so mental activity?thought?takes 
place on the mental plane, using the material of that plane. There 
are, according to Esoteric Science, seven such planes in Nature, and 
similarly there are seven states of consciousness in man, in which 
he "can live, think, remember, and have his being." (6)  

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's The Occult Constitution of 
Man and Cosmos:  Part I and The Occult Constitution of Man and 
Cosmos: Part II.  See also Mr. Farthing's diagram on The Seven 
Principles of Man.]

4. The Hierarchies of Beings

The Scriptures and religious traditions of all cultures make frequent 
reference to non-human entities, variously termed Angels, Devas, 
Gods, Spirits of one kind or another. In mythology these beings 
appear as nature-spirits, fairies, sylphs, salamanders, to name but a 
few. Esoteric Science supports universal tradition in affirming that 
the different planes of Nature are peopled by hierarchies of beings, 
each with characteristic properties and modes of functioning. In the 
Bible there are well-known instances of angelic appearances, singly 
as "the angel of the Lord" or as "a multitude of the heavenly host." 
The "thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers" mentioned 
several times by St Paul are terms well recognized in angelology for 
some of the non-human hierarchies. Everywhere in Nature there is 
life, manifesting through infinite gradations of individual lives, 
for there is neither empty space nor inanimate matter anywhere in the 

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's The Hierarchies of Being:  
Part I and The Hierarchies of Being:  Part II.]

5. Elements and Elementals

These are examples of the hierarchical structure of the Cosmos. The 
Elements, in Esoteric Science, are seven in number, the four familiar 
ones of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, to which it adds a semi-material 
Ether that is still invisible to us, and two others which are "as yet 
absolutely beyond the range of human perception." (7) Yet all of 
these, it must always be remembered, are aspects of the One Universal 
Element, the source of all objective existence.

These seven elements with their numberless Sub-Elements ¼ are simply 
conditional modifications and aspects of the one and only Element. (8)

Elementals is the term used to refer to beings who are beginning a 
course of evolutionary growth, and who thus are in the elemental 
state of growth. In general the term refers to beings who are below 
the mineral kingdom in the evolutionary scheme. Their existence is 
universally recognized in folk-lore under such names as fairies, 
elves, gnomes and suchlike, as mentioned earlier. But they are best 
understood as forces in Nature rather than as beings having miniature 
or ethereal human shapes.

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's Elements and Elementals, 
Part I and Elements and Elementals, Part II.]

6. Universal Law

It is apparent even to superficial observation that the universe 
operates according to Law. All our sciences and technologies are 
based on the recognition of this fact. This law is not imposed from 
outside but is the very nature of the Cosmos. Fundamentally it is the 
law of cause and effect, action and reaction, by which the Cosmos as 
a whole, and all its parts individually, are ordered and regulated. 
The Law is in itself Wisdom, Intelligence, and Power; it is the 
Wisdom that "reacheth from one end [of the Universe] to another 
mightily; and sweetly doth she order all things," (9) operating 
through the Hierarchies of beings by which the Cosmos is made and 
maintained as one harmonious whole.

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's Law in Cosmos and Human 
Life, Part I and Law in Cosmos and Human Life, Part II.]

7. Akasha and the Astral Light

Here there is introduced a teaching that goes far beyond anything 
known to today's sciences. Although not easy to grasp at first, it 
will be found to throw much light on areas of experience at present 
little understood even by psychology, for example, the mystical and 

It has been stated (in paragraph 4 above), that there is no such 
thing as empty space in the universe. Esoteric Science teaches that 
the entire cosmos is pervaded by Akasha, primordial substance, or 
rather the noumenon?the non-sensuous reality?beyond substance. In the 
Theosophical Glossary, Akasha (from a Sanskrit word 
meaning "brilliant" or "luminous") is described as "the subtle, 
supersensuous spiritual essence which pervades all space." This 
primordial substance differentiates into all the forms of matter, 
those of the invisible as of the visible regions of the universe. 
Hence the definition of Akasha as "the Universal Soul ¼ from which 
all that exists is born by separation or differentiation. It is the 
cause of existence; it fills all the infinite Space."

The lowest region of Akasha, immediately above the gross physical 
plane, is termed the Astral Light. It is "the invisible region that 
surrounds our globe" and everything in it, and corresponds to the 
subtle vehicle or "double" in man, the Linga-sharira. In it is 
impressed indelibly everything that takes place in the physical, 
psychical, and mental realms. It is thus the storehouse of memory, 
both in the cosmos and in mankind.

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's Akasha and the Astral 
Light:  Part I and Akasha and the Astral Light: Part II.]

8. Rebirth

In the study of the constitution of man according to Occultism, two 
aspects of his inner nature are recognized, one mortal?the psyche or 
soul, and the other immortal?the spiritual essence. (In everyday 
parlance, and in much religious usage, the words "soul" and "spirit" 
are used loosely and often interchangeably. Particular attention must 
be paid to the precise meaning attached to them in the present 
study.) The spiritual essence in man, a persistent entity, attaches 
itself periodically to a succession of personalities which it 
projects into the objective world. In so doing, it obeys the 
universal cyclic law that operates throughout Nature. The temporary 
personality comprises a complex mortal non-physical component, the 
psyche or soul, housed in a body of flesh.

It will be seen that rebirth, or reincarnation, is not a peculiarity 
of mankind; it is a particular instance of that law of alternation of 
activity and rest, that may be observed in the natural world?the 
cyclic process of birth, growth, decay, and death of the form, and 
the persistence of the life through successive forms. 

[For more information see Mr. Farthing's Death and Rebirth, Part I 
and Death and Rebirth, Part II.  See also H.P. Blavatsky's comments 
in her Key to Theosophy on:  On the Mysteries of Re-incarnation and 
On Re-incarnation or Re-birth.]

9. After-Death States

The preceding section states that in the life of man there are 
alternating periods of activity and rest, or, more precisely, periods 
of incarnation?that is, life in a body of flesh?alternating with 
periods of discarnate existence, analogous to the twenty-four hour 
cycle of wakefulness and sleep. In Section 3 of this chapter, some 
information was outlined concerning the seven planes of Nature and 
the seven states of consciousness. Incarnation is the process of 
assuming vestures or vehicles through which consciousness can 
function in the lower planes; death is the process of withdrawal from 
these vestures. It must already be evident to the student that every 
aspect of Esoteric Science is inextricably related to every other 
aspect. To understand death and the after-death states, one must 
study the sevenfold constitution of man and cosmos, and this must 
lead to?or be preceded by?the study of Akasha and the Astral Light. 
Nevertheless, whatever aspect is being considered, it must be seen as 
part of a whole, the functioning of which, in all its parts, is 
subject to universal law. At every stage of the study it is necessary 
to remind oneself of these facts. 

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's Death and Rebirth, Part I 
and Death and Rebirth, Part II.  See also Mr. Farthing's diagram on 
the After Death States and Processes.  For more on this subject, see 
Mr. Farthing's book When We Die.    See also H.P. Blavatsky's 
comments On the Kama-loka and Devachan.]

10. The Nature of Spiritualistic Phenomena

Much confusion is caused by the ignorant association of the 
word "spiritualistic" with the word "spiritual." What are commonly 
called spiritualistic phenomena are in fact psychic phenomena, that 
is, phenomena explicable in terms of the lower levels of the next 
plane, little removed from the physical world perceived by the 
ordinary senses. For the most part, this physical world is the only 
one of which we are aware, because we do not possess faculties 
responsive to stimuli on higher planes. In some people?mediums and 
sensitives?psychic faculties are more or less developed, enabling 
them to hear and see things of which others are not aware. However, 
there is nothing spiritual in the possession of such faculties, 
unless they have been brought under the control of the will of the 
individual; such conscious control alone can properly be termed 
spiritual, for it is a manifestation of the awakened power of the 
essential man, the Spirit. 

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's Spiritualism and Psychism, 
Part I and Spiritualism and Psychism, Part II.  For more information 
on the nature of spiritualistic and psychic phenomena, see Mr. 
Farthing's book Exploring the Great Beyond.]

11. Evolution

Evolution is the emergence of the possibilities inherent in Nature 
from latency into active expression. The word means, literally, 
unfolding, and it implies the prior process of involution by which 
the potentialities of spirit are communicated to matter.

Esoteric Science affirms the universality of the evolutionary process:

The whole order of nature evinces a progressive march towards a 
higher life. There is design in the action of the seemingly blindest 
forces. The whole process of evolution with its endless adaptations 
is a proof of this. (10)

Here we must return to the Hierarchies of Sections 4 and 5, for the 
evolutionary process is not a mechanical one but "is guided, 
controlled, and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of 
sentient Beings." (11)

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's Ever-Becoming - The 
Processes of Evolution:  Part I and Ever-Becoming - The Processes of 
Evolution:  Part II.] 

12. Rounds and Races

These are the terms used to indicate states in the great evolutionary 
cycles. In our cosmic scheme, they are applied particularly to our 
Earth and its humanity. Like everything else in Nature, planets have 
their period of activity and rest, their days and nights, analogous 
to human life and death. A grand evolutionary program is in operation 
throughout the Cosmos, each part of which?whether it be planet or 
kingdom of nature or human group?has to pass through sequential 
phases of development towards its particular goal.

In the study of the program for humanity, it will be important to 
note that the term "Race" indicates a stage in the evolution of 
humanity. It applies to the development of mental and psychic 
faculties as well as to the superficial physical characteristics such 
as skin color or hair type.

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's Globes, Rounds and Races:  
Part I and Globes, Rounds and Races:  Part II.]

13. Spiritual Development

If examined in the light of Esoteric Science, this term appears to be 
a misnomer. Mankind is a stage in an immense journey, the pilgrimage 
of the Many to the Everlasting One. The object of the journey is the 
realization of the essential unity of life, the experience of the One 
consciousness which pervades the whole. The development is in effect 
the increase in the responsiveness of living instruments, so that the 
consciousness of the individual becomes identified eventually with, 
or merged into, that of the other units of humanity who have 
transcended the limitations of purely personal existence.

Human life, with its vicissitudes and suffering, has appropriately 
been called a training ground, the school of life, in which the main 
lesson to be learned is the elimination of selfishness in all its 
forms. Selfishness, the "great dire heresy," is a denial of the fact 
of unity and will be seen as the source of many of the problems of 
mankind. Similarly, all that contributes to breaking down the walls 
of separateness?altruism, compassion, love?must promote the spiritual 
evolution of the individual and of the human race. 

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's Spiritual Development:  
Part I and Spiritual Development:  Part II.  See also Blavatsky's 
mystical treatise The Voice of the Silence for more on this subject.]

14. Religion

Various terms have been used to refer to the esoteric tradition, 
Theosophy. It is Esoteric Science, the Ancient Wisdom, the Secret 
Doctrine, and the Wisdom-Religion. But in using this last term, care 
must be taken not to see in it a religion comparable to Hinduism, 
Buddhism, Christianity or any other of the religions of man. The 
Wisdom-Religion is the source of all of these, and the study of the 
similarities in their traditions, forms and doctrines will show that 
in essentials they must stem from a common origin.

One of the aims that Mme Blavatsky set before herself in The Secret 
Doctrine is particularly relevant:

to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of 
all religions; and to uncover, to some extent, the fundamental unity 
from which they all spring ¼ (12)

The state of religion today, the perpetuation of forms in ignorance 
of the truths they represent, shows the need for the wide 
dissemination of Esoteric Science if that aim is to be achieved.

[For more information, see Mr. Farthing's Religion:  Part I and 
Religion:   Part II.]


Throughout the study of Esoteric Science, it should be recognized 
that what is presented to us here is not speculation or hypothesis, 
but knowledge?knowledge possessed by men who, by the development 
within themselves of the necessary faculties, made themselves able to 
investigate at first hand the hidden side of Nature.

The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its 
cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system: e.g., 
even in the exotericism of the Puranas. But such is the mysterious 
power of Occult symbolism, that the facts which have actually 
occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to 
marshal, to set down and explain, in the bewildering series of 
evolutionary progress, are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical 
signs and glyphs. The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated 
into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things 
there, where an ordinary profane, however learned, would have 
perceived but the external work of form. But modern science believes 
not in the "soul of things," and hence will reject the whole system 
of ancient cosmogony. It is useless to say that the system in 
question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it 
is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of 
Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify 
the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the 
teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the 
childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the "Wise Men" of the 
Fifth Race, of the stock saved and rescued from the last cataclysm 
and shifting of continents, had passed their lives in learning, not 
teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing, 
and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by 
the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed 
and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual 
organizations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept 
was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions?so 
obtained as to stand as independent evidence?of other adepts, and by 
centuries of experience. (13) 

[For more on this subject, see From Long-Sealed Ancient Fountains:   
The Origin of Modern Theosophy. See also Mr. Farthing's About 
Esoteric Science, Part I and About Esoteric Science, Part II.]



(1)  Blavatsky, H.P. Key to Theosophy, 43
(2)  i.e., God, the soul, and man?GAF
(3) Blavatsky, H.P. Key to Theosophy, 83
(4) Bowen Notes,   9
(5)  Blavatsky, H.P. Key to Theosophy, 83
(6)  Blavatsky, H.P. Key to Theosophy, 89
(7) Blavatsky, H.P. Secret Doctrine {I 12, I 40, I 78}
(8)  Blavatsky, H.P. Secret Doctrine {I 12, I 40, I 78}
(9)  Wisdom of Solomon (Apocrypha).
(10)  Blavatsky, H.P. Secret Doctrine {I 277, I 297, I 320}
(11)  Blavatsky, H.P. Secret Doctrine {I 274, I 295, I 317}
(12)  Blavatsky, H.P. Secret Doctrine {I viii, I xxi, I 9}
(13)  Blavatsky, H.P. Secret Doctrine {I 272, I 293, I 316}


For more information on Madame Blavatsky and the teachings of 
Theosophy, see 

?  Homepage of The Blavatsky Study Center

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application