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Re: Theos-World What is Theosophy

Feb 12, 2008 08:44 AM
by Morten Nymann Olesen

To all readers

My views are:

Interesting email Pablo. I thank you.

Pablo wrote:
"It is our responsibility to
preserve a space of freedom for every member to discover universal
theosophy by himself so that, by living according to its teachings, he
or she may realize the theosophical state of consciousness."

A peacefully ask all readers:
Does this - "responsibility" - imply, that it is a very good idea to promote a socalled Messiah or Meitreya or J. Krishnamurti cult within the theosophical camp and thereby creating an emotional or intellectual cult of followers, claiming that this is theosophical teachings?

M. Sufilight

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Pablo Sender 
  Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2008 5:34 AM
  Subject: Theos-World What is Theosophy

  "What is Theosophy?" is one of the most frequently asked
  questions in the theosophical milieu and, since the word
  `theosophy' remains without an official definition, it will
  always be a matter to ponder over. To answer this question, I will quote
  H. P. Blavatsky's words, because the theosophical movement as a
  whole accepts her as a common source of inspiration. Nevertheless, the
  same concepts may be found in many other theosophical writers.

  The term theosophia apparently was first recorded during the 3rd century
  of our era by Porphyry, a well-known Alexandrian philosopher who
  belonged to the Neo-Platonic school. It is composed of two Greek words:
  theos, meaning `god' or `divine'; and sophia, or
  `wisdom', which may also be translated as the `wisdom of the
  gods', `wisdom in things divine', or `divine
  wisdom'. The term flourished among Neo-Platonists down to the 6th c.
  and was also used by certain Christians. In the course of time, several
  people and movements spiritually inclined also adopted the denomination
  of `theosophers' or `theosophists' for themselves. That
  was the case of Meister Eckhart in the 14th c., a group of Renaissance
  philosophers such as Paracelsus in the 16th c., Robert Fludd, Thomas
  Vaughan, and Jacob Boehme in the 17th; and Emanuel Swedenborg and Karl
  von Eckartshausen in the 18th c., among others. Finally, the
  theosophical movement reappeared in the 19th c. with the founding of the
  Theosophical Society in 1875 by H. P. Blavatsky, H. S. Olcott, and
  others. Through it, certain eternal truths were presented again in a
  suitable fashion to modern times and a rich literature has been produced
  by Theosophical Society members in its more than 130 years of activity.

  But then the question arises: Is theosophy what the founders of the TS
  taught? Is it what every leader of the TS wrote? What is the
  relationship between the teachings given through the TS and those older
  ones also known as theosophy? Since people with different religious and
  philosophical backgrounds used the same word `theosophist' to
  call themselves, the term `theosophy' must represent something
  that unites them beyond concepts and beliefs.

  Theosophia as a state of consciousness

  In her article `What is Theosophy?' HPB attempts an explanation
  of the term `theosophy', describing who a theosophist is. To
  that end, she quotes Vaughan's definition:

  A Theosophist-he says-is one who gives you a theory of God or
  the works of God, which has not revelation, but an inspiration of his
  own for its basis. [i]

  A theosophist's knowledge about the Divine does not come from any
  external source. He does not gather information from books, teachers,
  etc., but from his own inmost nature. In fact, an essential common
  feature of every theosophist is his teaching about the possibility for a
  human being to reach the Divine at the moment of real ecstasy, or what
  is known as samâdhi in Eastern philosophy. In her article `The
  Beacon of the Unknown', HPB speaks about this as being a
  `transcendental Theosophy', which, according to her, `is
  true Theosophy, inner Theosophy, that of the soul':

  The infinite cannot be known to our reason, which can only distinguish
  and define; but we can always conceive the abstract idea thereof, thanks
  to that faculty higher than our reason-intuition, or the spiritual
  instinct of which I have spoken. The great initiates, who have the rare
  power of throwing themselves into the state of samâdhi-which can
  be but imperfectly translated by the word ecstasy, a state in which one
  ceases to be the conditioned and personal `I', and becomes one
  with the ALL-are the only ones who can boast of having been in
  contact with the infinite; but no more than other mortals can they
  describe that state in words . . . .

  These few characteristics of true Theosophy and its practice have been
  sketched for the small number of our readers who are gifted with the
  desired intuition. [ii]

  And HPB herself had access to this kind of Divine Wisdom. Let us see
  what she wrote about her own source of knowledge:

  Knowledge comes in visions, first in dreams and then in pictures
  presented to the inner eye during meditation. Thus have I been taught
  the whole system. . . . Not a word was spoken to me of all this in the
  ordinary way . . . nothing taught me in writing. And knowledge so
  obtained is so clear . . . that all other sources of information, all
  other methods of teaching with which we are familiar dwindle into
  insignificance in comparison with this. [iii]

  This kind of knowledge is much deeper than that acquired through books
  and lectures, because one deals with reality in a more direct way than
  through ideas-this perception is supra-conceptual. From this point
  of view, theosophy, essentially, is not a limited body of concepts, but
  transcends any verbal formulation. It is a state of Divine Wisdom, which
  is potentially in every human being. A theosophist, in his turn, is one
  who realizes that state of inner enlightenment, irrespective of his
  culture, time, or language:

  In this view every great thinker and philosopher, especially every
  founder of a new religion, school of philosophy, or sect, is necessarily
  a Theosophist. Hence, Theosophy and Theosophists have existed ever since
  the first glimmering of nascent thought made man seek instinctively for
  the means of expressing his own independent opinions. [iv]

  Theosophia and theosophical teachings

  But the word theosophy is also applied to the theosophical teachings;
  that is, the body of concepts taught by a theosophist as a result of his
  insight and wisdom. There is an important difference between theosophy
  as the state of Divine Wisdom and theosophy as the teachings that come
  through someone who has attained (whether temporarily or permanently)
  that enlightened state. The Divine Wisdom is the perception of Truth,
  but the teachings are a necessarily partial and conditioned expression
  of the real theosophia. They are, therefore, not the Truth, but a
  description of it. One may be in touch with the theosophical teachings
  and know them very well, but it is not the same as to realize the
  theosophical state of consciousness, because we cannot reach Wisdom
  through the accumulation of knowledge. When taken as an end in
  themselves, the theosophical teachings are of little value; but if the
  aspirant is earnest, their application will help him to live the right
  life, to develop self-knowledge, and ultimately to awaken the Divine
  Wisdom that is in his inmost being.

  Now, the very nature of the theosophical teachings accounts for their
  diversity. A theosophist will speak according to his own inspiration
  `expressing his own independent opinions'. They are not
  brain-born ideas, but arise from a deep state of consciousness, where
  the individual is facing Truth in some of its many aspects. And in that
  state he does not learn through easily repeated concepts, but through
  `images'. He has therefore the difficult task of putting into
  words his holistic comprehension of something which is beyond our known
  reality. We can imagine how faint must be the expression of a truth in
  our languages, and why many mystics refused to put into words that which
  is Sacred. Quoting again HPB's words:

  One of the reasons why I hesitate to answer offhand some questions put
  to me is the difficulty of expressing in sufficiently accurate language
  things given to me in pictures, and comprehended by me by the pure
  Reason, as Kant would call it. [v]

  Nevertheless, they have to communicate it as skilfully as they can if
  they want to point out the way to others. Thus, the expression of the
  theosophical teachings must necessarily be different from theosophist to
  theosophist according to his own temperament, intellectual background,
  and so on, giving to the theosophical exposition an extraordinarily
  dynamic nature that prevents it from becoming a creed. Therefore,
  although one person may feel more attracted by the theosophical
  teachings as expressed by a particular theosophist, if he has a right
  understanding, he will know that no verbal exposition is able to express
  the Truth (not even at an intellectual level) and that theosophia will
  not be attained by believing in any body of concepts. This is why, since
  its inception, the Theosophical Society has encouraged no dogmatism or

  Ancient Wisdom, a universal theosophy

  There were theosophists and Theosophical Schools for the last 2,000
  years, from Plato down to the medieval Alchemists, who knew the value of
  the term, it may be supposed. [vi]

  Theosophy transcends the Theosophical Society and was with humanity
  since its inception, not only in Western countries, but also in the
  whole world. Since `every great thinker and philosopher is a
  Theosophist', Buddha, Zoroaster, Lao Tzu, Jesus Christ,
  Patañjali, Sankarâchârya, Nâgârjuna, and Rumi, among
  others, gave theosophical teachings, no matter how they labelled their

  According to the theosophical view, every world religion is based on,
  and comes from, one and the same ancient truth known in the past as the
  `Wisdom-Religion'. This universal theosophy we are talking about
  `is the body of truths which forms the basis of all religions, and
  which cannot be claimed as the exclusive possession of any'.

  However, the pure and original teachings of religions became, in time,
  more or less corrupted by human ambition and selfishness, and obscured
  by superstition and ignorance. Thus, universal theosophy became
  entangled in a mass of confusion, and now a special effort is necessary
  to bring back its purity. One of the aims of the Theosophical Society is
  to encourage its members to investigate and discover the eternal truths
  enshrined in different religions, philosophies, and sciences, and to
  offer them to the public in a purified form.

  Modern Theosophy and the TS

  When the Theosophical Society was founded it had no literature of its
  own, and the main activity of its members was in the field of that
  universal theosophy. But today, after more than 130 years, the
  literature produced through the TS covers a wide field of subject
  matter. It has a metaphysical dimension that teaches the functioning and
  constitution of the Cosmos, the aim of sentient existence in different
  forms of life, the universal laws that rule its development, and so on.
  Besides, modern theosophical literature speaks about right living and
  the application of theosophical principles in daily life and, finally,
  there are also a good number of books revealing universal theosophy as
  present in different myths, philosophies, religions, and sciences. All
  this literature is known as `modern Theosophy' (now usually
  written with a capital `T').

  Modern Theosophy offers a certain shared cosmovision, but since it was
  produced by some theosophists' own inspiration, it is not a definite
  body of knowledge, but a dynamic exposition that differs in many details
  or ways of expression from one author to another. Modern Theosophy is
  not based on revelation or the teachings given by someone considered
  special and infallible, and it constantly receives new additions,
  presenting different aspects and new formulations of the theosophical
  principles. In fact, that is the way the Founders originally meant it,
  as revealed in many of their writings, and even in those of the Masters
  of the Wisdom. For example, in her first letter to the American
  Theosophists assembled in the 1888 Convention, HPB wrote:

  According as people are prepared to receive it, so will new Theosophical
  teachings 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. [vii]

  If modern Theosophy would have been given to the world only during the
  first years of the TS, the remaining members working for more than 100
  years on a repetition of what had already been given, it would mean the
  failure of the theosophical movement, as HPB warns in The Key to
  Theosophy [viii]. But fortunately that was not the case. There were
  several theosophists in the Theosophical Society, and each one of them
  transmitted his insights and wisdom in a distinct and original way.

  The role of the Theosophical Society

  Theosophy is an all-embracing Science; many are the ways leading to it,
  as numerous in fact as its definitions. [ix]

  Many are the ways leading to that state of Divine Wisdom, because many
  are the different personal dispositions, states of development, and
  karmic bonds of every aspirant. The emphasis in every genuine
  theosophical association is not gathered around a single way but around
  a single aim. Thus, for example, J. Boehme's Christian theosophy,
  Mme Blavatsky's occultist theosophy, and J. Krishnamurti's
  psychological theosophy (if we can give them those labels), though
  different in language and concepts, are nevertheless theosophical
  teachings, since they all tend to awaken the Divine Wisdom in the
  aspirant. And this feature of the TS, the policy of allowing freedom of
  thought and encouraging its members' incessant searching with an
  open mind, is essential not only for the realization of theosophia in
  oneself, but also for the vitality of the modern theosophical movement.
  In HPB's words:

  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 healthy body, its many other ugly features
  notwithstanding. Were it not, also, for the existence of a large amount
  of uncertainty in the minds of students of Theosophy, such healthy
  divergences would be impossible, and the Society would degenerate into a
  sect, in which a narrow and stereotyped creed would take the place of
  the living and breathing spirit of Truth and an ever growing Knowledge.

  Almost every sentence of this excerpt is worthy of deep thought, but we
  will leave that to the reader. We will only point out that to say
  genuine Theosophy is only HPB's and her Masters' teachings (for
  example) is not only based on a misunderstanding of what theosophy
  really is, but it also goes against the TS' own interests. One
  individual member may agree particularly with a certain exposition of
  theosophy, let us say, Mme Blavatsky's, and he has a right to do so.
  But he should neither try to force others to accept his view, nor claim
  that her particular expression of theosophy should be exclusively
  studied, at the risk of betraying the Founders' original aim. The
  Theosophical Society, aiming to become a nucleus of the universal
  brotherhood, must remain open to universal theosophy, to everything that
  may help to morally and spiritually elevate people who belong to
  different races, creeds, sex, castes, and colours. Otherwise, it will
  become a particular sect, promoting a `stereotyped creed',
  suitable only to a portion of humanity sharing certain common
  characteristics. That would be the failure of the TS:

  Every such attempt as the Theosophical Society has hitherto ended in
  failure, because, sooner or later, it has degenerated into a sect, set
  up hard-and-fast dogmas of its own, and so lost by imperceptible degrees
  that vitality which living truth alone can impart. [xi]

  Of course, this does not imply that where Theosophical groups as such
  meet should be a place to spread other traditions (see John Algeo's
  `On the Watch-Tower', The Theosophist April 2007) nor that
  everything promoted as being a `spiritual teaching' is really
  theosophy. That is, not everything promoted as being spiritual,
  philosophical or religious helps to elevate the human condition. As we
  said, sometimes the originally spiritual teaching was corrupted out of
  ignorance, thirst for domination, and so on. In other cases the teaching
  is offered by a `false prophet'-someone whose intention is not
  at all to give a spiritual teaching, but to obtain personal profit.
  There are also some schools that spread a kind of `spiritual
  materialism' leading to the psychic, to fanaticism, or other forms
  of selfishness, as is happening today in the New Age movement to a large
  extent. Therefore, each member of the TS must develop a deep
  understanding and discrimination in order to discover, in an open and
  non-dogmatic way, where theosophy is truly expressed and where it is


  Thus it is clear that the term `theosophy' is used in different
  contexts. To clarify this matter, we could apply the following
  classification to make a distinction among the different applications of
  this term:

  a) theosophia: the transcendental theosophy, that is, the state of
  consciousness of inner enlightenment.

  b) universal theosophy: those theosophical teachings given by every
  great thinker, sage, and philosopher, modern or ancient. In this
  category we may add two subcategories:

  b1) ancient theosophy, sometimes called the Ancient Wisdom,
  meaning that ancient truth known in the past as the

  b2) modern Theosophy, the Theosophical teachings offered by
  members of the Theosophical Society.

  Since the TS was not founded to promote any particular system, its
  members should not limit Theosophy to a definite set of concepts, if
  they do not want to create a new cult. It is our responsibility to
  preserve a space of freedom for every member to discover universal
  theosophy by himself so that, by living according to its teachings, he
  or she may realize the theosophical state of consciousness.

  Pablo D. Sender

  The Theosophist, Dec. 2007 <>


  [i] Collected Writings, vol. II, p. 88, `What is Theosophy?'

  [ii] Ibid., XI, p. 258.

  [iii] Ibid., XIII, p. 285, `Knowledge Comes in Visions'.

  [iv] Ibid., II, p. 88, `What is Theosophy?'

  [v] Ibid., XIII, p. 285, `Knowledge Comes in Visions'.

  [vi] Ibid., VII, p. 169, `The Original Programme Manuscript'.

  [vii] Ibid., IX, p. 244, `Letter from H. P. Blavatsky to the Second
  American Convention'.

  [viii] The Key to Theosophy, Conclusion, `The Future of the
  Theosophical Society'.

  [ix] CW, vol. VII, p. 169, `The Original Programme Manuscript'.

  [x] Ibid., IX, pp. 243-4, `Letter from H. P. Blavatsky to the Second
  American Convention'.

  [xi] The Key to Theosophy, Conclusion, `The Future of the
  Theosophical Society'.

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[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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