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Re: What is Theosophy

Feb 14, 2008 09:53 PM
by plcoles1

Dear Pablo,

Thanks for your posting and for sharing your perspective.
A theosophist is not necessarily a supporter or promoter of this or 
that teaching, but is rather a sincere seeker after truth.

HPB made the following statement in the Lucifer magazine that I find 
interesting in regards whether the TS should promote one particular 
doctrine over another:

"This is clearly a matter of opinion, and Mr. Patterson puts the 
opposing view. One has but to read the new "Constitution and Rules 
of the Theosophical Society" for 1891 (in the Supplement of the 
January Theosophist), to find in Article xiii, 2, that "no Fellow, 
Officer, or Council of the Theosophical Society, or of any Section 
or Branch thereof, shall promulgate or maintain any doctrine as 
being that advanced or advocated by the Society"; and whatever we 
do, we have to abide by the Rules of the T.S. 

Mrs. Besant would have done more wisely to have called her 
article "Comments on the E. S. of the Theosophical Society and 
H.P.B.," she would then have been on the safe side; for a member of 
the E.S. who receives instructions emanating from the Masters of the 
Occult Philosophy, and doubts at the same time the genuineness of 
the source, or the honesty of the humble transmitter of the old 
esoteric doctrines?lies to his own soul, and is untrue to his 
pledge. He cannot be honest and remain in the E.S., in such a case. 
But then, the Esoteric Section, its qualification "of the T.S." 
notwithstanding, does not represent the latter, and in future it 
will drop the additional words altogether. From the very beginning 
its second rule stated, that the "Esoteric Section has no official 
or corporate connection with the Exoteric Society" 

(see Lucifer of October, 1888).* Henceforth it will be called "the 
Esoteric School of Theosophy," simply. Meanwhile, I thank our 
brother, Mr. Patterson, for giving me this opportunity of expressing 
my feelings.?H.P.B.]"
Lucifer, Vol. VII, No. 42, February, 1891, pp. 451-455]

The current perspective that I lean towards is that there are indeed 
many worthwhile things in the writings of Mrs Besant and CWL, not 
that I agree with everything in them, but by on large they do 
promote theosophical principles such as Universal Oneness, 
cyclistity, Brotherhood etc. so there is no need to throw the baby 
out with the bath water and even then only we can decide which is 
the baby and what is the bath water, it is our own process and 
choice no one else can demand we comply to a particular ruling on 
the veracity of their writings or teachings be that in part or as a 

Thanks again 



--- In, "Pablo Sender" <pasender@...> 
> "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 
> H. P. Blavatsky's words, because the theosophical movement as a
> whole accepts her as a common source of inspiration. Nevertheless, 
> same concepts may be found in many other theosophical writers.
> The term theosophia apparently was first recorded during the 3rd 
> of our era by Porphyry, a well-known Alexandrian philosopher who
> belonged to the Neo-Platonic school. It is composed of two Greek 
> 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 
> and was also used by certain Christians. In the course of time, 
> people and movements spiritually inclined also adopted the 
> of `theosophers' or `theosophists' for themselves. That
> was the case of Meister Eckhart in the 14th c., a group of 
> philosophers such as Paracelsus in the 16th c., Robert Fludd, 
> Vaughan, and Jacob Boehme in the 17th; and Emanuel Swedenborg and 
> 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 
> suitable fashion to modern times and a rich literature has been 
> by Theosophical Society members in its more than 130 years of 
> 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 
> 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 
> 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, 
> 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 
> 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 
> and define; but we can always conceive the abstract idea thereof, 
> to that faculty higher than our reason?intuition, or the spiritual
> instinct of which I have spoken. The great initiates, who have the 
> 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 
> sketched for the small number of our readers who are gifted with 
> desired intuition. [ii]
> And HPB herself had access to this kind of Divine Wisdom. Let us 
> 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 
> the whole system. . . . Not a word was spoken to me of all this in 
> ordinary way . . . nothing taught me in writing. And knowledge so
> obtained is so clear . . . that all other sources of information, 
> 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 
> and lectures, because one deals with reality in a more direct way 
> 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, 
> 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 
> a Theosophist. Hence, Theosophy and Theosophists have existed ever 
> 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 
> that is, the body of concepts taught by a theosophist as a result 
of his
> insight and wisdom. There is an important difference between 
> as the state of Divine Wisdom and theosophy as the teachings that 
> through someone who has attained (whether temporarily or 
> that enlightened state. The Divine Wisdom is the perception of 
> but the teachings are a necessarily partial and conditioned 
> of the real theosophia. They are, therefore, not the Truth, but a
> description of it. One may be in touch with the theosophical 
> 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 
> aspirant is earnest, their application will help him to live the 
> life, to develop self-knowledge, and ultimately to awaken the 
> Wisdom that is in his inmost being.
> Now, the very nature of the theosophical teachings accounts for 
> diversity. A theosophist will speak according to his own 
> `expressing his own independent opinions'. They are not
> brain-born ideas, but arise from a deep state of consciousness, 
> the individual is facing Truth in some of its many aspects. And in 
> state he does not learn through easily repeated concepts, but 
> `images'. He has therefore the difficult task of putting into
> words his holistic comprehension of something which is beyond our 
> 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 
> is Sacred. Quoting again HPB's words:
> One of the reasons why I hesitate to answer offhand some questions 
> to me is the difficulty of expressing in sufficiently accurate 
> 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 
> they want to point out the way to others. Thus, the expression of 
> theosophical teachings must necessarily be different from 
theosophist to
> theosophist according to his own temperament, intellectual 
> 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 
> understanding, he will know that no verbal exposition is able to 
> the Truth (not even at an intellectual level) and that theosophia 
> not be attained by believing in any body of concepts. This is why, 
> its inception, the Theosophical Society has encouraged no 
dogmatism or
> belief.
> 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 
> teachings.
> According to the theosophical view, every world religion is based 
> 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 
> more or less corrupted by human ambition and selfishness, and 
> by superstition and ignorance. Thus, universal theosophy became
> entangled in a mass of confusion, and now a special effort is 
> to bring back its purity. One of the aims of the Theosophical 
Society is
> to encourage its members to investigate and discover the eternal 
> enshrined in different religions, philosophies, and sciences, and 
> 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 
> 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 
> forms of life, the universal laws that rule its development, and 
so on.
> Besides, modern theosophical literature speaks about right living 
> the application of theosophical principles in daily life and, 
> there are also a good number of books revealing universal 
theosophy as
> present in different myths, philosophies, religions, and sciences. 
> this literature is known as `modern Theosophy' (now usually
> written with a capital `T').
> Modern Theosophy offers a certain shared cosmovision, but since it 
> produced by some theosophists' own inspiration, it is not a 
> body of knowledge, but a dynamic exposition that differs in many 
> or ways of expression from one author to another. Modern Theosophy 
> not based on revelation or the teachings given by someone 
> special and infallible, and it constantly receives new additions,
> presenting different aspects and new formulations of the 
> principles. In fact, that is the way the Founders originally meant 
> as revealed in many of their writings, and even in those of the 
> 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 
> teachings be given. But no more will be given than the world, on 
> present level of spirituality, can profit by. It depends on the 
> 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 
> first years of the TS, the remaining members working for more than 
> 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 
> 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 
> 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 
> 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 
> oneself, but also for the vitality of the modern theosophical 
> 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 
> Society a living and healthy body, its many other ugly features
> notwithstanding. Were it not, also, for the existence of a large 
> 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 
> the living and breathing spirit of Truth and an ever growing 
> [x]
> 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 
> theosophy, let us say, Mme Blavatsky's, and he has a right to do 
> But he should neither try to force others to accept his view, nor 
> 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 
> 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 
> failure, because, sooner or later, it has degenerated into a sect, 
> up hard-and-fast dogmas of its own, and so lost by imperceptible 
> that vitality which living truth alone can impart. [xi]
> Of course, this does not imply that where Theosophical groups as 
> 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 
> 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 
> extent. Therefore, each member of the TS must develop a deep
> understanding and discrimination in order to discover, in an open 
> non-dogmatic way, where theosophy is truly expressed and where it 
> not.
> Summary
> 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
> `Wisdom-Religion'.
>        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, 
> 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
> <>
> References
> [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 
> American Convention'.
> [xi] The Key to Theosophy, Conclusion, `The Future of the
> Theosophical Society'.
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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