WHAT IS THEOSOPHY? - WHAT ARE THE THEOSOPHISTS? - Part 1
Jan 18, 2011 10:53 AM
by M. Sufilight
My views are:
There seem even today among some of the learned among theosophical seekers, some who are confused to a certain degree about what The Theosophical Society and the Theosophy actually is and was.
I will therefore in the below quote a few words from some articles given in the magazine named "The Theosophist". It was the magazine used by The Theosophical Society in 1879 and in alter years to come. The below was taken from the first volume - dated october 1879. The words seem to be quite important, because the Theosophical Society is, as I see it, today certainly also misunderstood back in 1879 than it is today in our claimed more enlightened century, the 21th.
*** 1 ***
The foundation of this journal is due to causes which, having been enumerated in the Prospectus, need only be glanced at in this connection. They are -- the rapid expansion of the Theosophical Society from America to various European and Asiatic countries; the increasing difficulty and expense in maintaining correspondence by letter with members so widely scattered; the necessity for an organ through which the native scholars of the East could communicate their learning to the Western world, and, especially, through which the sublimity of Aryan, Buddhistic, Parsi, and other religions might be expounded by their own priests or pandits, the only competent interpreters; and finally, to the need of a repository for the facts -- especially such as relate to Occultism -- gathered by the Society's Fellows among different nations. Elsewhere we have clearly explained the nature of Theosophy, and the platform of the Society; it remains for us to say a few words as to the policy of our paper.
It has been shown that the individual members of our Society have their own private opinions upon all matters of a religious, as of every other, nature. They are protected in the enjoyment and expression of the same; and, as individuals, have an equal right to state them in the THEOSOPHIST, over their own signatures. Some of us prefer to be known as Arya Samajists, some as Buddhists, some as idolators, some as something else. What each is, will appear from his or her signed communications. But neither Aryan, Buddhist, nor any other representative of a particular religion, whether an editor or a contributor, can, under the Society's rules, be allowed to use these editorial columns exclusively in the interest of the same, or unreservedly commit the paper to its propaganda. It is designed that a strict impartiality shall be observed in the editorial utterances; the paper representing the whole Theosophical Society, or Universal Brotherhood; and not any single section. The Society being neither a church nor a sect in any sense, we mean to give the same cordial welcome to communications from one class of religionists as to those from another; insisting only, that courtesy of language shall be used towards opponents. And the policy of the Society is also a full pledge and guarantee that there will be no suppression, of fact nor tampering with writings, to serve the ends of any established or dissenting church, of any country.
Articles and correspondence upon either of the topics included in the plan of the THEOSOPHIST are invited; and while, of course, we prefer them to be in the English language, yet if sent in Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, or Gujrati, or in French, Italian, Spanish or Russian, they will be carefully translated and edited for publication. Where it is necessary to print names and words in Hebrew, Greek, and other characters (except Sanskrit and the Indian vernaculars) unlike the Roman, authors will kindly write also their phonetic equivalents in English, as the resources of our printer's office do not appear great in this direction. Manuscripts must be written legibly, upon one side of the sheet only, and authors should always keep copies at home as we will not be responsible for their loss, nor can we obligate ourselves to return rejected articles. Statements of fact will not be accepted from unknown parties without due authentication.
It is desired that our journal shall be read with as much interest by those who are not deep philosophers as by those who are. Some will delight to follow the pandits through the mazes of metaphysical subtleties and the translations of ancient manuscripts, others to be instructed through the medium of legends and tales of mystical import. Our pages will be like the many viands at a feast, where each appetite may be satisfied and none are sent away hungry. The practical wants of life are to many readers more urgent than the spiritual, and that it is not our purpose to neglect them our pages will simply show.
One more word at the threshold before we bid our guests to enter. The first number of the THEOSOPHIST has been brought out under mechanical difficulties which would not have been encountered either at New York or London, and which we hope to escape in future issues. For instance: We first tried to have Mr. Edward Wimbridge's excellent design for the cover engraved on wood, but there was no wood to be had of the right sizes to compose the block, nor any clamps to fasten them together; nor was there an engraver competent to do justice to the subject. In lithography we fared no better; there was not a pressman who could be trusted to print artistic work in colors, and the proprietor of one of the best job offices in India advised us to send the order to London. As a last resort we determined to print the design in relief, and then scoured the metal markets of Bombay and Calcutta for rolled metal plate. Having finally secured an old piece, the artist was forced to invent an entirely novel process to etch on it, and to execute the work himself. We mention these facts in the hope that our unemployed young Indian brothers may recall the old adage, 'where there is a will, there is a way,' and apply the lesson to their own case. And now, friends and enemies, all -- Namastae!"
M. Sufilight asks:
Now we can all ask ourselves, whether the above ideals have been followed in the latest years by those who claim to promote the same as the original Theosophical Society? - And we can ask ourselves, that if they have not done so, why on earth not?
*** 2 ***
"WHAT IS THEOSOPHY?
This question has been so often asked, and misconception so widely prevails, that the editors of a journal devoted to an exposition of the world's Theosophy would be remiss were its first number issued without coming to a full understanding with their readers. But our heading involves two further queries: What is the Theosophical Society; and what are the Theosophists? To each an answer will be given.
According to lexicographers, the term theosophia is composed of two Greek words -- theos, "god," and sophos, "wise." So far, correct. But the explanations that follow are far from giving a clear idea of Theosophy. Webster defines it most originally as "a supposed intercourse with God and superior spirits, and consequent attainment of superhuman knowledge, by physical processes, as by the theurgic operations of some ancient Platonists, or by the chemical processes of the German fire-philosophers."
This, to say the least, is a poor and flippant explanation. To attribute such ideas to men like Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, Jamblichus, Porphyry, Proclus -- shows either intentional misrepresentation, or Mr. Webster's ignorance of the philosophy and motives of the greatest geniuses of the later Alexandrian School. To impute to those whom their contemporaries as well as posterity styled "theodidaktoi," god-taught -- a purpose to develope their psychological, spiritual perceptions by "physical processes," is to describe them as materialists. As to the concluding fling at the fire-philosophers, it rebounds from them to fall home among our most eminent modern men of science; those, in whose mouths the Revd. James Martineau places the following boast: "matter is all we want; give us atoms alone, and we will explain the universe."
Vaughan offers a far better, more philosophical 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." 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.
There were Theosophists before the Christian era, notwithstanding that the Christian writers ascribe the development of the Eclectic theosophical system, to the early part of the third century of their Era. Diogenes Laertius traces Theosophy to an epoch antedating the dynasty of the Ptolemies; and names as its founder an Egyptian Hierophant called Pot-Amun, the name being Coptic and signifying a priest consecrated to Amun, the god of Wisdom. But history shows it revived by Ammonius Saccas, the founder of the Neo-Platonic School. He and his disciples called themselves "Philalethians" -- lovers of the truth;
while others termed them the "Analogists," on account of their method of interpreting all sacred legends, symbolical myths and mysteries, by a rule of analogy or correspondence, so that events which had occurred in the external world were regarded as expressing operations and experiences of the human soul. It was the aim and purpose of Ammonius to reconcile all sects, peoples and nations under one common faith -- a belief in one Supreme Eternal, Unknown, and Unnamed Power, governing the Universe by immutable and eternal laws. His object was to prove a primitive system of Theosophy, which at the beginning was essentially alike in all countries; to induce all men to lay aside their strifes and quarrels, and unite in purpose and thought as the children of one common mother; to purify the ancient religions, by degrees corrupted and obscured, from all dross of human element, by uniting and expounding them upon pure philosophical principles. Hence, the Buddhistic, Vedantic and Magian, or Zoroastrian, systems were taught in the Eclectic Theosophical School along with all the philosophies of Greece. Hence also, that pre-eminently Buddhistic and Indian feature among the ancient Theosophists of Alexandria, of due reverence for parents and aged persons; a fraternal affection for the whole human race; and a compassionate feeling for even the dumb animals. While seeking to establish a system of moral discipline which enforced upon people the duty to live according to the laws of their respective countries; to exalt their minds by the research and contemplation of the one Absolute Truth; his chief object in order, as he believed, to achieve all others, was to extract from the various religious teachings, as from a many-chorded instrument, one full and harmonious melody, which would find response in every truth-loving heart.
Theosophy is, then, the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims to civilization. This "Wisdom" all the old writings show us as an emanation of the divine Principle; and the clear comprehension of it is typified in such names as the Indian Buddh, the Babylonian Nebo, the Thoth of Memphis, the Hermes of Greece; in the appellations, also of some goddesses -- Metis, Neitha, Athena, the Gnostic Sophia, and finally -- the Vedas, from the word "to know." "
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""That Theosophy which prompted such men as Hegel, Fichte and Spinoza to take up the labors of the old Grecian philosophers and speculate upon the One Substance -- the Deity, the Divine All proceeding from the Divine Wisdom -- incomprehensible, unknown and unnamed -- by any ancient or modern religious philosophy, with the exception of Christianity and Mahommedanism. Every Theosophist, then, holding to a theory of the Deity "which has not revelation, but an inspiration of his own for its basis," may accept any of the above definitions or belong to any of these religions, and yet remain strictly within the boundaries of Theosophy."
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"Plotinus, the pupil of the "God-taught" Ammonius, tells us, that the secret gnosis or the knowledge of Theosophy, has three degrees -- opinion, science, and illumination. "The means or instrument of the first is sense, or perception; of the second, dialectics; of the third, intuition. To the last, reason is subordinate; it is absolute knowledge, founded on the identification of the mind with the object known." Theosophy is the exact science of psychology, so to say; it stands in relation to natural, uncultivated mediumship, as the knowledge of a Tyndall stands to that of a school-boy in physics. It develops in man a direct beholding; that which Schelling denominates "a realization of the identity of subject and object in the individual;" so that under the influence and knowledge of hyponia man thinks divine thoughts, views all thing as they really are, and, finally, "becomes recipient of the Soul of the World," to use one of the finest expressions of Emerson. "I, the imperfect, adore my own perfect" -- he says in his superb Essay on the Oversoul. Besides this psychological, or soul-state, Theosophy cultivated every branch of sciences and arts. It was thoroughly familiar with what is now commonly known as mesmerism. Practical theurgy or "ceremonial magic," so often resorted to in their exorcisms by the Roman Catholic clergy -- was discarded by the theosophists. It is but Jamblichus alone who, transcending the other Eclectics, added to Theosophy the doctrine of Theurgy. When ignorant of the true meaning of the esoteric divine symbols of nature, man is apt to miscalculate the powers of his soul, and, instead of communing spiritually and mentally with the higher, celestial beings, the good spirits (the gods of the theurgists of the Platonic school), he will unconsciously call forth the evil, dark powers which lurk around humanity -- the undying, grim creations of human crimes and vices -- and thus fall from theurgia (white magic) into goetia (or black magic, sorcery.) Yet, neither white, nor black magic are what popular superstition understands by the terms. "
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"It is a noticeable fact that neither Zoroaster, Buddha, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Confucius, Socrates, nor Ammonius Saccas, committed anything to writing. The reason for it is obvious. Theosophy is a double-edged weapon and unfit for the ignorant or the selfish. Like every ancient philosophy it has its votaries among the moderns; but, until late in our own days, its disciples were few in numbers, and of the most various sects and opinions. "Entirely speculative, and founding no schools, they have still exercised a silent influence upon philosophy; and no doubt, when the time arrives, many ideas thus silently propounded may yet give new directions to human thought" -- remarks Mr. Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie IX degree . . . himself a mystic and a Theosophist, in his large and valuable work, The Royal Masonic Cyclopoedia (articles Theosophical Society of New York and Theosophy, p. 731).* Since the days of the fire-philosophers, they had never formed themselves into societies, for, tracked like wild beasts by the Christian clergy, to be known as a Theosophist often amounted, hardly a century ago, to a death-warrant. The statistics show that, during a period of 150 years, no less than 90,000 men and women were burned in Europe for alleged witchcraft. In Great Britain only, from A. D. 1640 to 1660, but twenty years, 3,000 persons were put to death for compact with the "Devil." It was but late in the present century -- in 1875 -- that some progressed mystics and spiritualists, unsatisfied with the theories and explanations of Spiritualism, started by its votaries, and finding that they were far from covering the whole ground of the wide range of phenomena, formed at New York, America, an association which is now widely known as the Theosophical Society. And now, having explained what is Theosophy, we will, in a separate article, explain what is the nature of our Society, which is also called the "Universal Brotherhood of Humanity.""
M. Sufilight says:
Now, in these days people are most often not burned at the stake. And that is a happy thing, that humanity at least has reached such a stage of being.
Yet we still find the Theosophists being laughed at, and the idea of Theosophy thrown down into the first available trashcan.
Never the less, we also find that the ideas sown in 1875 are still very much alive on this planet. Yet, I have to say, that I somehow find a lack of understanding of the above words from The Theosophist among many a theosophical Seeker in our present time.
>From the above we have that the secret gnosis or the knowledge of Theosophy, has three degreesis opinion (the instrument is sense), science (the instrument is dialectics) and illumination (the instrument is intuition), and the fourth is absolute knowledge (the identification of the mind with the object known).
These are the levels of knowledge which was forwarded in 1879.
Now most people know about the first two. But the last two a number of persons will cast doubt about the possible existence of. Yet the members of Theosophical Society was not requested to believe anything - It were given freely to them to form their own views within the objects of the Society.
Ammonius Saccas and his disciples called themselves "Philalethians" -- lovers of the truth. And since the theosophists do the same, they can be called truth-Seekers - in the sense that each member forms hiw or her own views about the truth, the truth of liffe and its meaning - and their world view. Yet altruism was from the start the basis of the Society.
And now very important. In the above it is stated that Theosophy is the exact science of psychology. And this is interesting.
And psychology is as we know it the science on the mind. And with that we also know, that the teachings in Mind Control and psychological anti-cult teachings are a new and even growing aspect of present day psychology among the ordinary scientific etablishment. And Theosophy are of course aware of this new important topic. And therefore these words.
Because where do we today find a teaching better forwarded on the science of anti-cult psychology and the problems the use of Mind Control most often creates - than by various Theosophists? Or am I mistaken?
If so, I can only suggest that the Theossophists change their basis and aim.
- - -
This is how I defines som of the above used words...
(1) Dogma and dogmatic:
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from.
(2) Mind control:
Mind control (also known as coercive persuasion, thought control, or thought reform) refers to a process in which a group or individual systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated - Also implies leaders who disallow wellmeant criticism. - Here we are only dealing with it in its religious sense.
Altruism is selfless concern for the welfare of others.
(4) Sectarian person:
A narrow or bigoted person or persons.
Sect: The term is occasionally used in a negative way to suggest the broken-off group follows a more negative path than the original.
Bigotry added to explain the word sectarian:
A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices. The correct use of the term requires the elements of intolerance, irrationality, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs or views.
All the above are however just my views.
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