The Theosophical Forum – March 1936

WHY STUDY THEOSOPHY? — J. Emory Clapp

In his essay on 'Experience,' Emerson, the great American philosopher, says of life:

We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight.

Thus, man is placed in a position of uncertainty as to his origin and destiny, but we note that the wise Sage of Concord postulates a condition of progress. Still, the inquiring and percipient nature of aspiring human beings will not be content with the mere statement of progress. It wants to know where man came from, whither he is going, and why he is here. It requires even more, something that will satisfy the intellect, enlighten the understanding, and give love and peace to the heart. The study of Theosophy will answer the above questions, and with its sublime doctrines it is the only thing that will give a logical and satisfying answer. Therefore, mankind should study Theosophy.

There are three channels through which mankind searches for wisdom, and yet the three are really but aspects of one road or pathway which leads to Truth. These three channels are Religion, Philosophy, and Science. Yet no man can solve the problems of life through any one of these alone. One might just as well try to solve the problems in arithmetic by the sole use of addition or subtraction or division. Unfortunately, most truth-seekers have specialized in but one of the above means for the attainment of knowledge; hence the knowledge which they have obtained has been incomplete and one-sided. Theosophy uses all of these channels to show the pathway to Truth, and thus appeals to all types of minds.

If we go back about fifty or sixty years we find that Religion and Science were at war. Philosophy was standing aloof. Investigation carried on by the scientists of that day had demonstrated the fact that the Bible could not be relied upon as a source of information regarding the so-called creation, for it showed that this earth, instead of being but a few thousand years old, as estimated by the chronology put forth by Archbishop Usher, was hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of years old, as shown by the records of geology.

At that time there appeared on the scene one who was destined to throw confusion into the ranks of the materialists, overturn dogmatic creeds and beliefs, and revivify age-old teachings which had a basis not only in religion and science but also in philosophy. This individual was a woman of noble Russian parentage, with a penetrating intellect, an all-encompassing mind, and a heart filled with compassion — Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. In 1875, with the assistance of others, she formed the Theosophical Society, and through this as an instrument she began to give out that ancient wisdom which she denominated 'The Secret Doctrine.' She defined this as "the synthesis of religion, philosophy and science," and stated that this doctrine had been brought to primeval humanity by advanced spiritual entities who had attained a high degree of evolution in other worlds and spheres. Furthermore, this doctrine with its teaching had been checked and rechecked by great sages and seers all down the ages, such sages and seers being merely men who through their own efforts had reached a much higher stage of evolution than the average of humanity. The popular name of the philosophy expounded by Madame Blavatsky is Theosophy.

Fellows of the Theosophical Society, students of this ancient wisdom, have found in it an answer to all the problems of life; and, strange and improbable as it may seem, the statements given by H. P. Blavatsky to an unbelieving generation have had their truth demonstrated along many lines time and again, through the discoveries of modern science, the researches of archaeologists, and the general advancement of human knowledge. Furthermore, H. P. B. showed that all the truly great Religions had a common origin, and that their teachings when properly understood were not antagonistic, but complementary. One of the proofs of their common origin was the fact that the same system of ethics ran through them all, like a silken thread linking them together.

All of these facts can be found in her writings, chiefly in The Secret Doctrine. In this marvelous work she anticipated all the chief discoveries of science which have been made up to the present time, during the interval since this book was published in 1888. She hinted at the discovery of the X-ray, elucidated the composite nature of the atom, and the electrical basis of matter. She stated that matter and force were but the two opposite poles of the same thing, and even previous to this, in the early '80s, one of her Teachers, to whom she gave credit for all her vast fund of knowledge, made the statement:

For indeed, there is but one thing — radiant energy, which is inexhaustible and knows neither increase nor decrease.

In a popular scientific work published within the last two or three years, under the title The Great Design, one of the contributors stated the same thing in slightly different words: namely that radiation is the fundamental stuff of which the universe is made.

A new presentation of Theosophy by G. de Purucker, entitled The Esoteric Tradition has recently been published. In it Dr. de Purucker, who is the present Leader of the Theosophical Society, demonstrates that the discoveries of modern science as far as facts are concerned, have agreed fully with the esoteric philosophy, Theosophy, and that even the hypotheses and theories advanced by the most eminent scientific thinkers, such as Einstein, Eddington, Jeans, Millikan, Planck and others, are constantly approaching more closely to the Theosophical concepts. Owing to the great advances made by these outstanding scientific thinkers, Dr. de Purucker has been enabled to give out much more of the esoteric philosophy than was possible when H. P. Blavatsky wrote The Secret Doctrine. This fuller exposition of Theosophy would not have been understood at that time, simply because so many of the scientific ideas then accepted were erroneous and therefore antagonistic to certain truths which can now be revealed.

While this article is not intended to be in any sense an exposition of Theosophy the writer believes that a glimpse at some of its most important doctrines will show the logical basis for the philosophy and demonstrate to the inquiring mind that it is worth investigation. He will therefore call attention to a few of its basic teachings.

The most fundamental teaching of Theosophy is that of Universal Brotherhood. This doctrine is not based upon sentiment or emotion, but upon the grand and sublime concept that this great universe is a unit — that every part of it is essential, and that the essence, the Heart of the Universe, is Divinity itself. Every human being, therefore, lives and manifests within that Divinity, and the inmost core of his being is a spark of that Divinity. This was taught by the Christian Initiate known as the Apostle Paul, in the following words: "In Him (or It) we live and move and have our being."

There is but one law in the universe. It is called the Law of Karman, and it is that which tends to restore harmony when it has been violated by conflicting wills of human beings or other entities. From this 'law,' so-called, all other laws of Nature have been derived.

Evolution, or growth, or progress, is another cardinal doctrine of this ancient wisdom. It differs materially from the Darwinian idea, however, although many of Darwin's followers feel that this great scientist himself realized that there were weak points in his conception.

Another doctrine which is essential to the full understanding of the doctrine of Karman, previously mentioned, is the doctrine of Reincarnation, or Re-imbodiment. The combination of these two doctrines gives to man hope, and shows him his responsibility to himself and to all other beings.

H. P. Blavatsky and Theosophical teachers who have followed her have made many inspiring statements which I think will help further to demonstrate the need of Theosophy and the reason why aspiring human beings should study it. William Q. Judge, one of the co-founders of the Theosophical Society, made the following statement:

Theosophy is sometimes called the Wisdom-Religion, because from immemorial time it has had knowledge of all the laws governing the spiritual, the moral, and the material.

The theory of nature and of life which it offers is not one that was at first speculatively laid down and then proved by adjusting facts or conclusions to fit it; but is an explanation of existence, cosmic and individual, derived from the knowledge reached by those who have acquired the power to see behind the curtain that hides the operations of nature from the ordinary mind. — An Epitome of Theosophy, pp. 1-2

H. P. Blavatsky says of the practical application of Theosophy:

The essence of Theosophy is the perfect harmonizing of the divine with the human in man, the adjustment of his god-like qualities and aspirations, and their sway over the terrestrial or animal passions in him. Kindness, absence of every ill feeling or selfishness, charity, good-will to all beings, and perfect justice to others as to one's self, are its chief features. He who teaches Theosophy preaches the gospel of good-will; and the converse of this is true also, — he who preaches the gospel of good-will, teaches Theosophy. — Letters from H. P. Blavatsky to the American Conventions, Letter I, April, 1888

G. de Purucker states that

Theosophy is the explanation of things as they are, the formulation in human language of the principles of the Universe.

Questions We All Ask, Series I, p. 466

He further calls attention to the fact that "Knowledge is of loving deeds the child," and states

This is one of the sublimest truths. Of the mysteries, of the higher mysteries you cannot have knowledge unless your heart is filled with love, and overflowing with it; and knowledge comes from the exercise of the spiritual powers within you. This exercise is most easily achieved in doing deeds of loving kindness, in feeling and practising brotherhood, in helping and sharing with others, in helping others and sharing with them the blessings that you have." — Golden Precepts of Esotericism, p. 104

The Theosophist finds in Nature a mighty teacher. To quote from Katherine Tingley,

Out of the great heart of Nature all things proceed, and all things lead back there at last. All worlds and systems of worlds, from the great central Sun to the smallest particle in space, must thrill responsive to the pulsation of that infinite heart of compassion. . . . in every act which partakes of the divine quality of compassion lies concealed the potency of all the spheres. All Nature obeys the command of one whose heart beats constantly for others.

She defined Theosophy as

the inner life of every religion — Theosophy: the Path of the Mystic, p. 8. . . think of Theosophy not so much as a body of philosophic or other teachings, but as the highest law of conduct which is the enacted expression of divine love or compassion. . . . Theosophy is the great interpreter of life. — Op. cit., p. 3

To the aspiring human being I would call attention to the following from Katherine Tingley:

Self analysis, self study, self control! These are the divine, protective power, the golden keys to an understanding of the Self. Oh that you might realize what books of revelation are piled up on the shelves of your own lives! — Op. cit., p. 30

To one who is of a religious nature the following quotation from William Q. Judge should appeal:

Theosophy is the divine soul of religion, the one key to all Bibles, the riddle reader of all mysteries, the consoler of the heartweary, the benign comforter in sorrow, the alleviator of social miseries. You can preach its lesson before any audience in the world. It is the one Pentecostal voice which all can understand.

It matters not what line of endeavor one may wish to follow in life; if it is one that appeals to the higher part of man's nature, one which is generally recognised as partaking of the nature of righteousness (right action) and justice, the study of Theosophy will be beneficial and uplifting. To the true scientist Theosophy will open a new world, the existence of invisible spheres, energies, and beings. To the truly religious man it will show the pathway leading to the Heart of Divinity. To one of a philosophic trend of mind it will illumine every problem. How can one possibly refrain from studying Theosophy if he realizes these facts?

And to those reading these lines who are dissatisfied with their present condition may I address a pertinent question? Are you satisfied with the outer husks of existence? Don't you want to experience the fulness of Life — Self-expression in its true sense? If so, study Theosophy, for Theosophy will show you the Way, the Road, the Path. It will show you how to control your tawdry, acquisitive, personal lower self — to raise it, in other words, until it becomes 'at-one' with your higher, superior, Universal Self. Thus even in this life you may begin to manifest the splendor of the Christ within; and as "To live to benefit mankind is the first step" on the path you will doubtless want to join your brothers and companions in a united effort "to benefit mankind" by joining the Theosophical Society and thus participating in its noble effort to enlighten Humanity and to bring about a true expression of Brotherhood.


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