The Theosophical Forum – August 1941

THE "THEOLOGY" OF THEOSOPHY — Louis E. Van Norman

"What I should like to have you explain to me," said a friend the other day, "is the theology of Theosophy." "Theosophy has no theology," I replied. "That is, if by the term theology you mean a system of dogmas, of precise doctrines drawn or inherited from historic sources, from the dicta of human beings, religious leaders."

"But would you claim that Theosophists don't have their particular brand of truth and insist upon your believing it?"

"Yes, I mean to say just that. Theosophy does not insist upon any particular brand of truth. On the contrary, it teaches that, since truth is reality, cosmic reality, and human intelligence is limited, man can go only so far toward truth as his intellectual and spiritual insight enables him to go. He himself must always be the judge. If the evidence honestly convinces him, it is for him the truth."

"But how about those with sectarian backgrounds? Can we accept such an attitude? What must we believe? In other words, can we become Theosophists I mean, without discarding our old faiths entirely?"

"Yes. Strange as it may seem to you, that is possible. I myself have found many different faiths represented in the Theosophical Society — Christians, Jews, Hindus. I believe you will find people with these backgrounds represented in the Theosophical Society, holding to the Ancient Wisdom which was originally in their own faiths. But now they understand what Theosophists mean when they refer to their teachings as God Wisdom."

"I am not convinced as to the theology point. Theosophists must have some sort of system to which they expect you to subscribe. I don't mean what they teach in their books. I mean the general objects of their teaching, if you like to put it that way. The other day I went to one of the meetings in the Temple at Point Loma and someone handed me a circular which listed the "Objects" of the Theosophical Society. They seem to me to be a sort of Theology. Perhaps, if these "Objects" were stated in simpler language this flavor of theology might disappear."

"Does the language in which these "Objects" are stated really seem theological? Let me restate them — or try to do so — in even simpler phraseology. Let me use phrases which, even if somewhat less dignified than those in the circular, will perhaps be more comprehensible to the man in the street and the woman in the home in these United States of ours in the year 1941. If I can do this acceptably I believe no true Christian, Jew, Buddhist, or even so-called Agnostic, will find any real difficulty in agreeing with what is set forth and, at the same time, in holding to the basic tenets of his own particular faith. They all began as inheritances from the Ancient Wisdom which Theosophy teaches."

As set forth in the circular in question the first "Object" (a) of the Theosophical Society is:

"To diffuse among men a knowledge of the laws inherent in the universe." This might be otherwise stated to read:

"To set down and explain, so far as may be possible, so that all who wish may understand, how things work in this universe in which we live."

We all know and believe that, as Browning has put it, "God's in His heaven, All's right with the world." But we will be happier and nobler if we understand something of the laws of God by whatever name we may know Him.

The second object of the Theosophical Society (b) is:

"To promulgate the knowledge of the essential unity of all that is, and to demonstrate that this unity is fundamental in Nature."

"Promulgate" is, perhaps, a rather stiff formal word. The dictionary says it means "to announce officially." Frankly, I confess I don't like the official smack to the word. But here it really means that the Theosophical Society is willing to stand behind, to endorse, an organized effort to spread abroad facts and information going to prove that the universe in which we live is one, fundamentally one, and that man is part of this oneness. There are many scientific historical facts to prove this. We might make a paraphrase of this "Object" to read this way:

"To spread abroad, with the approval of the Theosophical leaders, and reference to historical sources, a knowledge of the fact that we are all one — animate and inanimate nature, the land, the sea, the stars, the animals, and man himself."

Let us leave until the last "Object (c)." It is in many ways the most important of all.

Now take "Object (d)":

"To study ancient and modern religion, science, and philosophy." This seems quite clear and concise as stated. It is of course a very large order. But how inspiring and stimulating.

"Object (e)" is stated as:

"To investigate the powers innate in man."

Most of us know very little about our powers. Today we are being told by all sorts of alleged authorities, including impostors, that we have powers over nature and ourselves. We need to know the truth about these powers. Not for material gain but for our spiritual enlightenment. The wise Greek said: "Man, know thyself," and thou shalt know all that can be known.

All of Theosophy, all of human duty and opportunity, is bound up in the lofty purpose set forth in "Object (c)":

"To form an active brotherhood among men."

This is regarded as so important by Theosophists that all they ask of those who wish to join their ranks is a sincere acceptance of this belief.

"Could any object be more lofty or important in these years in which we are living? Could any theology held to by any church, or other religious body, be more soul-inspiring, more divine, more practical than this?"

My friend left me with an admission that theologies are not so important as he had been accustomed to regard them, but that "Objects" are. He promised to read theosophical books to learn about the "teachings" of the great ones of all ages and all lands who have given us what we know as the Ancient Wisdom.


The Theosophical Forum

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