The Theosophical Forum – January 1942


Over radio station XQHB, Shanghai, China, in the Spring of 1941, fifteen-minute weekly broadcasts were given — the result of the enthusiastic enterprise of Miss Inga Sjostedt and Miss Elsa-Brita Bergqvist of the Shanghai Theosophical Lodge. The first talk, covering a general outline of our doctrines, was presented on March 23rd by Miss Bergqvist.

Good evening, everybody:

This first talk is going to be merely a preliminary survey to explain very briefly what Theosophy is. The word Theosophy is a combination of Theos and sophia, meaning the Divine Wisdom.

Many people when they hear the word Theosophy receive the impression that this is another new religion, one of the many sects which periodically spring up in all parts of the world. This is not so. Theosophy is not a religion invented by men for men. It is a study of life as it is, and includes all the departments of nature. After all there can be only one ultimate truth, though this truth may have many facets and may be seen from various angles. The three main roads by which mankind has sought to learn the truth throughout all ages are religion, philosophy, and science. If a fact has been found plausible by any one of these methods, a thinking man will be convinced of its truth only if it agrees with the tenets of the other two. This is why science and religion are so often at loggerheads both with each other and with philosophy. The reason we believe Theosophy to contain the truth is the fact that it reconciles religion, science, and philosophy, and shows plainly that these are merely three different roads to truth — and the point where they converge is Theosophy.

Yet Theosophy is not a synthesis of these three. Rather is it the parent. For the teachings contained in Theosophy are by no means new. So long as there has been life, so long has there also existed an explanation of that life; and so long as mankind has lived on earth and been puzzled regarding the cause and meaning of its existence, so long also have the cause and meaning been taught. All the great world-teachers have given out certain facts regarding man's origin and the purpose of his life, and though the symbols and manner of speech have been fitted in each case to the particular recipients thereof, their teaching has always been identical. Though these teachers have lived at different periods, far separated in time and locality, yet their work is with us always. Mankind has never been without their guiding influence. Buddha and Christ, Sankaracharya and Lao-Tse, Plato and Zoroaster are not mere names of the past, but guiding influences in the world to all who care to heed, and their teaching is as much to the point today as it ever was.

In these days of mental and moral sickness we are all badly in need of a further dose of spiritual enlightenment, and we have the opportunity to study the teachings of these great men and others like them and to learn to understand their meaning, which is often difficult to grasp without the key furnished by Theosophy.

So far, little has been said about science and how it fits into the scheme of Theosophy. Physical science is, as any scientist will agree, as yet far from perfect and fails to explain some of the more obvious facts of life. If you ask a scientist: What is fire? he will be unable to answer you; yet fire is most widely used in all departments of life, and we are familiar with its habits and qualities. Yet even physical science, imperfect as it still is, is taking great strides. New discoveries are being made all the time, and it is approaching gradually more and more to Theosophy, and many of the tenets of Theosophy regarding the laws of the physical universe are gaining currency among the modern scientific thinkers. As for instance the scientific view regarding the composition of the atom, which has recently been modified to accord with what is taught in the archaic religion-science-philosophy. In fact many of the more intuitive modern scientists are tending to adopt more and more of the Theosophical views, even at the risk of being ridiculed, as was the astronomer Galileo — yet Galileo's name has since been completely vindicated.

But Theosophy is no mere scientific and philosophical exposition of the facts of life. It is also religion. Not a religion, but religion in its highest and finest sense, for it demonstrates that ethics and morality are fundamental in nature; that the finer qualities we applaud are natural, that is to say that they are the laws of nature that must be followed, and that unhappiness and suffering arise out of the breaking of these laws. Humanity must learn to obey the natural ethical laws in order to maintain that order and harmony which are the basis of the universe. Any sin against these laws upsets the equilibrium on which the universe depends, and it is nature's reaction to restore balance which causes suffering.

I have sometimes been asked: Are Theosophists atheists? Indeed we are not. Theosophy maintains that there is a Divine Source from which all manifested existence springs. But we do not call it God, for the simple reason that God is a man-made conception of the Divine. The human understanding is limited to its own sphere of activity, and it is gross conceit on the part of man to "create god in his own image."

Divinity is unfathomable. It must be so, and to apply any human attributes such as goodness or kindness must be at best a ridiculous understatement. Therefore we give no name to the Divine, but content ourselves to call it THAT, as translated from the Sanskrit Tat — because it is beyond human comprehension. As soon as we try to give any epithet, however lofty, to an idea we immediately limit this idea, and as the thought cannot be greater than the thinker, we create a god smaller than ourselves. From our refusal to do this has sprung the misapprehension that Theosophists are atheists. Out of this has arisen another point of variance between Theosophy and those religions that hold that man has nothing divine in him. Divinity, being divine, cannot be limited in space, time, or in any other way; must therefore be omnipresent and eternal. From this we draw the conclusion that everything, from the meanest atom to the greatest galaxy contains Divinity. Man as an entity, therefore, is essentially Divine, therefore essentially eternal, and contains in himself, in his essence, the potentiality for uniting himself consciously with Divinity. This is our aim and the reason why we live.

I repeat again, Theosophy is not new; it is as old as life. The facts that it teaches have been taught, whether publicly or secretly, to those whose minds were prepared to understand, from prehistoric times until today. Man is not the only pebble on the beach and is preceded and succeeded by other beings more or less evolved than himself. Those who have traveled farther on the path of evolution — the Masters and World-Teachers — have periodically appeared among mankind when we were ready to receive more of the divine knowledge, and their teaching has after their departure been misunderstood and dogmatized. But the identical core of all these many teachings can still be found, and the work of enlightening mankind still goes on. At the end of the last century the teachings were again given out, this time through the agency of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the Messenger of the Masters in these days, who founded the Theosophical Society for this purpose. Theosophy has not yet had time to degenerate from the purity in which it was first presented, and we hope that it will long continue in its unsullied state and do great work in raising men's minds to a higher level of thought and inspiration.

The Theosophical Forum