Investigating the Powers in Man

By H. P. Blavatsky
[Since 1878 the declared objects of the Theosophical Society have included a statement about investigating the powers latent in man, sometimes adding the "unexplained laws" or "hidden mysteries of nature." Prior to the formation of the TS in Fall 1875, its basic aims, including universal brotherhood, had already been indicated in H. P. Blavatsky's first theosophical article — written about the time she had received from her teachers "Orders . . . to establish a philosophico-religious Society." The first By-laws of the TS stated only one general object: "to collect and diffuse a knowledge of the laws which govern the universe," with brotherhood implicit in the Society's acceptance of members regardless of "race, sex, color, country, or creed." This statement was elaborated three years later in an 1878 circular (see below), and by 1882 had been formulated into the "Three Objects," broadly summarized today as 1) universal brotherhood; 2) study of world's religions, sciences, and philosophies; and 3) investigating the powers in man. The second and third objects were always viewed by HPB and her teachers as subsidiary to, and primary means of achieving, the brotherhood ideal, as will be seen in her comments which follow. — W. T. S. Thackara]

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May 1878: "The Theosophical Society: Its Origin, Plan and Aims," circular drafted by H. S. Olcott, President-Founder, with HPB's assistance. Reprinted in H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings (BCW) 1:376-7

VI. The objects of the Society are various. It influences its fellows to acquire an intimate knowledge of natural law, especially its occult manifestations. As the highest development, physically and spiritually, on earth, of the Creative Cause, man should aim to solve the mystery of his being. He is the procreator of his species, physically, and having inherited the nature of the unknown but palpable Cause of his own creation, must possess in his inner, psychical self, this creative power in lesser degree. He should, therefore, study to develop his latent powers, and inform himself respecting the laws of magnetism, electricity and all other forms of force, whether of the seen or unseen universes. The Society teaches and expects its fellows to personally exemplify the highest morality and religious aspiration; to oppose the materialism of science, and every form of dogmatic theology . . . ; to make known among Western nations the long-suppressed facts about Oriental religious philosophies, their ethics, chronology, esotericism, symbolism . . . ; to disseminate a knowledge of the sublime teachings of that pure esoteric system of the archaic period, which are mirrored in the oldest Vedas, and in the philosophy of Gautama Buddha, Zoroaster and Confucius; finally and chiefly, to aid in the institution of a Brotherhood of Humanity, wherein all good and pure men, of every race, shall recognize each other as the equal effects (upon this planet) of one Uncreate, Universal, Infinite, and Everlasting Cause.

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May 1889: "The Beacon of the Unknown," BCW 11:251

This consummation ["the union of the divine spark which animates man with the parent-flame, which is the Divine All"] is the ultima Thule of those Theosophists, who devote themselves entirely to the service of humanity. Apart from those, others, who are not yet ready to sacrifice everything, may occupy themselves with the transcendental sciences, such as Mesmerism, and the modern phenomena under all their forms. They have the right to do so according to the clause which specifies, as one of the objects of The Theosophical Society, "the investigation of the unexplained laws of nature and the psychic powers latent in man."

The first are not numerous — complete altruism being a rara avis [rare bird] even among modern Theosophists. The other members are free to occupy themselves with whatever they like.

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July 1889: The Key to Theosophy, p. 48

ENQUIRER. And what about the third object, to develop in man his latent spiritual or psychic powers?

THEOSOPHIST. This has to be achieved also by means of publications, in those places where no lectures and personal teachings are possible. Our duty is to keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions. To oppose and counteract — after due investigation and proof of its irrational nature — bigotry in every form, religious, scientific, or social, and cant above all, whether as religious sectarianism or as belief in miracles or anything supernatural. What we have to do is to seek to obtain knowledge of all the laws of nature, and to diffuse it. To encourage the study of those laws least understood by modern people, the so-called Occult Sciences, based on the true knowledge of nature, instead of, as at present, on superstitious beliefs based on blind faith and authority. Popular folk-lore and traditions, however fanciful at times, when sifted may lead to the discovery of long-lost, but important, secrets of nature. The Society, therefore, aims at pursuing this line of inquiry, in the hope of widening the field of scientific and philosophical observation.

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July 1889: "Force of Prejudice," BCW 11:334-5

The Society is not a sectarian nor is it a religious body, but simply a nucleus of men devoted to the search after truth, whencesoever it may come. . . .

The second object of the T.S., i.e., the Eastern philosophy interpreted esoterically, has never yet failed to solve many a problem for those who study the subject seriously. It is only those others, who, without being natural mystics, rush heedlessly into the mysteries of the unexplained psychic powers latent in every man . . . that generally come to grief and make the T.S. responsible for their own failure.

. . . No member is obliged to feel in full sympathy with all three objects; suffice that he should be in sympathy with one of the three, and be willing not to oppose the two others, to render him eligible to membership in the T.S.

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September 1889: "Our Three Objects," BCW 11:392-9

Classifying them under the appropriate headings, they are as follows:

I. Brotherhood. . . .
II. Oriental Philosophy, Literature, etc. . . .
III. Occultism

Though but a minority of our members are mystically inclined, yet, in point of fact, the key to all our successes . . . is in our recognition of the fact of the Higher Self — colourless, cosmopolitan, unsectarian, sexless, unworldly, altruistic — and the doing of our work on that basis. . . .

Social differentiations, the result of physical evolutions and material environment, breed race hatreds and sectarian and social antipathies that are insurmountable if attacked from the outside. But, since human nature is ever identical, all men are alike open to influences which centre upon the human "heart," and appeal to the human intuition; and as there is but one Absolute Truth, and this is the soul and life of all human creeds, it is possible to effect a reciprocal alliance for the research of and dissemination of that basic Truth. We know that a comprehensive term for that Eternal Verity is the "Secret Doctrine"; we have preached it, have won a hearing, have, to some extent, swept away the old barriers, formed our fraternal nucleus, and, by reviving the Aryan* Literature, caused its precious religious, philosophical and scientific teachings to spread among the most distant nations.

* [A Sanskrit term used in HPB's time to denote the peoples of India. — Eds.]

If we have not opened regular schools of adeptship in the Society, we have at least brought forward a certain body of proof that adepts exist and that adeptship is a logical necessity in the natural order of human development. We have thus helped the West to a worthier ideal of man's potentialities than it before possessed. The study of Eastern psychology has given the West a clue to certain mysteries previously baffling as, for example, in the department of mesmerism and hypnotism, and in that of the supposed posthumous relations of the disincarnate entity with the living. It has also furnished a theory of the nature and relations of Force and Matter capable of practical verification by whomsoever may learn and follow out the experimental methods of the Oriental Schools of Occult science. Our own experience leads us to say that this science and its complementary philosophy throw light upon some of the deepest problems of man and nature; in science, bridging the "Impassable Chasm," in philosophy, making it possible to formulate a consistent theory of the origin and destiny of the heavenly orbs and their progeny of kingdoms and various planes.

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August 1890: "Recent Progress in Theosophy," BCW 12:302-4, 307-8

[Regarding the three objects:] Every one entering the society is supposed to sympathize with the theory of essential brotherhood; a kinship which exists on the plane of the higher self, not on that of the racial, social, and mental dissimilarities and antipathies. These elements of discord pertain to the physical man and are the result of unequal development under the law of evolution. We believe the human body to be but the shell, cover, or veil of the real entity; and those who accept the esoteric philosophy and the theory of "Karma" (the universal law of ethical causation) believe that the entity, as it travels around certain major and minor cycles of existence with the whole mass of human beings, takes on a different body at birth, and shells it off at death, under the operation of this Karmic law. Yet though it may thus clothe and reclothe itself a thousand times in a series of reincarnations, the entity is unchanged and unchangeable, being of a divine nature, superior to all environments on the earthly plane. It is the physical body only which has racial type, color, sex, hatreds, ambitions, and loves. So then, when we postulate the idea of universal brotherhood, we wish it understood that it is held in no Utopian sense, though we do not dream of realizing it at once on the ordinary plane of social or national relations. Most assuredly, if this view of the kinship of all mankind could gain universal acceptance, the improved sense of moral responsibility it would engender would cause most social evils and international asperities to disappear; for a true altruism, instead of the present egoism, would be the rule the world over. So we have written down as the first of our declared objects this altruistic asseveration, and have been working practically to bring about a beginning of the better law.

The second of our declared objects speaks so plainly for itself that I need not dwell upon it, save in the most casual way. The founders of the Theosophical Society thought they had the best reason to believe that there existed, locked up in the ancient literatures of India, Ceylon, Tibet, China, Japan, and other Eastern countries, a very large body of truth which would be most important and valuable to the present generation, if it could be got at. . . .

Observe the third declaration, that only a portion of our fellows occupy themselves with the study of the occult properties of matter and the psychical powers of man. The society as a whole, then, is not concerned in this branch of research. And naturally; for out of every ten thousand people one may meet, the chances are that but a very small minority have the time, taste, or ability to take up such delicate and baffling studies. Those who do are born mystics, and, of course, natural Theosophists; a Theosophist being one who seeks after divine wisdom — i.e., the comprehension of the ultimate causes of force, correlation, and psychic development, the method of solving all life's riddles. Persons of this temperament cannot be bigots; they chafe under the sectarian yoke, and their hearts warm with sympathy for all who suffer, who groan under social burdens resulting from ignorance, for all of any race, creed, or color, who aspire after knowledge. These men are true Theosophists, the brothers of humanity, and, in their complete development, the spiritual exemplars, guides, teachers, benefactors, of our race. We thought it a good thing to proclaim this line of research and self-discovery as the third of our three objects. For those who are interested in it, and all inquirers whom they reach and encourage, have the mystical philosophical books of the present and former times been written. To the general public these books are caviar.

. . .

At least we may claim to have placed before the thinking public a logical, coherent, and philosophical scheme of man's origin, destiny, and evolution — a scheme pre-eminent above all for its rigorous adherence to justice. And, that we may broaden our criterion of truth, our research extends to an inquiry into the nature of the less known forces, cosmic and psychical. Upon such themes many of our books have been written, and many of our reprints of ancient works, with or without commentaries, have been selected with reference to the light they throw upon these quaestiones vexatae [vexed questions].

In one word, our whole aim and desire are to help, in at least some degree, toward arriving at correct scientific views upon the nature of man, which carry with them the means of reconstructing for the present generation the deductive metaphysical or transcendental philosophy which alone is the firm, unshakable foundation of every religious philosophy. Theosophy, the universal solvent, is fulfilling its mission; the opalescent tints of the dawn of modern psychology are blending together, and will all be merged into the perfect daylight of truth, when the sun-orb of Eastern esotericism has mounted to its noon-stage. For many a long year the "great orphan," Humanity, has been crying aloud in the darkness for guidance and for light. Amid the increasing splendors of a progress purely material, of a science that nourished the intellect, but left the spirit to starve, Humanity, dimly feeling its origin and presaging its destiny, has stretched out towards the East empty hands that only a spiritual philosophy can fill. Aching from the divisions, the jealousies, the hatreds, that rend its very life, it has cried for some sure foundation on which to build the solidarity it senses, some metaphysical basis from which its loftiest social ideals may rise secure. Only the Masters of the Eastern wisdom can set that foundation, can satisfy at once the intellect and the spirit, can guide Humanity safely through the night to "the dawn of a larger day.

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(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2001; copyright © 2001 Theosophical University Press)


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Everything in nature tells a different story to all eyes that see and to all ears that hear. So, when we look upon a painting, a statue, a star or a violet, the more we know, the more we have experienced, the more we have thought, the more we remember, the more the statue, the star, the painting, the violet has to tell. Nature says to me all that I am capable of understanding — gives all that I can receive. — Robert Ingersoll