When Madame H. P. Blavatsky brought Theosophy to the Western World, she clearly stated that it was not new. She had not discovered various phenomena and invented ingenious explanations for them; she had not seen visions and constructed from them a theory of the pilgrimage of the Soul after its exit from earth life. She frequently repeated that the teachings of Theosophy can be found in all the sacred scriptures and are carved in glyph and symbol on the ancient ruins. But Theosophy was not gathered from these. The archaic truths which are the basis of all religions have been preserved by the Helpers of Humanity who have existed through all time. Mme. Blavatsky but re-states these truths which were taught her.
Her teachings are not fragmentary; she did not teach Ethics only; she did not ignore Science or decry reason, though as an outcome of modern life and thought she found Science and Religion divorced, and Ethics left without a basis. She taught a consecutive philosophy of life; the life of the Universe. Her great work, the Secret Doctrine, is a synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy. Life is a whole. Different phases and aspects of it have been dwelt upon and classified by Science, Religion and Philosophy, but only when these three are united in harmony can a correct conception of Life be grasped. The physical, mental, spiritual life of man and the Universe are closely interwoven and interdependent. Perfect life can be evolved only when these are properly correlated.
Although Mme. Blavatsky brought nothing that was new to the world, she taught truths that had been long forgotten and which, in many instances, differed greatly from what is generally accepted by dogmatic Religion and materialistic Science. Before one can understand the philosophy he must grasp a few fundamental conceptions that underlie and pervade the entire system of thought. (1)
The first is the existence of the One Absolute Reality, which antedates all manifested and conditioned being. It is the "Rootless Root" of all that was, is, or ever shall be. It is beyond finite conception, for it is absolute consciousness. It was this the Greeks worshipped as the "Unknown God." Some Eastern schools left it unnamed and referred to it as "That" — That out of which all things were made and which will exist when everything has ceased to be. It is the omnipresent and eternal God. This eternal essence, which exists without relation to conditioned being, is the basis of the manifested Universe.
At the dawn of creation it manifests under the dual aspect of Spirit and Matter; not Consciousness and Matter as we know them, but Pre-Cosmic Ideation, which is the root of all individual consciousness, and Pre-Cosmic Substance, which is the basis of all grades of matter. It is evident that a contrast of these two aspects of the Absolute is essential for manifestation and evolution; for Matter furnishes the substance through which Spirit may work out its evolution, and Spirit supplies the guiding intelligence for the evolution of Matter. This duality is reflected in every part of the Universe. In the lower kingdoms of Nature it is seen in the impelling force moving Matter on to higher forms of life; in man is the cause of the struggle of the Soul with its earthly tendencies.
Another basic teaching of Theosophy is that this Universe is the scene of periodic manifestation, life and its forms continually appearing and disappearing. There was a time when this Universe was not; there will be a time when it shall cease to be. But the same flow and ebb which gave the outward impetus to this Universe and which shall withdraw it again into the darkness of that "Causeless Cause," has been and shall be the cause of numberless periods of manifestation followed by equivalent periods of rest. This law of the recurrence of periods of activity and rest is also mirrored in every form of life, as indeed are all the fundamental processes of Nature.
This is easy to understand when we think of the Universe as a whole; the impulses given it by pre-cosmic ideation pulsate through every part of it even to the last extremity. The tendency of everything to reproduce, in its own form of life, the laws of the Universe, may be illustrated by the growth of an elm tree. The trunk divides into three principal branches; each of these separate into three smaller branches. Whenever these divide it is in groups of three, and no tiny twig appears without its two companions. The recurrence of cycles may be seen in the succession of the seasons, day and night; in the periods of rest and activity of plants and hibernating animals. It is especially illustrated by insects that pass through the chrysalis stage. In man it is seen in the cycles of birth, maturity and old age, death and rebirth; in the days of activity and nights of rest, and the longer days and nights of life and the state of rest entered upon after death.
The third fundamental truth is the identity of all Souls with the Over-soul and the obligatory pilgrimage of these rays of the One Reality through a series of incarnations which last throughout the whole term of manifestation. Pure Spirit can gain individual self-consciousness only after it has passed through every form of life, from elemental nature through mineral, plant and animal kingdom and man up to the highest intelligences of the Universe. This pilgrimage is accomplished first, by the onward impetus given it at its start, which carries it through the lower planes of Nature; but when in man it awakes to self-conscious intelligence its evolution must be carried on by "self-devised effort." The double evolution of Spirit and Matter begins at the dawn of creation; there are no skips or gaps; every step that is taken must be preceded by the steps which lead up to it.
The law of Re-incarnation does not apply to man only, but to every form of life; the Monad enters every phase of existence again and again, until its lesson has been mastered. It would be utterly impossible for a ray of pure Spirit that had no experience in matter to incarnate in bodies of as complicated organism and as dense material as our own; and it would be equally impossible for blind Matter to construct these bodies without the guiding intelligence of Spirit. The obligatory pilgrimage of the Soul is sometimes called the "Cycle of Necessity," for the Soul is forced by virtue of its own nature, by the impetus given it to work its way onward and upward until it at last finds reunion with its source. There can be no such thing as giving up the struggle. What is not accomplished now will have to be done at another time. The Soul is compelled to wander, as was the "Flying Dutchman," until it has found its release and earned the privilege of conscious re-uniting with the Over-soul which gave it birth.
But the incarnations of the Soul are guided by the strictest law and governed by the most rigid economy. The Soul is drawn by the ties that are most binding; these are the ruling passions, the dominant ideas and the unappeased desires of the previous life. An occasional longing for a better life or a general dissatisfaction with the things of this world are not enough to counteract the effect of the thought of a lifetime or to immediately transplant the Soul into a higher realm, though each must have its due effect. Each life is the outcome of previous lives, but it will be no higher than its predecessor, unless the thoughts that bind are cancelled and replaced by nobler ones.
In the "identity of all Souls with the Over-soul" lies the basis of Universal Brotherhood. The unity, and therefore inter-dependence, of humanity is the foundation for all the teaching's of brotherly love and, since it is the law of the universe, ignoring or transgressing it is followed by confusion and suffering. The inharmony in the world, from the warring of nations down to individual quarrels, is due to the fact that mankind has ignored this fundamental law of life and proceeds on the principle of every man for himself. The school-boy who violates the laws of the school room, imagines that he has gained something, quite blind to the fact that the rules are for his benefit. When later he is punished and has an unpleasant time, he fancies that the teacher has a grudge against him.
The laws of the Universe are for man. When he violates them and finds his life a miserable tangle, he is too apt to blame his Creator or say that he is a puppet of fate. The only hope of man's salvation lies in strict conformity to law, the law of the Universe as reflected in the laws of physical, mental and spiritual growth.
Mme. Blavatsky exhorts everyone, be he Christian, Jew, Buddhist or Mohammedan, to study his own religion by the light of these truths, and he will find it truer, dearer, and more full of meaning, for the laws of nature are the only basis for Ethics.
1. See "The Secret Doctrine," Vol. I., Proem. (return to text)
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