The Theosophical Forum – April 1939

WHAT IS THEOSOPHY? (1) — G. de Purucker

Mr. President, Madame Chairman, Ladies and GentlemenFriends, Companions, Brothers:

This is the first time I have had the pleasure of addressing a Danish audience, and I have heard that Theosophy in your country is not unknown, that already you know something about it, and that is exceedingly good; but I venture to say that when minds come into an approach of the study of the god-wisdom which we call Theosophy, there is always something new to learn, something to get that will give comfort to the heart, more light to the mind.

If I were to ask you as individuals: "What is Theosophy, please?", do you think that anyone in this auditorium could give me a comprehensive answer? Could you tell me where it comes from, what it is, what its purposes and objectives are, and what we Theosophists are trying to do? I do not think so. And it is along these lines of thought that I will make my brief address to you tonight.

Now then, in the first place, Theosophy is a word which of course comes from the Greek, he theosophia to which we Theosophists love to add the adjective ourania, the divine god-wisdom of the universe. This is no revelation granted unto men by an extra-cosmic power whom men in reverence call God; but is wisdom concerning the Universe, its structure, its nature, its characteristics, its laws, its origin and its destiny, originally given unto the first human beings on this earth by divine entities coming unto infant humanity from other spheres in order to instruct these human children of the universe in the laws of right doing, right thinking, and therefore right and beautiful destiny. Theosophy is not so much the wisdom of God, as it has been translated sometimes, as divine wisdom, god-wisdom, invented by no man, given to us by spiritual beings, and of which god-wisdom every great seer and sage in ancient times has been the voice to his age. These great men, Buddhas or Avataras or Christs, call them by what name we will or may, have been some of these sages and seers who have spoken to the children of men in language that they could easily understand, giving to them a divine philosophy of life, telling them what life is, explaining it, pointing out what the Universe is, pointing out likewise that we men and women are children of this wondrous universe which surrounds us, and therefore that there is no separation between all that is and us human beings.

You see what this means? It means that we are given ethics, morals, an ethical system based on the very divine heart of the universe, which as I have said in the West men with reverence call "God," but of which all the ancient sages and seers spoke, not in terms of names, but as the ancient sages of Hindusthan described it, simply thattat. So high a reverence had they for this divine heart of things, this divine heart of harmony, of infinite love and compassion, of cosmic intelligence, that they gave it no descriptive name such as men give to things, but simply said that. From that we come, back to that we go. We come out from it again and are reborn as men to learn new lessons in life, to undo the mistakes of the past, to strengthen our characters; and thus as the ages go by, and we reincarnate time after time, we grow in wisdom and strength and character, our hearts expanding with love for all that is, and for our fellow-men, and our minds enlarging with what we learn — the knowledge that is stored within what men in the West call the Soul, but which we Theosophists prefer to call the Reincarnating Ego — two names for the same thing if you will.

Now when a man feels and knows, because of a philosophy of life which satisfies his intellect and purifies his heart, that he and his brother men and the Universe around us are all parts of one cosmic organic entity, an organism, a living being, which we call the Universe, then he has a basis for ethics which is scientific, philosophic, purely religious, that is, religion per se, not any one religion changed by men, modified by men, however good, but the Religion of the human spirit which seeks its home with divinity — therefore, the religion of intuition, of the human divine spark, which makes us all that is best in us. You see also that this gives us a firm basis for philosophy, for we start from a unity which the mind can understand, and the heart with its tender instincts can grasp. The truth that man and all Being are one, one in essence, apparently separated only in bodies: this is ethics; for instantly we see that when a man injures his brother, he injures himself likewise, for he injures the cosmic harmony, the cosmic unity. We see likewise in this wonderful verity, the fundamental unity of all beings and things, and that men are but inseparable portions of the infinite universe: a true basis for scientific thinking, for here we start from a fundamental postulate that all sane men must accept; for if man is different from the universe, then will someone please explain how it is that he is subject to its laws, and formed of the stuff of the universe? Any other postulate is impossible. Whatever is in the universe is in the man, in me, in you. Conversely, whatever is in the man is in the Universe. I have thought, I have conscience, I have intuition, I have feeling. Because they are here in the part, shall the whole have them not? Do you get it? The fact that the part has these, proves that the universe has them; for show me something which does not contain what a part of it contains? That is foolishness.

Deduction from this wondrous teaching of Theosophy: It means that the Universe is conscious, conscious of course in infinite and varying degrees, but conscious; for from that consciousness of the universe we draw our consciousness. The whole gives to the parts. Because the man has consciousness, the ethical sense, therefore the universe is ethical, has what we men call consciousness. Is it possible that the part should have something which the All, the Whole, has not? Of course not.

These are some of the simplest teachings of Theosophy, given to us as I have already stated by spiritual beings ages and ages agone, given to the first human thinkers on our globe by spiritual beings from other spheres; and out of this primeval revelation of truth to men, were born as the ages passed, out of the Schools of the Mysteries, the different great philosophies and religions of the world — each one founded by some great sage and seer, like Jesus the Christ, Gautama the Buddha, Lao-tse in China, Krishna the Avatara, Sankaracharya the Avatara, and similar great ones in other lands, in other times. Each one spoke from the wisdom of the esoteric sanctuary, that great School of Wisdom of the Mysteries which exists today and has its branches in certain of the countries of the world.

The greatest one of these Schools is at present in a little known district of Asia, and we Theosophists in reverence refer to it as Sambhala, which is a Sanskrit name. There still beats the sacred heart of all mankind, so to speak, for there still live (and they teach their chosen pupils or chelas) the noblest spiritual intellects that the human race has ever known. We call them Masters of Wisdom, men of Christ-like life, of Buddha-like life, of Buddha- and Christ-like wisdom. They have their pupils, and from time to time one of these pupils is sent forth into the world as an envoy to teach men once again the age-old doctrine of the god-wisdom, of the theosophia ourania, the divine, the starry wisdom of the gods.

Such an envoy was H. P. Blavatsky, and the teaching which she brought came directly from that Sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, the Sanctum Sanctorum of the human race which we Theosophists call Sambhala; and the message which she brought she called Theosophy. It is not new. It is as old as man. As I have told you, it was given to the earliest men by these spiritual beings from other spheres. In different ages it is called by different names. But the names are simply tickets placed over the Reality. The Wisdom is one, merely the terms by which it is given to men in different ages change.

Furthermore, and this I think is a very important point, dear friends: If you care to study, if you are really interested, in finding out that the statements that I have made to you tonight are true statements, then investigate for yourselves. Study, study the ancient religious and philosophical books of the world, from all countries; and beneath and behind the words and the terms, look for the body of ideas, the essential teachings. You will find them identical everywhere. That is Theosophy as taught today, as taught a million years agone in the past, as will be taught a million years in the future, as it is taught on planets other than our own circling around our own sun, as it is taught on the planets whirling in their orbits around other suns in cosmic space in the galaxy. Why? Because truth is truth, and what is true on our planet Terra is true on Jupiter and Venus, on Stella Polaris, on Canopus and Sirius, anywhere. That is Theosophy.

Now, in the Theosophical Society, dear friends, we have no dogmas, we have no creeds. We have a marvelous system of wisdom-teaching, the wisdom of the gods, Theosophy. But at this fountain of wisdom, from these doctrines, every Theosophical student takes what he or she can assimilate, can understand, is capable of receiving. Some men can receive some, other men can receive more. Other men can receive still more. Thus we have no dogmas. We have no creeds. We have no set forms of belief. Yet, I do think — and I speak with reverence for the good people in the West who call themselves Christians — that there is no more religious man on earth than the true Theosophist. I think there is no more truly scientific thinker on earth than the Theosophist. I think there is no more philosophical mind on earth than that of the Theosophist. And you see the reason why. We have no creeds, we have no dogmas, our consciences are free as the winds of heaven. We are searchers for truth, hungering for it, and we have found where we may find it. And we have learned this wonderful truth: that before a man can take the wisdom of the gods, he has to train his life to be ethical, moral.

To me it is one of the saddest things in the world that the West has lost the ethical sense, very largely — I do not mean entirely, but very largely — and the reason is obvious also. Science has destroyed the religion of former days, so that today the Christian religionist must believe almost against the convictions of his mind, and therefore his nature is rent in twain, and that must mean suffering. And on the other hand, our science, wonderful as it is, is expanding and growing greater and grander every day, so that today scientific men are actually becoming Theosophists. Yet does science offer us anything upon which we can lean, rest, and feel assured that upon this ground we stand in permanence? No, for it changes from day to day, from year to year, and this is its basis. The scientists say that the greatest thing about scientific research is that it is growing; and it is so, and that is very fine. But can you find the truths of the Universe in something which is not even a system of thought, but is merely a growing and expanding understanding of the physical world around us? Obviously not. It does not teach us ethics. It does not satisfy that strong, tender religious instinct of the human heart, that man is the same as the cosmic spirit. It does not fully satisfy the inquiries of a man's mind; because as soon as we begin to study scientific doctrine, the first thing we find is that it is continually changing, so that what was scientific dogma to our fathers, today is discarded. What is scientific truth today, five years from now will be past scientific history, old scientific books no longer studied. We shall have advanced beyond that! Do you see? And the consequence: religion today teaches an ethic of words, but gives you no proof that ethics are based on the universe itself. Science gives us no foundation for morals, for it does not understand them. Morals, the scientists say, are not within their sphere.

Philosophy? Philosophy in the West is but an infant, striving and struggling to attain a greater light, but an infant; and all the philosophical speculations of Western philosophy are but gropings, blind gropings, after light. Pathetic!

So, with our god-wisdom, having no creeds and no dogmas, in addition to being searchers for truth, philaletheians, we are likewise philanthropists in the Greek sense of this word, lovers of our fellowmen, lovers of the universe around us, seeing a wondrous mystery in a flower, sensing a religious doctrine in a star, looking into the eye of a fellow human being, seeing heaven there, or, it may be, a hell!

What are the objectives of the Theosophical Society? First of all I should think to give unto men these wondrous doctrines of our god-wisdom. Next, to keep alive in men their spiritual intuitions. Note these words: their spiritual intuitions — something which the West has forgotten the existence of, just as it has forgotten the sanctions of ethics; and just as the West thinks that ethics are mere conventions keeping us out of the police courts and out of jails, so the West today thinks that the intuitions of the human soul are too dangerous, too vague, to trust to. Theosophy tells you on the contrary that there is a way of cultivating the intuition of the human soul, so that it becomes a powerful factor in our lives, so that by cultivating this intuition, this intuitive perception of truth, this inner vision, we gain wisdom ourselves. We do not have to go to the books of other men, we do not have to go and learn from others. We sense our oneness with divinity; and although we have Masters and Teachers and revere these, no Theosophist accepts any doctrine which is contrary to his conscience, and yet withal our god-wisdom likewise teaches us to revere the lives and teachings of the greatest spiritual intellects that the world has known, for we recognize as well as are taught that these have derived from wisdom, from divinity. Hence the teachings and the great books of these wise men of the past — as will be the case in the future — are wonderful torches of light to guide us on our pathway. Thus we revere the wisdom of the past, but realize that the understanding of it must come from the development of our own powers and faculties within.


1. Delivered at the opening of a public question-and-answer-meeting held in Copenhagen, Denmark, September 17, 1937. (return to text)

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