The Theosophical Forum – November 1940


How Old are the Hindu Schools of Philosophy?

Can you give me any hint as to age or time of origin of the six Darsanas or Hindu schools of philosophy? When did Kapila and Patanjali actually live? There is so much argument on these two personages and the time of their birth. — J. T.

G. de P. — You ask first about the origin and second about the various ages, of the Six Great Darsanas or Philosophic Visions, otherwise Schools of Philosophy in India; and collaterally with these you ask about the ages of their various Founders, such as Kanada, Kapila, Gotama (not the Buddha of course here), Patanjali, etc.

First, as regards the ages of the founders: The truth is that all the ages, or dates rather, given by European Orientalists are little more than speculations; they have never been proved, even though they may be generally accepted. Consequently we Theosophists refuse to accept them. They are almost invariably too late in time, too close to us. That is what I would say.

On the other hand, I would accept with much more respect a date that might be worked out as given by some eminent Hindu of old times himself. Of course I know this would be a vast work, sifting the material, and I merely mention it to show that I would prefer the Hindu tradition, as to when so-and-so lived, to the theorizings of modern Occidentalists who are all psychologized with scientific ideas of the recent development of thinking man, etc., etc.

In the old days it used to be held that the world was created only four thousand odd years ago, and this was a then Christian view; and consequently every date had to be brought down as close to ours as they could push it. So much for the dates of the founders of these Schools. Every one of these founders was not actually a founder in the sense of starting a new School, but merely carried on, perhaps rejuvenated, perhaps modified, what already had been known for heaven knows how many ages before he lived: somewhat in the same way that H. P. B. brought the archaic Theosophy to our age and presented it in its modern form, although it is ageless as time.

This leads me to the origin of these Six Darsanas. Occidental Orientalists, as I have already pointed out, in trying to keep within the limits of their new facts, say that each such School was probably started by the philosopher named. But I have just pointed out why in actual fact this need not be so.

It is my opinion, in fact my conviction, that every one of these Six Darsanas is of enormous age. The fact that they are such natural productions of the human intellect shows that they must have occurred ages and ages and ages ago to other philosophic minds. Personally I think they run back in their reaches even to Atlantean times, not in their present presentations or forms, but I mean the philosophic ground-thoughts that these Schools respectively represent. The various so-called founders were merely more or less recent; and by that I mean long after Atlantis, but not in our time — Hindu philosophers who themselves were attracted by one or other of these Schools; and each one was so successful in interpreting and propagandizing his own particular choice or philosophic preference, that in time he became the founder of this School or that School.

For instance, take the Yoga School of Patanjali. I think that it flourished ages beyond the age of Patanjali, whenever he lived, because Yoga has been active in the thought of man's mind since immemorial time. Patanjali did not discover it. He merely acted as I have above stated. The same with the Nyaya School of Logical Philosophy of Gotama, or the Vaiseshika, the Atomic School of Kanada. Thoughts like these must have been in the minds of men since Atlantean times. Similarly with the Vedanta, especially the Adwaita. The Adwaita form of it was magnificently presented and formulated by the great Sankaracharya, and this is just an instance in point. Some occidental scholars now call him the Founder of the Adwaita-Vedanta, as if men never had the thoughts in the Adwaita-Vedanta before Sankaracharya. He merely took this aspect of the Vedanta, and re-formed it according to the ideas of his time, and did so so wonderfully that he became known as its great Teacher. But Adwaita-Vedanta is so native to the human spirit, it must have existed for ages and ages before ever Sankaracharya was dreamed of, by the Gods that be.

As we Theosophists say, the Six Darsanas contain the six various types or methods in which human philosophy through the ages has been cast, and we unite them all in the highest or seventh, which is our own Wisdom-Religion or Theosophy — or to put it more correctly, it is from this God-Wisdom or Wisdom-Religion that all these six various Darsanas have come forth as six special presentations or six specializations of philosophy, each one along its own line, the scientific, the mystical, the logical, the scientific-mystic, the objectively idealistic, call them by what names you like.

Theosophical Interpretation of God

Please tell me, in as simple words as possible, what is the Theosophical interpretation of God?

Irene R. Ponsonby — Theosophists exalt no one god over all other gods. We believe the Universe to be composed of god-stuff — divine substance — in varying grades of evolutionary development or self-expression. These grades form the hierarchies or kingdoms of Nature, and at the apex of each hierarchy a god or hierarch presides as the focussing and emanating center of that hierarchy for the forces pouring into it from the farther reaches of the Universe and radiating through every unit composing the hierarchy. There are, therefore, numberless gods — low, less low, intermediate, high, higher, and highest; extending to reaches the human mind cannot now conceive — each one the god for its particular sphere, a self-contained universe among countless universes in the Galaxy.

One god there is to which the Theosophist attunes his heart and mind in reverence and aspiration. This is the god of his being, his Inner God. It is the source of all the inspiration that fills his life with radiance, that sustains and vitalizes him, and is his link with the sublime realms of Life and Light beyond his present sphere of activity.

Life's Progressive Drama on Earth

If the personality is lost at death, how can we carry over what we have learned during life, and benefit by our experience?

Lydia Ross — A new personality for each incarnation is only the costume which the Real Man wears in that life's drama. Or, better say that it is his wardrobe for his whole life's dramatic career. Because each lifetime the reincarnating Ego is costumed by the different outfits of body, brains, and characteristics which are suitable for the parts of infancy, childhood, youth, manhood, and age.

The knowledge and skill which we gain in learning to walk and talk and read, etc., are used in our adult work and study. All that is gained in playing juvenile roles — both successes and failures — go into our enlarging character and resources. It is character which counts and which prepares us for future roles in life's progressive drama on earth. No adult actor can go back, even if he would, and rebecome his juvenile self. Why should he, when all that he has been is merged into what he now is. No more can the reincarnating man — wiser for his Devachanic visions of possible ideals — be wholly limited to the outgrown stature and ideas of his by-gone personalities. Just as we leave a whole series of our childish and youthful personalities behind, as little by little we become adults, so do we leave them all for good when we die.

The great mysteries of life and death are everyday events writ large. If we know the meaning of the familiar events, we have the key to the rest. It is right that we should know. That is why we are here on earth. Truth is the natural heritage of mankind, and Theosophy shows the way to reclaim our birthright.

Beware of Labeling!

Please define for us the difference in the signification of the two words "spiritual" and "mystical" as used in the Wisdom-Religion.

H. T. E. — These words are vague in their meaning and used in different senses by different writers. I know of no standard meaning for either of them, whether taken separately or when compared and contrasted with each other. A particular writer may decide, for his particular purpose, to give definite meanings to them in his writings, and to define a distinction between them. Any decision I might make on the subject myself would be liable to contradiction by other people. We should strive to think in ideas rather than in words. The wish to have things neatly labeled and docketed is natural enough, but is apt to fetter the mind. When any writer on the Wisdom-Religion uses these words, it is usually easy enough to find out his meaning, and that is all that really matters.

Reimbodiment is Nature's Law

What does the future hold for one who does not accept the Doctrine of Reincarnation?

C. Q. Wesner — There are two general classes of those who do not accept the Doctrine of Reincarnation: (1) those who hold some other theory regarding the post-mortem life, for example, the orthodox Christians, and (2) the rank materialist who believes that "when you're dead you're dead all over."

The members of the first class pass into their kama-loka. As a large percentage are really good people who live up to their ideas of a good life as best they can, they soon enter their devachan, which will correspond to their earthly pictures of Heaven. But sooner or later this state of consciousness fades and — they reincarnate.

The members of the second class, during life have built nothing into their "thought-self which can survive the dissolution of the physical body. To quote H. P. Blavatsky:

For the materialist, who, notwithstanding his materialism, was not a bad man, the interval between the two lives will be like the unbroken and placid sleep of a child, either entirely dreamless, or filled with pictures of which he will have no definite perception: . . . — The Key to Theosophy, pp. 161-2

Nature is no respecter of persons. Reimbodiment, being Nature's Law, applies to all beings without respecting the wishes, thoughts, or desires of anyone. Learn Nature's Laws, live in accord with them, and even while we are "bound to the wheel of Necessity," it is possible so to shape our lives — and our future destiny — that the journey may be a joyous pilgrimage toward our spiritual goal — self-conscious divinity.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition