One day I heard someone say that he wished he could go away out there in space where the stars are. An interesting idea — but he had overlooked one thing. The planet on which he stood was away out there in space. That was months ago, and think how far the earth has traveled since then; probably you could set the figure at a hundred million miles.
Compare this picture of the mighty sweep of the Earth's orbit with the limited idea once held of the flatness of the earth, with the sun, moon, planets and stars as being movable lights set in the inside surface of a great covering dome. That outmoded view of Nature was quite in keeping with the old idea of the Creator, and if Nature were no more than that one could quite easily imagine a being with the necessary ability to construct the Earth and the firmament in six days. After Columbus had established the roundness of the Earth, and after the work of Copernicus and Galileo in the 16th and 17th centuries, the world underwent a great reconstruction of thought and tremendous strides were taken in the right direction. Unfortunately, however, religious reconstruction did not keep pace with scientific progress, and that is why there seems to be a conflict between the two. Now that we know that there are galaxies, many of them like our own, to be counted by the millions, we see that the Universe is of such proportions that no "Creator" could have made it without help, no matter how long he might take over it. Yet religious teachings of the day did not provide an adequate explanation of the nature and work of God in His relation to the myriads of stars supposed to be under His sway.
The coming of H. P. Blavatsky with the Ancient Wisdom-Religion was a boon to humanity which at best we can but dimly appreciate. Here at last was the opportunity to study things as they are, without the incumbrances of theory, speculation, prejudice or argument. Fundamentally her teachings are very simple, for after all the universe is the only way that it could be. It is only in the multiplicity of detail that the teachings become involved. Details are important and they must be mastered, but the correct approach to Theosophy is first of all to get the broad outline of the teachings. Once we grasp the general plan we discover that the details fit themselves into the picture, and little by little we gather more and more knowledge until the universe becomes a living wonder before our eyes. We stand in silent awe before the holy presence of Truth.
Theosophy, then, is a study of things as they are. It is a study of life on all the planes of being. Essentially, it is a cosmology and an anthropology, a study of the Universe and Man. It is the synthesis of Religion, Philosophy and Science. Now, just what do we mean by this?
To analyze Science first: Science is a study of the phenomenal universe. It deals entirely with the universe of effects. Its province is to tabulate and to collect facts. It arrives at its conclusions by experiment, and forms hypotheses in an effort to interpret its findings. In brief, Science tells us how things behave; it deals with effects.
Philosophy, on the other hand, studies the universe of causes and ideas. Is this a purely imaginary universe, no more than the fabrication of the minds of scholars and philosophers? It is not. It is a universe more real than the universe we see, because upon it depends our visible, tangible universe. Here is an illustration to show the relation between the two. What is a phonograph record? It is a disc of an appropriate compound of vulcanite suitable for holding sound impressions cut into the spiral curve. When a needle follows the groove an orchestra is reproduced, exactly as played, with all the overtones and shadings of expression to be conveyed to the listener. This record that we can handle and place upon the turntable represents the visible universe, because it is a thing of effects. The composition itself, an intangible thing until written down on paper and played by an orchestra, is the real cause for the production of the disc. It represents the universe of causes, and a scientific explanation of the inspiration of the composer is no explanation at all. Philosophy alone could tell you what mighty impulses moved Beethoven to write the Moonlight Sonata. And yet that inspiration is the real thing, and can only be followed slavishly by the needle as it vibrates to the variations in the groove.
To restate our premise, Science deals with the universe of effects, and Philosophy interprets the universe of causes. What then is the province of Religion? Religion is man's personal approach to the Universe. It is what each man thinks and feels about his relation to Nature and to the Deity whose robes are the countless stars. Religion per se is not dependent upon ceremony, scripture, and creed; these are but the accouterments suitable for some people, and they fill a need. True religion is the motion of a man's heart toward the Divine.
To be adequate, any religion must be built around a philosophy of life. That, indeed, must form its foundation, for unless Religion can answer the burning questions about life and death, man's place in Nature, the origin and destiny of the human soul, the life pulsating throughout all Nature, in fact all the questions that it is possible for the mind of man to frame, it must fail in its ultimate objective, which is the reorientation of the Human Soul toward the pathway to the Gods.
True religious life as offered by Theosophy is a thing which grows upon a man as he progresses in devotion and understanding. As the devotee progresses he finds that for him the religious life is an unfolding of his inner faculties and a broadening of his horizons, so that he begins to understand his relation to the Universe. Certain teachings will be made known to the student, and by these teachings his own position in relation to Nature will be clarified for him. Eventually he finds that much he has learned is a symbolic or quasi-dramatic representation of certain truths which may become realities for him. It all depends upon his own inner growth.
And so the time comes at last when he is a Candidate for Initiation. Actually, Initiation is a beginning for him. It is the opening of the inner eye, so that he begins to see for himself and to learn by individual observation. In Initiation the great Mysteries of Life and Death are made known to him, and from that moment he is qualified to teach with authority, and then only can he set aside the ancient mystical preamble: "Iti maya. srutam," "Thus have I heard." Yet even these great adventures are but a beginning for him, and as such they are an extension of the religious pathway that he has trodden for so long, and which he will continue to tread until it leads him to the very Heart of Being.
And here we have the reason for saying that Theosophy is the greatest boon that Humanity has ever known. It gives man infinite hope and promise. It gives him the assurance which he needs to carry him through the intricate maze of earth-life. It gives him a scientific-philosophical understanding of life, and points the way to a religious fulfilment of the aspirations of his heart.