The word "Theosophy" means knowledge about God and divine things. As with all knowledge, theosophical knowledge has been expressed in specific teachings. The theosophical teachings are the very knowledge about God, Universe, Nature, and Man that has been known from immemorial times by the greatest minds, and has been collected and verified by competent men to be given out to the world in different epochs, in the guise of philosophic, religious and other systems adapted to the understanding and mental capacity of the men of every age. In modern times the knowledge was promulgated in a more comprehensive and scientific form under the name of "Theosophy" by H. P. Blavatsky in the latter half of the 19th century. This new promulgation had become necessary owing to the great progress achieved in the development of the intellectual and intuitive faculties of modern man. Now, since H. P. Blavatsky's days, thanks to the devotion of its loyal students, the theosophical knowledge is not only keeping up with the development of said faculties, but constantly runs ahead of them.
One of the most important theosophical teachings concerning man, to which we chiefly make reference in the following, is the doctrine of the divinity of man's inmost essence, the supreme part of his soul. That means that the divine faculties and qualities inherent in his innermost core, all that we appreciate as man's sublime and glorious virtues, must become predominant in his life; it means that man is called upon to fashion the whole world in a divine way, above all to fill it with divine love and brotherhood, thereby expressing to an ever larger extent his divine essence. In doing this he is on the right path in his evolution towards the Divine, with which he will become ever more assimilated until he, the "prodigal son," returns to his "Father."
Man has widely gone astray from this goal and destiny set for him by the eternal laws of the Universe. This has become evident in the recent years of horrible carnage and insensate destruction of material, cultural and moral values, the result of continued wrong thought and action. But man, in his present state of suffering and questioning, could draw immense help and resources from the knowledge of the fact of his own inner Divinity and the immeasurable potentialities lying in it.
The fact of man's Divinity has always been upheld by German philosophers, educationalists and poets. The Bible, too, confirms this in numerous passages, especially in the New Testament. "The Kingdom of God is within you," "Ye are Gods and altogether children of the Most High," "We are of divine kin," "Know ye not that ye are the Temple of God and that the spirit of God dwelleth within you?" — to quote a few passages.
The divinity of man constitutes the basis of all real education, the higher development of man, and of a real and lasting improvement of the conditions and circumstances of his life. That is why the Theosophical Society has always considered as one of its chief objectives the helping of all men to recognize their own inner Divinity and to make it the motive and directing power of their own personal lives. This means incessant aspiration towards truth and purity by means of self-knowledge, self-conquest and fulfilment of duty, and a life of constant brotherly love towards all that lives. These statements concerning the divinity of each man are likewise true with reference to a nation, and indeed the whole world. "The soul of a nation, the life-giving source of its existence is constituted by such of its former thoughts, deeds and ideals as have sprung from the God in man, and to the degree a nation feeds its national soul on thoughts and acts of this spiritual, divine kind, is it guarded, protected and beyond the reach of humiliation." These words are quoted from the writings of Katherine Tingley, one of the great Theosophical teachers.
In the course of time a Theosophical literature of its own has sprung up. In it — as also in non-theosophical writings — have Theosophical teachings been presented more or less clearly and correctly, but often inadequately. The clear and unadulterated presentation of these teachings, however, is to be found in the writings of H. P. Blavatsky, W. Q. Judge, and their successors. In their fundamental works and writings Theosophy constitutes a vast system of philosophy that resolves the most intricate problems, and which answers the most recondite questionings of the human heart. This great complexity of teachings also includes in itself the uttermost and supreme knowledge of non-theosophical scientists and students in the fields of philosophy, science and religion, for it is the fundamental synthesis of these three realms, which must not be segregated from each other, but which always must be studied and considered in their mutual correlation, if fatal errors and grave misconceptions are to be kept out of human thought and philosophy. It is a well known fact that the mere study of science seldom will lead man beyond sheer materialism, while the study of philosophy or religion alone only opens a way to abstruse speculations or blind dogmatism and superstition.
The problems of the universe and mankind are thoroughly elucidated by the Theosophical philosophy both in their general relations and in specific details.
The Theosophical doctrine of the septenary constitution of man supplies an exact explanation of the inner build-up of man: his body, soul and spirit. For the purpose of easier understanding there has been enunciated a doctrine of the duality of human nature: a higher, divine nature, urging man towards the "realms of high ancestors" (Goethe), his lower nature dragging him down to the depths of egotism, of the passions, of crime and final annihilation. Whether he likes it or not, at every moment and hour of the day, with every thought and act, man must decide in favor of the higher or the lower side, and passive indifference and indolence with regard to this choice constituting already an addiction to the lower side. Fortunate is he, who by means of Theosophy and through his own divinity, has learned to practice self-control and self-conquest, thus being able to walk upwards instead of falling into ever greater depths.
The doctrine of Karman or the law of cause and effect elucidates the fact that both in the life of nations and in the life of every individual reigns absolute justice: that individual man as well as an entire people have in no way any chance of escaping the consequences of false and wicked thought and act that, on the other hand, good seeds will produce good harvest, that literally we must reap what we have sown, though the time of maturity be far ahead and lie beyond the gulf of several incarnations.
Likewise, Theosophy considers the reincarnation of man as a natural law, and general ignorance about the underlying causes and actual processes, as well as the conceivable aversion of many men to live more than once on earth, are not a proof to the contrary. Many of our great men, poets and philosophers have expressed belief in reincarnation. How could it be possible to us to attain to the state of divine perfection, which is our destiny, in only one brief earth-life? And how can we account for the different faculties, talents and dispositions of character that men bring along with them into this life, unless we admit that they have been acquired already in a former life? By mere heredity these phenomena cannot be explained; according to Theosophical teaching, heredity is only the channel or means by which these characteristics are transmitted from a previous earth-life.
The scope of this article on Theosophy permits us to give only mere suggestions. To get a comprehensive view of its teachings and all they imply, an earnest and thorough study of standard Theosophical literature is a prerequisite. We must emphasize that the fundamental teachings outlined above are not beyond the scope of even a child's mind, and that they can be made an active part of its life; the child will all the more readily accept them as it still has an unveiled intuition. An earnest and thorough study and acceptance of these teachings will offer to a more comprehensive mind an invaluable help towards placing life on an unshakable foundation of philosophy, a new outlook which will give new scope and meaning to life and fill it with great hope and joy. The vast system of Theosophical philosophy with all its teachings, however, will offer the greatest minds an inexhaustible source, aye, an unfathomable ocean of knowledge. It will lead man towards an ever deeper understanding of the eternal laws of the universe and make him realize the glorious goal of human evolution.
1. Translated from the German. (return to text)