What Is Theosophy? — Charles J. Ryan

Section 3

Theosophy and Science

(written 1948)

When H. P. Blavatsky brought theosophy to the West she severely criticized the materialistic limitations of the leading scientists, and offered a more philosophic scheme of nature. Her teachings seemed to them so unusual and unconventional that they were generally ignored; science was busy liberating Western thought from ecclesiastical fetters, and anything that savored of spiritual ideals was not favored by it. Today we see a change. A large number, perhaps a majority, of her fundamental teachings in physics are either fully accepted by leading thinkers or are matters of serious discussion and research. This transformation was foreseen by her, as she stated that the secret doctrine of the ages sketched by her in the book of that name would begin to be recognized in the twentieth century. And although science has not yet become spiritualized, extraordinary developments leading away from mechanistic interpretations have already taken place.

It is to be regretted, however, that while science is getting free from crass materialism, it still maintains that human beings are merely higher, perishable animals, so far as it has ascertained. The survival of man after death — the spirit, soul, the passional elements or what not — reincarnation, even the existence of a soul, are not subjects of serious discussion at scientific congresses. They are set aside with ghosts and religious superstitions as curious specimens of folklore, if mentioned at all. This has all to be changed before real progress can be made.

A fundamental principle in theosophy is that mind is not a fleeting production of matter "like the noise of a machine," or something that has casually "happened" as the result of an unusual combination of elements. It is a universal principle in the cosmos, and the human mind is one aspect of it.

To show how theosophical principles have succeeded in penetrating modern scientific thought, numerous quotations could be given from the leading scientists. Even Sir James Jeans, who still clings to the mechanistic interpretation of many phenomena, dares to say that the universe looks more like a great thought than a great machine, and that Mind is not an "accidental intruder into the realm of matter" as the materialists conceive, but rather the ruler and controller of the material world. In fact, he believes that matter is not only created by mind but is really a manifestation of it. Man himself he says, is not an accidental intruder into universe of purely chemical and mechanic forces, after all. When he says that "God" seems to be like a "great Mathematician," he is approaching the teaching of the initiate Plato, who taught that "God geometrizes." Sir James Jeans also speaks of the great stream of universal life of which we are an integral part.

Sir Oliver Lodge reiterates some of the teachings of theosophy when he says that we live in the midst of a spiritual world which dominates the material. This spiritual and omnipresent reality has properties which exhaust our admiration, so much so that they would be terrifying but that we may be sure that those tremendous forces are controlled by "a beneficent power whose name is Love." If the student of theosophy turns to H. P. Blavatsky's Voice of the Silence he will find:

Canst thou destroy divine COMPASSION? Compassion is no attribute. It is the LAW of LAWS — eternal Harmony, Alaya's SELF; . . . the law of love eternal.

Professor Whitehead speaks of the universe being designed by a "poet," and others go so far as to declare that "the power upon which man depends for his very existence is supreme in thought, poetry, and love."

Dr. E. B. Frost, Director of the Yerkes Observatory, declares that there is a definite cosmic mind behind the universe. He says:

all the seemingly aimless movements of astral bodies, and happenings that we now think of as phenomena, will be recognized as being perfectly coordinated into a system whose vastness is astounding to contemplate.

The new attitude of the most advanced scientists avoids the notion of a limited Personal God, and closely approaches the theosophical position.

In Man in Evolution, G. de Purucker has carefully discussed the approach of modern physics to theosophy. Here we can touch on only a few outstanding points. In astronomy, chemistry, physics, and even biology, science is approaching the ancient wisdom. The former distinction between energy and mass (or force and matter, if you prefer) has disappeared; dense matter has become a congeries of electric charges, unknown quantities; the hard indivisible atom is now a world of intensely active forces in eternal motion — a most important theosophical concept. Einstein, in trying to coordinate all the natural forces, is simply working out mathematically the Eastern principle of fohat, so prominent in The Secret Doctrine.

The law of cycles, another fundamental in theosophy, is being found to extend far more widely than was suspected by scientists, and to constitute an essential part of evolution. A modern suggestion — an expanding and contracting universe — irresistibly suggests the ancient wisdom of the East with its outbreathing and inbreathing of Brahma. Another extremely interesting development of science is the principle of indeterminacy, which implies that the known physical laws of cause and effect are not sufficient to explain everything, but that there are possibilities we have not fathomed. That is a step toward the recognition of the law of karma, a higher aspect of causation than the convenient but incomplete physical explanation of natural law. The unsatisfactory explanation of individual differences of character by heredity, and of good or ill fortune by environment (logically explained by karma and reincarnation), may easily be abandoned by scientists when indeterminacy has been studied more deeply.

Although Darwin's evolution offered nothing deeper than physical transformation without intelligent aim or direction, his work was valuable in breaking up dogmatic superstitions and popularizing the idea of evolution as opposed to "special Creation." But it was one-sided. It overlooked the interior, invisible, but very real essence pushing its way outward and onward, molding material forms toward higher states, each expression of life being better fitted to display the powers of the monad or spirit as they unfolded or e-volved from the inexhaustible store within. The forms are like a ladder up which the real climber ascends; the rungs are not the climber. Man is not a "monkey shaved" as the wit remarks, but an atom of the divine life, moving onward to full self-conscious godhood.

Humankind has passed through many states of matter less dense than the physical, and these ethereal states called for bodies of similar nature. Traces of these are hidden in the complex of human principles already discussed. The transformations of the embryo in the prenatal state reflect some of these in brief.

In common with humanity, our globe has not always been in its present condition of matter; it was once more ethereal, and is in process of becoming so again. This does not mean a mere transformation of gaseous into liquid or solid states, but a cyclic transformation of the very nature of matter in ways not yet known to science, though the so-called ectoplasm of the psychic researchers may give them a hint when they reason more deeply. The descent into present conditions, and the ascent therefrom, are intimately connected with human evolution, and Dr. Jean's remark that man is not altogether "an intruder" is a real advance toward the truth as taught by the ancient philosophers, such as the Oriental sage, Patanjali:

The Universe, including the visible and the invisible, . . . exists for the sake of the soul's experience and emancipation. — Yoga Aphorisms

Evolution through Globes, Rounds, and Races

Hardly more than a reference to the earlier stages of human and terrestrial evolution can be made in our limited space, but a very brief outline is necessary to understand what follows.

The earth is one of a chain of seven "globes" which all constitute one organism, as we may call it. The other six are not visible to our gross senses, but they interpenetrate our material globe. The vast stream of human monads circulates seven times around the seven globes, after which the chain will perish. We are now in the fourth round of the great pilgrimage of monads around the seven globes, and our familiar earth is the fourth globe of the chain. We are also in the fifth evolution, or fifth great race or root-race, of experience on this globe. After passing through two more transformations or great humanities we shall move to the next globe, a far more spiritual condition of being.

In the first three rounds man was hardly more than a shadowy suggestion of what he has become, and a discussion of that subject is beyond the scope of the present Manual. We must pass to the fourth round with its seven great or root-races, in which evolution takes more easily comprehended forms.

Each root-race, with its numerous subraces and minor branches, is practically a humanity in itself, with its own specializations and environment. It is separated from its successor by great geological changes, and only a comparatively few survivors remain to provide the seed for the next root-race.

Even in the fourth round the host of human monads came at the beginning into very nebulous or ethereal forms, not at all like the physical bodies of our time. As the monads had not evolved the manas or mentality, and as the sexes were not separated in the first root-race of this fourth round, it was little more than the shadow of later humanity.

The first root-race gradually developed on its own lines, and then gave way to the second root-race, of a more substantial nature; and this to the third, which became quite material toward its close, when the present method of reproduction was fixed and when civilization dawned.

The third root-race was succeeded by the fourth, a highly intelligent though materialistic humanity. It chiefly inhabited extensive lands now covered by the Atlantic Ocean. Intellectual progress made a great advance, but spiritual development was slow. About halfway through the fourth, our present race, the fifth, was born, but it increased very slowly until the Atlantean civilization had been practically destroyed by widespread geological cataclysms. Modern science is now beginning to trace a fraction of the past history of the fifth root-race, which is the only one known, for nearly every vestige of the former races and their worlds, as their environment may be called, has been wiped out.

In the far distant future we too shall disappear and yield place to the sixth root-race, a much higher humanity, and that to the seventh, in which human beings will walk the earth almost as gods. We are, moreover, on the upward arc now, for the lowest point was reached about the middle of the Atlantean period.

Although nearly every material trace of the archaic races has disappeared, traditions have been preserved of their existence and character. These are found in the various sacred books of the East, the Bible included, which, if taken literally, are incomprehensible, but which, by those who have the key to their true historical meaning, are found to contain real and valuable information. H. P. Blavatsky devoted many chapters of The Secret Doctrine to the interpretation of these historical allegories.

While theosophy emphatically teaches evolution, and on the grandest scale, in the cosmos and in man, it rejects every theory (such as the ape-ancestry one) that is purely mechanistic and that deals only with the perishable body while ignoring the real evolver, the monad or spirit in man. Evolution does not proceed in an ascending straight line. The monad descended from ethereal states and gradually entered into denser conditions, ultimately utilizing physical forms in harmony with the lowest part of the cycle. With the ascending return to more ethereal states, human bodily vestures will also be transformed. The monad, buddhi, and also the manas, are no "by-products" of a brain of flesh; still less are they "natural" evolutions from the lower animals. The anthropoid apes have, indeed, some human blood as well as animal in their veins, but they are not our ancestors. The origin of the anthropoids is partially traceable to early and degenerate human sources; they are the product of miscegenation.

Considering the complexity of the problem of the origin of the human body and the confusion caused by the existence of the anthropoids, it is no wonder that science has not solved it. This subject is fully treated by H. P. Blavatsky, but the point to be emphasized here is that while evolution is fundamental in theosophy it is not regarded as a mere transformation of bodily form through increasing complexities of organization brought about by mechanical laws. As the ego behind the outer shell gains experience, new latent capacities unfold and a change in the physical vehicle naturally follows. The body, instead of being an end in itself, is an instrument through which the unfolding powers express themselves. Human evolution reflects the larger cosmic evolution in its cyclic method of progress.

Something must be said here about the help given to evolving humanity by spiritual intelligences from higher planes, and of more advanced degree, who incarnate in or overshadow developing mankind. By a universal occult law the higher sacrifices itself, so to speak, to help the lower to bring out its latent potentialities, and this applies to other kingdoms as well as the human. In mankind this took place when the mind became illuminated toward the end of the third root-race of the present fourth round. The ancient traditions record this very important evolutionary factor — not suspected yet by science — without which real human development cannot be understood. The famous biologist Dr. Russel Wallace intuitively suggested that the mind definitely incarnated in mankind at a certain early stage, but science rejected the idea, preferring its mechanistic theories of natural selection and survival of the fittest, which however are being seriously discredited nowadays as the vital factors in evolution.

Psychology and Theosophy

Psychology is defined as the "science of the soul" or the "study of human consciousness," but it is a very uncertain science and its professors are divided into many conflicting schools. Some psychologists repudiate the soul altogether, and regard human consciousness as a temporary phenomenon existing during life, just as the noise of a machine continues while it is running. Others are less materialistic, and suspect some kind of being not entirely dependent on the brain machine. The discovery of something vaguely called the subliminal consciousness, an intelligence that only rarely and under special conditions comes to the surface, has done a little to break the ranks of materialistic psychology, but it has brought its own evils, particularly by giving excuse for the excesses of a certain school which regards the underlying subconscious intelligence as being dominated by sexual impulses. Although there are signs of an improvement in some quarters, modern psychology grubs around far too much in the grimy cellars of the mind; it seems to dread the upper and airy chambers of the soul, illuminated by the sunlight.

Theosophy repudiates with scorn the notion that man is inherently vile at bottom, the modern psychological version of the exploded belief that every child is "born in sin" and doomed to perdition. It declares the old, old teaching, repeated by the initiate Paul, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). The higher self is the subliminal consciousness we should concentrate on, and the helpful psychology is that which brings divinity into our shadowed lives. In another passage Paul expresses the same gnostic or theosophical principle:

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ [the christos spirit or buddhic splendor] be formed in you. — Gal. 4:19

Much is said today about self-expression, which generally means the free play of the common emotional impulses. The results are all around us. Self-expression has a sublime meaning to the theosophist: it is the permeation of the whole personal nature by the divine radiance of the higher self, and it makes us more than the ordinary, workaday personality. Psychologists try to interpret the facts of consciousness from outside observation, and the human nature they explore is what is called in theosophy the lower personality, and even of that a large part is ignored. What do they know about the astral and kamic states? Theosophy begins within; it shows you how to explore the recesses of your own personality courageously, for the key to knowledge lies in self-discipline. Theosophy is intensely practical, and by following its teaching the disciple can find his own way to the heart of the universe.

The intellectual aspect of theosophy is of immense importance if studied with impersonal spiritual development and the benefit of others — universal brotherhood — always in sight, but it is only one of the factors in the Great Work — the finding of the inner god, the "immortal region" within. For instance, it is very useful indeed to learn nature's method of evolution through reincarnation, and the value of knowing about karma can hardly be overestimated, but first of all we are seeking regeneration, and this means getting free from the sense of separation from the diviner self. We must learn how to avoid the accentuation of the separate lower self, in order to find the meaning and the joy of impersonality.

This is the real study of psychology. The revelations of self-knowledge bring the power of helping others. When the lower desires have been transmuted, when an individual has become so impersonal as really to love his neighbor as himself, freely to forgive injuries, to act from the highest standpoint on all occasions, he will find that he can understand the troubles of others, and his intuition will grow so strong that he will know exactly what to do under all circumstances. This is no vain promise; it is a known definite result of the sincere effort to live the life taught by Jesus and Buddha. They were thoroughly practical in their advice. Dr. de Purucker refers to this in saying:

It is this desire for impersonal service which purifies the heart, clarifies the mind, and impersonalizes the knots of the lower selfhood, so that they open and thereby become capable of receiving wisdom. — Golden Precepts of Esotericism, p. 153

H. P. Blavatsky says:

Self-Knowledge is of loving deeds the child. — The Voice of the Silence

The true psychology that we all need is a process of self-discipline, and its practitioners are not necessarily qualified by university degrees, useful as these may be for other purposes.

While it may seem strange to some that the most precious knowledge we can attain should be obtainable only by impersonal living with the benefit of the human race always in view, it is perfectly reasonable because all knowledge is within the province of the inner god, whose law of being is love. It is the way the great Masters of wisdom and compassion have reached their goal; their purified personalities no longer obstruct the inner light. As the Oriental saying puts it: "The lamp and the wick are clean."

Who, then, are these sages and seers in reality?

The Masters of Wisdom, Compassion, and Peace

A few points should be given here in addition to what has already been said, for the ideal to which all true aspirants to a holy life should look cannot be too strongly emphasized. From what has gone before it is not difficult to understand that certain persons must have advanced far nearer than others to the realization of their inner godlike nature — a realization to which the whole human race is gradually moving in its evolution. Among the more advanced a very few have far outstripped even the best and most intelligent who move in ordinary society. These are the efflorescence of their age. They are known as saviors, world-teachers, sages, and more particularly to theosophists as mahatmas, initiates, or Masters of wisdom. History records such spiritually evolved human beings under the names of Gautama the Buddha, Jesus the Christ, Pythagoras, Krishna, Lao-Tse, and many others. They belonged to an association or brotherhood that has existed from time immemorial, and which is still as active as ever. At intervals this brotherhood sends forth a messenger to reawaken the knowledge of the ancient wisdom about man and nature.

H. P. Blavatsky was one of these messengers, prepared by study and discipline to tell the Western world a little about the necessary qualifications to enter it. In her Voice of the Silence she describes the steep and thorny road leading to that peace and wisdom where a great reward is found — the power to help and serve humanity. The secret of success is "To live to benefit mankind is the first step. To practice the six glorious virtues is the second. . . . So shalt thou be in full accord with all that lives; bear love to men as though they were thy brother-pupils, disciples of one Teacher, the sons of one sweet mother."

The adepts who established the Theosophical Society take little part in the administration of its external affairs, and in no sense do they exercise control over the Fellows of the Society, but they are always in close touch with the messenger who represents them in the outer world.

The claim that such an association of guardians of humanity exists, unknown except to a few, is obviously a bold one; yet it is true, and why should it be surprising when we realize what evolution really implies? Why should we ordinary people be the highest that nature has been able to produce? She has had millions of years to do better, and even among known peoples and individuals there are enormous differences. The high adept is the rare efflorescence of a race, a forced development; but a type that will be as normal in future as the average decent person is today.

The Orient has always known of adepts, but in the West only the original Rosicrucians, the seventeenth-century Platonists, and a few mystical philosophers at various times, hinted at their existence until H. P. Blavatsky proclaimed them openly as her teachers and inspirers.

The adepts are the trustees and guardians of the sacred knowledge and in order to preserve it intact they cannot mix freely with the world, but must live in seclusion. Their work being largely on inner planes of thought and action, there would be no advantage, but many disadvantages, in publicity; they would be hindered at every point. They have no desire to prove their existence to a skeptical public.

But the path to wisdom opens to those who love humanity and sacrifice their personal desires, and who seek it for the pure motive of helping their brothers: they know the password; they know how to give the true knock. The great teachers are always seeking for those in whom they see a ray of the christ-light or buddhic splendor, and such will meet them in due course; how soon depends entirely on themselves. The receiving of light depends on the sincerity of the desire to pass its benefits on to others, and that is why nothing but love of one's neighbor as oneself — brotherhood — is the key to theosophy, and the first object of the Theosophical Society.

Some well-meaning persons say that we do not require outside helpers or teachers, because enlightenment comes from within. The light is indeed within, but have we found it? Why should we refuse a guide to the path which we desire to tread? According to theosophy, the real teacher (guru in Sanskrit) is not a learned professor who pours vast masses of information into the mind — a well-written book can do that; but rather is a readjuster, or literally a guide who points the way. We ourselves must tread it, we must do our own work. But even in the ordinary affairs of life the inexperienced need help before they can stand alone; how much more in an enterprise that will tax one's determination, courage, and moral strength to the utmost? It is right to repudiate any system that promises an easy way, a "royal road," but that is no reason to refuse the advice of those who have passed onward through that "strait gate" and along the "narrow way" "which leadeth unto life." They know the pitfalls in the path, and the right time to give help. H. P. Blavatsky herself said she never would have been able fully to awaken the invisible I am within herself without the direction of a Master. She makes this very clear in a letter published in The Path, Vol. 10, p. 367:

Yet I am enough of an occultist to know that before we find the Master within our own hearts and seventh principle — we need an outside Master.

And further:

My Master (the living one) . . . is a Saviour, he who leads you to finding the Master within yourself.

Is it possible to get in touch with the Masters of wisdom? Yes, if the conditions are present. The first condition — insuperable to so many — is the motive. Is it curiosity, however laudable from an ordinary standpoint, or the sincere desire to lift yourself and the world spiritually, regardless of any selfish longings for personal gratification? Is the desire to help others greater than the desire to receive help?

If so, the Masters will meet you halfway, because they are always looking for recruits in the army of impersonal, devoted workers for human welfare. Become like them and they will naturally recognize you. As Dr. de Purucker says:

I repeat the words of all the great Seers and Sages of the ages: Knock, and if you give the right knock, it will be opened unto you. Ask, and if you ask aright, in self-forgetfulness and in sheer hunger for light, for truth, ye shall receive.
. . . self-forgetfulness is the knocking, the mystic knocking, at the door of the initiation-chamber of the temple. — Questions We All Ask

An important reference to this occurs in a letter from one of the Masters who established the Theosophical Society:

thought runs swifter than the electric fluid, and your thought will find me if projected by a pure impulse, as mine will find . . . your mind. . . . Like the light in the sombre valley seen by the mountaineer from his peaks, every bright thought in your mind, my Brother, will sparkle and attract the attention of your distant friend and correspondent. If thus we discover our natural Allies in the Shadow world — your world and ours outside the precincts — and it is our law to approach every such an one if even there be but the feeblest glimmer of the true "Tathagata" light within him — then how far easier for you to attract us. — The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, pp. 267-8

Theosophy and Mythology

The study of mythology is important to theosophists, but our position differs from that of the regular schools in some respects. The latter assume that mankind, although a million or more years old, was quite barbarous until a few thousand years ago, and that even when high civilizations existed no discrimination was used and the most ridiculous stories were accepted without question. The belief in magic, in the myths of gods and heroes, in fairies or disembodied spirits of any kind, all were "folklore," curious and amusing from our pinnacle of scientific attainment. Stories of the creation of the universe and man, the deluge, of divine and semi-divine rulers and teachers, of golden ages, and the like, were invented by poets and dreamers to satisfy the questionings of the childhood of the race. Any rational basis for sun-, moon-, or star-worship is to be sought only in the effort to increase fertility. The gods are personifications of natural phenomena such as lightning, rain, or the dawn; fear is the basis of religion, and so forth.

To all this we disagree in principle, while admitting that there is a small proportion of fact in the folklore theory. Certain folk tales and myths are purely imaginative and most of the "magic" is jugglery — but by no means all. The more important cosmogonies, mythologies, and semi-historical legends of antiquity were the work of well-instructed teachers, initiates, who were allowed to present certain aspects of natural law in allegorical form. The fuller meaning of the allegories could be imparted only to those who were "duly and truly qualified."

In addition to a certain confusion deliberately created to conceal the deeper knowledge for which the "pro-fane" or unprepared were not ready, utterly misleading corruptions crept in during the centuries. No wonder the modern scholar, with materialistic or theological bias, has little appreciation of the hidden meaning of the disfigured relics of the ancient wisdom, and is wandering on sidetracks that lead nowhere. Even the folklore, mythology, and ceremonials of various tribes, descendants of former high civilizations, can teach very little without the theosophic keys.

By using these keys, H. P. Blavatsky, in her great works, demonstrated that the story of the evolution of the cosmos, the world, and mankind, was contained in jumbled fashion within the mythologies, epics, and pseudo-historical legends of early peoples. The great religions as we have them are primarily concerned with the relation between "God" and man, in order to provide a system of worship and a code of morals; but in the allegories and historical traditions on which they rest the main teachings of theosophy are more or less plainly revealed — teachings such as reincarnation, the various human principles, the hierarchies of gods and other beings, and even the evolution of humanity through the rounds and races.

In the Mysteries back of the exoteric religions, the higher theosophical teachings were given to the deserving according to their spiritual standing. The widely-distributed legends of man-gods or divine heroes, such as the Buddha, Jesus, Krishna (under many personifications), Osiris-Horus, Hercules, Mithra, and many others, have a far deeper signification than the narratives indicate, although they are probably all founded on the lives of real personages. From one aspect the stories represent the training, trials, and ultimate glorious illumination of the successful candidate for the greater Mysteries, so far as this could be told without revealing what was unlawful.

The subject of the real basis of the mythologies is fully considered in theosophical literature, especially in The Secret Doctrine.

Theosophy and Religion

Someone has quaintly said, "Man is an incurably religious animal"; and in spite of occasional outbreaks of materialism, it is true enough. The feeling of reverence for something greater than the personal self is founded on the real presence of a divine central self, of which the personality is only a weak and distorted reflection. Theosophy is the universal "religion" that expresses this; it is the parent of the various great religions known to the world — aspects of truth that have had their rise, decline, and fall. It is known to students of theosophy as the wisdom-religion, the secret doctrine, the esoteric philosophy, atma-vidya, etc. It does not admit or worship an anthropomorphic God with limitations of personality — an autocratic ruler of the universe from which he is independent or separate. Its conception of the eternal is far more sublime than can be contained in even the loftiest idea of personality.

Among other early authorities of the Christian Church, St. Augustine recognized the antiquity and truth of the primitive wisdom-religion, theosophy. He says:

That in our times, is the Christian religion, which to know and follow is the most sure and certain health. But this name is not that of the thing itself; for the thing which is now called the Christian religion really was known to the ancients, nor was wanting at any time from the beginning of the human race until the time when Christ came in the flesh, from whence the true religion, which had previously existed, began to be called Christian. — Retractationes, i, xiii

Certain fundamental teachings common to Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, Taoism, the Egyptian, Greek and Roman religions, etc., reveal the presence of the ancient wisdom-religion, and, of course, it was more explicitly taught in the schools of the Mysteries of antiquity. The cruel persecutions that have disgraced certain historical periods could not have happened if the devotees had recognized the kernel of truth within the outer shell of the various warring creeds.

We must not, then, fall into the error of regarding theosophy as an artificial system compounded from carefully selected portions of the world-faiths. Theosophy is the original basis, formulated from the experiences of giant intelligences, initiated Seers who have penetrated deep beneath the outward veil of illusion that hides the realities from our gaze, who have traveled into the mystical arcana of the invisible worlds. Unfortunately, through the weakness and selfishness of human nature, the revelations of the sages gradually became obscured by dogmas and gross superstitions. Intolerant sectarianism dominated in most countries, especially in the Western world, until lately, when the spread of scientific research and learning exposed the fallacy of many time-honored creeds, but unhappily without replacing them by a satisfactory substitute. The need for a new presentation of the ancient philosophy was never greater than today.

The teachings of theosophy would find little response if they were not imbedded in the inner spiritual man; but as they are really only a formulation of what exists therein, it is not surprising that they appear familiar to many on a first hearing.

Theosophy, as already said, has always had its guardians and preservers, and from time to time messengers have been sent out from the permanent center of wisdom to revive its teachings in various parts of the world.

In this way the great religions arose, pure and strong at first. They were not formed by growth from inferior superstitions but were definite revelations. As they increase in age they degenerate, and a new messenger from the original source has to re-state the neglected ethical teachings and as much as conditions will permit of the nature of man and the universe. At times the efforts of the great teachers were directed toward founding schools of philosophy, such as those of Pythagoras or Plato, Confucius or Lao-Tse, or the Indian systems. The inspiring influence of these is a matter of admitted history.

In regard to theosophy and religions we may consider the Christian faith as an illustration of the work of the messengers. As St. Augustine rightly said, Christianity was not a new revelation, but a rebirth of the old wisdom-religion that had always existed; truth cannot contradict itself. The divine afflatus, or spirit of illumination, came down through Jesus the Christ to proclaim anew and quicken in the West the understanding of the old, old story. While he was a son of God in a special sense — an avatara, to use a Sanskrit term (1) — he emphatically taught that all men are sons of God, — even more, "ye are gods" — and that "greater works shall ye do." Mankind sorely needed and still needs to be reminded of its inner divinity, obscured by "the flesh."

The divinity of man is the primary teaching of all the messengers of the great spiritual Lodge; evolution cannot advance to its sublime destiny till that is learned. Jesus showed the way of attainment, the only path. He taught no creed, he established no form of worship. He repeated the golden rule of the ages: love, brotherhood, forgiveness, self-forgetfulness.

But, alas, it was not long before his teaching was obscured and a formal religion instituted, with compulsory articles of faith, ceremonial rituals, and a politico-clerical organization. The Roman Emperors adopted it and made it an engine of statecraft. The vital impulse of its original teachings preserved it through the centuries, but its spiritual power was terribly weakened by deadletter controversies and the dissensions of dogmatic sects, as well as by the horrible persecutions and religious wars that have disgraced its history so often. The spiritual influence of the few real Western mystics, illumined by a large measure of self-knowledge, such as Dionysius the Areopagite, Eckhart, Boehme, Henry More, etc., runs like a silver thread on the dark background. Their simple teachings of soul wisdom, though suspect and unpopular, redeem the whole era from being entirely barren.

With other religions it was largely the same. Starting with the simple truths brought by some inspired messenger, they degenerated into formalism and superstition, even if not always into persecution and bloodshed. The essential object — to awaken individual to the knowledge of their own inner divinity — was pushed aside, when not entirely ignored.

Theosophy in the Bible

As the Hebrew scriptures are more familiar and accessible to Occidentals than the other sacred books of the East, we shall close by pointing out a few of the theosophical teachings therein, generally ignored — perhaps unconsciously — by theologians, but which provide an example of the existence of theosophy in all the world scriptures.

The divinity of man in his real inner nature is plainly taught in the New Testament, and yet this magnificent concept, the greatest possible appeal to noble living and happiness for all mankind, has been thrust into the background, and the lower nature, the mere personality, has been treated as the real person. Western humanity has been taught that it was "born in sin" and required an external redeemer. Theosophy is bringing back the majestic teaching of real Christianity — "Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High" (Psalms 82:6), quoted approvingly by Jesus when defending himself against the Jews (John 10:34).

Many passages in the Bible teach the doctrine of karma. In Galatians (6:7), Paul expressly says "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." As for reincarnation, denied or ignored by the Churches, it was the general belief of antiquity as it is today in the Orient, and so we need not be surprised to find it referred to as a recognized doctrine, as in Revelation 3:12, and elsewhere.

Certain parts of the Bible present the evolution of nature and man under allegories that are transparent enough to the student of mythologies who has the assistance of theosophy. For instance, take the two well-known stories of creation in Genesis which are so contradictory that modern criticism, even in the churches, disregards them as serious contributions to knowledge. They are supposed to be poetical effusions, guesses at truth by simple souls; and bound together, without regard to any plan or connection, by the compiler.

But if we apply the theosophical key, we find a very different explanation. The two stories are not contradictory nor are they childish folklore. Each represents a different period of evolution. The Adam of the first narrative is not the Adam of the second. The earlier account gives a highly condensed version of the first three rounds or terrestrial cycles, and part of the fourth one, until the intellect, manas, began to function in its third root-race, and the separation of the sexes took place. The mental torpor of the early races, previous to the awakening of the mind, is symbolized by the deep sleep of Adam mentioned in the second chapter of Genesis; and the separation of the sexes by the creation of Eve from his rib. The Garden of Eden, the Trees of Life and Knowledge, the temptation by the Serpent, etc., are simply allegorical statements of the facts of evolution, found in various guises in other ancient teachings.

Before concluding it is desirable to repeat that theosophy is not made up of bits of ancient religions and philosophies blended artfully with modern evolutionary ideas — a fabricated concoction. Theosophy is the formulation of the wisdom of great seers and sages who penetrated ages ago behind the veil of nature, spiritual, psychical, and physical. Partial revelations have been made from time to time and in various ways, but the full understanding has been always reserved for the few, as was demanded by the nature of the case.

The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages . . . it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. — The Secret Doctrine, 1, 272

In preparation for the new cycle now dawning, H. P. Blavatsky was commissioned to speak of this more openly, to bring the knowledge of the existence of Masters to the West, and to reveal keys to knowledge that had not been given out before. For those who have the spiritual welfare of humanity at heart those keys are indispensable.


1. "It means the descent of a divine being, not into human flesh, but as it were towards incarnation in human flesh. It means the overshadowing, or more correctly speaking the over-illuminating, of some great and noble man by a divinity, by a god. . . .

"Jesus was an avatara, a manifestation through the form of a human being, of a god, of a divinity - one of the spiritual beings controlling our part of the stellar universe." — G. de Purucker: The Story of Jesus (return to text)

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