Our theme for this year's Special Issue is too large to encompass, but we chose it because we wanted to explore with our readers the impact the theosophical world view could have on ourselves and on planet Earth during the coming decades.
We need first to define what we mean by theosophy. The word is of Greek origin, theos + sophia, divine wisdom. In its broadest sense, theosophy connotes the stream of inspiration and wisdom that has been, is, and ever will be transmitted by generations of sages — in proportion to the receptivity of an aspirant or people. More specifically, it is that portion of the perennial god-wisdom about man and his parent, the universe, which last century H. P. Blavatsky, because of her unique spiritual, intellectual, and psychic gifts, was selected to present anew to a world entrenched in bigotry and materialistic thinking.
Although the original Theosophical Society founded in 1875 has by now ramified into several branches and offshoots, theosophists everywhere are solidly behind the expressed goal: to form a nucleus of men and women dedicated to fostering universal brotherhood. To accomplish this, more than sentiment is required. H. P. Blavatsky was commissioned, therefore, to support the brotherhood ideal with a comprehensive restatement of the truths that aeons ago had been sealed upon the sensitive mind-stuff of the early humans so deeply that they could never be entirely lost to us. The plethora of material interests, however, repeatedly overlaid the ancient impress so that we looked everywhere for solutions, except the one sure place — within. Yet, always, a part of us does know, and now and then, when a call from the depths of humanity's soul goes forth, if the world karma is ripe and the cycles propitious, another illumined One imbodies among us to refresh our memory of who we are and what we can and should become.
In the 1870s materialism, separatism, and racial, social, and religious prejudice were at their peak. The modern theosophical movement provided an antidote to these ills by broadcasting its message of spiritual and intellectual freedom that restores our dignity as gods-in-the-making; a philosophy, moreover, that offers reasonable explanations of the tragic injustices that plague not only the lives of human beings but, because of our callous indifference to their needs, those of our brothers the animals and plants as well.
How far has the theosophical movement succeeded? Dare we continue to affirm that brotherhood is workable in a world ridden with hate and terror? The paradox is that in the midst of the daily horrors a countercurrent of love and brotherhood is gaining strength. Obviously, more is required than talking universal brotherhood; it must be lived. But human frailty does not nullify the clean mathematics of fact: as an ever larger number of men, women, and children everywhere strive to orient their thinking and their doings to the brotherhood ideal, not only will they substantially influence the thoughts and behavior of unnumbered others, but also affect the auric atmosphere in which the whole of humanity breathes and thinks and therefore does. If we listen and look, we will discover that a oneness of purpose and goal is being quietly lived by people in all sorts of circumstances. What better assurance that love and understanding have a good chance of becoming the norm in the twenty-first century?
Everyone longs for a better life, for himself and his family, and for peace in our world. People are anxiously looking for a philosophy that will help them put their personal lives in order and straighten out the vexing national and international problems. But nothing is gained by waiting and leaving it to the "other fellow." It is puerile to look to anyone but ourselves to effect the work of self-reclamation. For the most part, however, this is just what so many of us are doing. We are seeking outside ourselves for some ready-made panacea, or waiting for some exalted personage, the Second Coming of Christ or the future Maitreya, or perhaps an Adept or Mahatma, to appear among us and presto! human nature will be transformed and harmony and peace prevail worldwide.
Without question, we need a vision that places us in proper relationship with all of nature's kingdoms, those behind us and those ahead of us that reach into the god-worlds; a vision that esteems the core of an atom and of a human being as no different in essence from the heart of a galaxy. In short, if our present civilization is to flourish as it should, and not continue to exist merely by grace of deterrents, it needs a theosophic model that will provide the insight and compassion to see it safely through the tumultuous present.
It is worth observing that the bodhisattva Gautama placed "right views" as the first step on his Noble Eightfold Path. If the brethren could attain right vision — right understanding, right views — then right resolve, right speech, right action, and all the other "right" requisites would be achieved in time. Is not the role of theosophy today to point to a higher vision, a larger perception of our individual dharma (the truth or law of our inner being) in relation to ourselves and to others?
People write in or telephone wanting advice on all sorts of questions: on divorce, abortion, organ transplants, meditation techniques, astral and psychic happenings; dreams, out-of-body experiences, and so forth. They want to know the theosophical stand on these things and many more.
It should be understood that neither theosophy nor the Theosophical Society as such prescribes specific remedies for this or that malady (mental, psychological, physical, or other). However, the rich philosophical teachings and broad ethical ideals of theosophy, when understood even in part, do have power to cast light on practically every problem we humans face — although in the final analysis each person must apply them to his own situation. All growth and advancement must be self-earned, and the overriding purpose of the modern theosophic effort is to encourage reliance on one's own inner perception and strength. It is well to dispense with crutches as soon as possible and stand on our own feet; dependency of any kind, chemical, emotional, spiritual, is debilitating and in the end self-defeating. At the same time, we must give aid and comfort wherever we can, for compassion is the very heart of theosophy as it is of every genuine religious system.
What, then, does theosophy offer? Vision, perspective, confidence in ourselves and in the majesty and ultimate justice of the cosmic ecosystem in which we, together with every atomic life in space, are evolving through the cycles into ever grander expressions of the Divine. As divinities working through our human phase we are bound to make manifold errors as we struggle to break our self-made chains of material desire. This is where nature's habit of recurring cycles of birth and death, governed by karma or the law that effect equals cause, provides unlimited opportunity for learning and enlargement of experience.
Even a little understanding of theosophy helps us to see our karmic lot from a broader and less personal viewpoint — not as an unjust fate but as an opportunity for growth, or for clearing the slate, as it were, before greater responsibilities can be assumed. In the crucible of experience we gain a deepening sympathy for those passing through the shadows, through their private gethsemanes, and are better able to help them find their own strength.
As coming events cast their shadows before them, we draw encouragement from the fact that in the midst of unprecedented turbulence in domestic and international affairs theosophic ideas are catching on. If given welcome, they may indeed become openers of heart and mind to nature's mystic secrets: truths that have been patiently recorded, verified, and guarded for humanity's benefit by those who had the stamina and compassion to undergo lives of preparation for this sacred charge.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1989; copyright © 1989 Theosophical University Press)