The function of Theosophists is to open men's hearts and understandings to charity, justice, and generosity, attributes which belong specifically to the human kingdom and are natural to man when he has developed the qualities of a human being. — H. P. Blavatsky
The twilight of one age and the dawn of another simultaneously stir us with anticipation of wonderful things to come and a heartache for what has yet to be accomplished. Significant discoveries in the fields of religion and science are being made. Doorways are opening upon vistas not pondered seriously by Western minds for perhaps thousands of years. Physicists are becoming aware that the universe is infinite in the smallest dimensions as well as in the largest. Astronomers have come to the conclusion that ninety percent of the universe before us is unseen. Rupert Sheldrake is introducing to biology what he calls fields of morphic resonance similar to the theosophist's akasa, and dogmatism in religion wanes as more and more religious scholars recognize the interconnectedness of the world's sacred traditions. No small part has been played by theosophists in the awakening now taking place.
On the other hand, humanity has yet to outlaw war, and medicine remains more a technical science than a healing art. Men, women, and children go homeless and hungry not only in third world nations but on the streets of nations of great material wealth as well. We are poisoning the water, earth, and air, and humanity seems to have lost the foundations of morals and ethics. These challenges are part of our time as well and we must play our full role in dispelling ignorance with understanding by redirecting humanity's thought life, especially where it does imminent harm to living beings.
Truth is in the very heart of being; consequently, as soon as young humans could think, the gods taught the principles of universal ideation and they became impressed upon the enduring memory of the human consciousness. Later these fundamentals would become the basis for medicine and music, art and architecture, geometry and geology, agriculture and astronomy, and much more. Though the necessary journey of evolution took us — for we were the ancient peoples — through a descent into matter, though the gods could no longer be seen by mankind, the primal truths, deeply buried, have never been lost, nor have we ever been left alone.
The great souls of mankind took on the burdens the gods would no longer take on in person. They challenged and tested and verified and reverified the god-seed of wisdom. Entrusted with its care and charged to broadcast it far and wide as the cycles of nature allowed, they formed a global brotherhood of noble souls of rare enduring human qualities. No culture, no civilization has been without their influence. When the cycle was right they reintroduced what had been thought lost, though recorded in myth and legend, by establishing schools which would revive the lost mysteries of antiquity. Such schools were to be found in ancient Greece, Syria, Asia, the Americas, Australia, Europe, and in Africa — wherever souls became aware, however dimly, of the seed-wisdom within. Like the candle undiminished by lighting others, these schools served to relight within the hearts of mankind the ideals of the brotherhood of all life, the ethical and moral basis of the universe, and of humanity as part of that universe.
No amount of diversion has changed the forces of evolution or the spreading of seed ideas. Whether underground or publicly, the effort has continued to inspire human beings to live nobly and compassionately; it has been carried on either directly by Adepts of the wisdom tradition or their representatives, sometimes expressed as philosophy, at other times as religion, or as science.
Rooted in the wisdom of the gods the theosophic tree has begun to spread and unfold its branches once again not only as a visible presence to reestablish the mysteries of antiquity, or to plant suggestions for the scientific, religious, and philosophical thinkers of our day though these are an important part of our duty — but, most importantly, it exists to extend a hand to all who suffer in pain, sorrow, or ignorance. Not that The Theosophical Society should become another significant place-holder in actions of mercy but rather, we take on the more difficult task: sowing the seed ideas which, sprouted in the hearts of mankind, shall raise the selfish and greedy to an understanding of how we all fit into a remarkable expression of consciousness which we call brotherhood. It is our task to raise humanity from its animal nature to its true and noble human stature and in doing so prepare the way for others. How are we to do this? It has been suggested that "For our doctrines to practically react on the so called moral code . . . we have to preach and popularize a knowledge of theosophy." This does not mean to popularize theosophy — which would sell it short — but to popularize a knowledge of theosophy.
Technical theosophy alone, fascinating in itself, does not provide answers to our civilization's deep needs. However, willing hearts and minds applying these thoughts in imaginative and creative ways can come up with new perspectives and a richness of choices beyond the temporary political/emotional solutions so often proposed in attempting to solve the difficult questions of our time. Explored by the mind of the heart, theosophic concepts become the expositor of the operational aspects of oneness and compassion in the universe, a prerequisite to answering any of the many human dilemmas. Our rounds and races are not just of anthropologic interest; they explain a spiritual inheritance of divine fire as well as the nature, source, destiny, and mysteries of the human body. Sex and its over-indulgence is a problem today on which a universal perspective can bring insight. Surely our sexual lives more and more are being seen as out of control, but to be judgmental of another when we ourselves have no enlightenment in this area is hypocritical at best. In The Secret Doctrine HPB makes the statement that theosophy alone can throw light upon the subject of human sexuality. If this is so then we have a responsibility to understand without fear or embarrassment this phase of our existence.
For example, teachings about lokas and talas (Sanskrit terms used in Hinduism and theosophy for the spiritual and material aspects of the different worlds which compose a cosmos) are not for mental gymnastics but may explain how each of us from time to time is lost in worlds of thoughts and actions less than those we would otherwise choose. Those of karma and reincarnation are not for the sake of metaphysical exotica but demonstrate that we all are responsible for our actions, and that serving our selves alone is to work against the forces of all nature. Karma and reincarnation express the operations of harmony, pointing to the greater stance to be taken and, when we are out of balance with nature, allow a correction and rebalancing to take place.
We can give input on the most delicate issues. Take abortion, for instance. As theosophists we have no right to dictate to others how they should act. We can, however, offer a grander vision and a more meaningful insight into the processes of birth. We can move our philosophical speculation into the human and sometimes very personal predicaments of life where, beyond political agenda, a balance can be struck between maudlin sentimentality and cold reason. With a sense of the mental and emotional anguish of another and an understanding that it is not "the right answer" we seek, but a wisdom of humanity which recognizes the purpose of life, we can help the most desperate to find grounding, dignity, and assurance.
Euthanasia is a growing issue in Europe and America. Our medical technology has learned to keep our bodies going long after what in the not-so-distant past would have been inevitable death. Has our civilization caught up to the implications of prolonging life at any cost? Perhaps medicine today keeps many alive beyond compassion's pleading. It is not easy to see someone you love live in agony even when pain is suppressed by medication. On the other hand, have we asked ourselves what the implications are of hastening death as a medical practice in a civilization without moral and ethical grounding, a civilization without an inner life? Also should we condone a medical science that believes that the death and torture of animals can lead to health in human beings? This issue of torturing other lives, to concentrate only on disease and suffering in order to heal, is an outcome of mixed reasoning in need of change. If we must involve fellow living beings, animals or human, let us rather study optimum conditions for health and vitality.
Humankind has sensed the need to expand the understanding of death beyond the heaven and hell and damnation of Christian ethic as well as beyond the trend toward simplistic naivete developing in some new age thought. Students of theosophy can interject into the dialog now beginning the basic questions: who are we, where did we come from, and where are we going? No one has the answer for another; on such issues we may be able only to enrich the exploration, but what an enrichment theosophy can supply.
The continual and widening spread of drug use signals a deep inner problem with our lives and our civilization. As students of theosophy we can assist by restoring a vision of the spiritual universe that is founded on scientific, ethical, moral, and philosophical principles and begin to give hope where now there is despair.
Humanity's misplaced values on egotism and materialism have undermined the very heart of social consciousness. This emphasis is perhaps one of the root causes of the most serious problems of our time, another being the lack of an all-embracing, rich, inner life.
The changes which are taking place in the polarity of world thought, partially reflected in geopolitical shifts and the conflicts produced by fundamentalism in the world's religious thinking, reflect the waning Piscean era. Nature, however, will inevitably reestablish a new polarity. We can add the greater theosophic worldview to the public debate to come, and with it hope and inspiration. This future polarity can be more than mere replacement of the old; it can be a significant global awakening of conscience. As theosophists we have a clear responsibility before us to encourage a renaissance of the human spirit by opening dialogue, using our common languages, applying the new discoveries being made in our time, and thinking through them and their implications.
By the light of theosophy the darkest problems of our modern world are illuminated with new possibilities and perspectives. There are solutions to the issues of our day which can be discovered in this timeless wisdom focused through our intuitions. Theosophy when stated simply and from the heart strikes a sympathetic chord in all who suffer because it awakens meaningful possibilities and a richer purpose to life. It is on the grander vision and the larger picture, innate in theosophy, that the health and growth of human thought depend and a popular knowledge of theosophy can be gained.
The serious issues of our day are the outer manifestations of the loss of our spiritual inheritance. There is no quick solution, but theosophy is an abundant granary of ideas and ideals by which we can live and by so doing share — not as dogma but as tools to continue the journey of all nature — in an upwardly, inwardly, infinite, spiraling evolution.
(From Sunrise magazine, October/November 1991; © copyright 1991 by Theosophical University Press; paper read at the Friendship Meeting held under the auspices of The Theosophical Society (Pasadena) at Volksabdij, Ossendrecht, Netherlands, July 18-23, 1991)