It is called his greatest contribution: he clarifies the Secret Doctrine of the Ages. To those who study his writings, he makes the esoteric tradition understandable. He has done this so well that many wonder how he was able to do it. Through his great scholarly knowledge? His proficiency in ancient and modern languages? Or was he the "incarnation" of a great soul who already had this ability?
By his own account, Dr. de Purucker explains esoteric wisdom so well because he teaches "technical theosophy." Yet this is very often misinterpreted. His books are filled with specialized terminology, arcane foreign terms, and very complicated concepts — and he uses his great scholarship to help the reader understand. So many assume this is what he means by "technical theosophy," and that esoteric wisdom depends primarily on scholarly knowledge.
But this is not what he taught. His teachings referred to the original meaning of the term. We are technical when we show "technique" — the ability to apply knowledge in a creative way. Whenever we are creative, our technique is the entire process of our creation: how we get our first inspiration, the way it inspires our thoughts and feelings, and how these finally motivate our actions. "Technical theosophy" is therefore a holistic process — it is truly understood only in context of the whole. How do we open ourselves to spiritual intuition? How can we let these insights inspire what we think, how we feel, and what we do in everyday life? In other words, once we gain some insight into the true nature of things, how do we give that wisdom its full expression — both inwardly and in our outward behavior?
In Purucker's view, the major obstacle that blocks intuition is our own mentality. Most of our awareness is commonly centered in the lower mind, the mentality of desire, whose main concern is trying to control our self-image. It does this by creating our identity out of personal preferences, and these form a constant mental commentary that judges our perceptions. It is a monologue of likes and dislikes that support our sense of who we think we are, but it also distracts our attention and narrows our awareness. While these judgmental thoughts distort our perceptions, we cannot see the truth of things as they are. What we do see is a pseudo-reality that conforms with our self-image — the way we think it should be.
But there are also times when we have access to the higher mind. We stop controlling our awareness, we let go of who we think we are, and we are free to focus on whatever we encounter. In other words, the higher mind is our ability to follow life, to follow it so closely that we have a sense of being intimate with what is happening. This intimacy results in intuition: we have an immediate vision of the truth. Purucker describes the source of this vision as the Spirit of the Cosmos. It informs the most essential workings of nature — including our own human nature. It is in fact the source of inspiration for all the Wisdom of the Ages.
To many it may seem that spiritual intuition is a rare experience. Yet the wisdom teachings tell us that we have such insights all the time. In everyday experience, whenever we feel at ease, we tend to lose our "self" in anything that captures our interest. This frees our awareness to actually follow what is happening. So the simple act of paying close attention gives us intuition. We have a sense of being intimately connected to the object of our interest, of recognizing what is going on as something that is part of us. We may even intuit a much deeper involvement: that this connection extends to all of life, that we have an inner nature that reflects nature as a whole, and that the whole is revealed when we embrace it as our own.
But intuitions like these can easily make us uncomfortable. Imagine trying to feel intimate with people we dislike. What if their undesirable qualities are also reflected within us? Suppose we accept the idea of oneness intellectually but close our hearts and minds to people in everyday life? These scenarios illustrate how difficult it is to put spiritual insight into practice. We have so much of ourselves invested in trying to control our own lives, in exercising our will, and in following what we choose based on our own opinions. How can we set all of this aside?
Purucker's answer to this question is a fundamental key to the entire wisdom process. It not only gives us access to spiritual intuition, it also frees us to put it into practice. The key that opens us to wisdom is trust. By trusting our intuition, we are actually trusting our ability to follow life and be intimate with what is happening. We rely on our capacity to be in sympathy with others. In the midst of compassionate action, we are not afraid of the consequences. We have an innate sense of confidence that our fellow-feeling and its expression will lead us toward our own best interests.
This kind of trust is more than just an attitude of mind — it radically changes how we think, what we want, and the way we act. Being in sympathy with others centers our awareness in the higher mind, where thinking is completely free from every limitation. With no self-image to control, we have no need to judge what we perceive. We can lose our self in whatever we encounter, we can feel at one with it, and here we intuit the key to self-knowledge: our identity is revealed in our connection with others.
This one intuition can inspire us with the highest aspirations. The more we trust it, the more our personal desires are replaced by a deep longing to be intimate with life, to perceive its inner nature, and to know it as our own. We come to realize how every living being is a precious link to the truth, that there is a spiritual bond that connects us to each other, and that we can sense this connection through insights that bring us closer together.
These insights can overcome the most difficult human relations. No matter how unpleasant people may be, no matter how thoughtless or ill-natured, we can trust that they are really suffering from their own self-image. We can know they are deeply afraid of losing control, that they are blinded by their fear, and we can intuit the wisdom to be understanding. In effect, we open ourselves to spiritual intuition in a single act of will — when we choose to trust our own compassion. When we feel deeply for the suffering of others, it moves us to help, to withhold our judgment, and to be kind. It also shifts the focus of our awareness. Instead of judging what is happening to suit our self-image, we are following the living process of another being. We are absorbed in the act of caring, and this literally unites us with the Spirit of the Cosmos.
Here is the epitome of Purucker's teachings. Spiritual unity, the Wisdom of the Ages, its understanding and its full expression all come from trusting our sympathy with life — for it is the divinity within us. Even the most complex scholarly teaching can be understood by being in sympathy with its concepts and letting them come alive in our everyday experience. The wisdom of compassion and the wisdom of esoteric understanding both come from the same theosophic technique: "Live the life and ye shall know the doctrine." Those who "live the life" are living exemplars of wisdom. They exemplify the noblest teachings by nurturing an ever-growing sympathy with life, by trusting the will of the Spirit that binds us all together, and by serving the welfare of their fellow beings.
Dr. de Purucker was such a person. He learned to open both heart and mind, to be intimate with grand ideas as well as selfless actions. He practiced being deeply involved in whatever he encountered. He studied the nature of things by seeing himself in the world around him, and he understood its inner workings because he embraced it as his own. Most importantly, he worked to set aside his personal will in order to let compassion be his guide, to make himself a servant of his own humanity. In this way his contribution goes far beyond his writings, for he himself was a living exemplar of the wisdom tradition.
We may doubt that we could follow such an example, but his teachings assure us that we can. All we need to do is trust our innate sympathy with life, even if we make "mistakes" that make us seem foolish. It is precisely our tolerance for our own errors that stimulates and awakens that higher part of us that is patient with life, for it knows we are all part of the same wisdom process which has to take its natural course. This higher faculty is the Spirit within us, teaching us how to work with nature — by caring for the welfare of our fellow beings. It is in fact our own spiritual self that sets the example. If we follow it with our heart, it is the path to our divinity.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2000; copyright © 2000 Theosophical University Press)
As an inquirer, I began my studies with The Key to Theosophy by H. P. Blavatsky. Next, I read her first book, the fascinating Isis Unveiled; but when her major work, The Secret Doctrine, proved too profound, I turned to G. de Purucker's The Esoteric Tradition and Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy. After studying these volumes, it was as if a bright light had turned on in my brain, beaming understanding into many obscure corners. When in later years I tackled The Secret Doctrine again, it was not nearly so difficult for me.
Most of his books deal with technical doctrines but, like Blavatsky, GdeP stressed as primary the following of noble ethics and the need to practice brotherhood in one's life, since universal brotherhood is the keystone of theosophy. He reminds us that every person composes humanity, each a unique member of the same family, and that all other forms of life share this planet. Moreover, he continually reminds us that we are not just children of the earth, but offspring of the universe. He assured us that all who have an earnest desire for greater understanding shall, step by step, experience the splendor of spiritual vision.
Unfortunately, this teacher's writings are not widely known today, but when serious searchers discover them, they will be richly rewarded with new knowledge and illuminated personal and cosmic understanding. G. de Purucker's expressions of the ancient wisdom made theosophy a living power in my life. — Jean B. Crabbendam