Theosophy

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Theosophy is a collection of mystical and occultist philosophies[1] concerning, or seeking direct knowledge of, the presumed mysteries of life and nature, particularly of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe.[2] Theosophy is considered part of Western esotericism, which believes that hidden knowledge or wisdom from the ancient past offers a path to enlightenment and salvation.

Theosophy comes from the Greek theosophia (θεοσοφία), which combines theos (θεός), "God"[3] and sophia (σοφία), "wisdom", meaning "Divine wisdom". From the late 19th century onwards, the term Theosophy has generally been used to refer to the religio-philosophic doctrines of the Theosophical Society, founded in New York City in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky, William Quan Judge, and Henry Steel Olcott. Blavatsky's major work, The Secret Doctrine (1888), was one of the foundational works of modern theosophy.[4] As of 2015, organizations descended from, or related to, the Theosophical Society were active in more than 52 countries around the world.[lower-alpha 1] Modern Theosophy has also given rise to, or influenced, the development of other mystical, philosophical, and religious movements.[5]

Etymology[edit]

The term theosophia appeared (in both Greek and Latin) in the works of early Church Fathers, as a synonym for theology:[6] the theosophoi are "those who know divine matters."[7] The derived term theosophy was originally also a synonym for theology;[8] however, it acquired various other meanings throughout its history.[9]

Traditional and Christian theosophy[edit]

Antiquity and Medieval ending c. 1450 CE[edit]

The term theosophy was used as a synonym for theology as early as the 3rd century CE[6] The 13th century work Summa philosophiae attributed to Robert Grosseteste made a distinction between theosophers and theologians. In Summa, theosophers were described as authors only inspired by the holy books, while theologians like Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Origen were described as persons whose task was to explain theosophy. Therefore, the terms were the opposite of the present-day meaning.[8]

In Jewish mysticism, the theosophical[10] doctrinal system of Kabbalah (Hebrew: "received tradition") emerged in late 12th-century southern France (the book Bahir), spreading to 13th-century Spain (culminating in the late 13th-century book Zohar). Kabbalah became the basis of later Jewish mystical development. The theosophical Kabbalah in Judaism was recast into its second version, Lurianic Kabbalah, in 16th-century Ottoman Palestine. From the Renaissance onwards, syncretic non-Jewish traditions of theological Christian Cabala and magical Hermetic Qabalah studied the Judaic texts, incorporating its system into their different philosophies, where it remains a central component of Western esotericism. Gershom Scholem, the founder of Jewish mysticism academia, saw Medieval and Lurianic Kabbalah as the incorporation into Judaism of Gnostic motifs,[11] though interpreted strictly monotheistically. At the centre of Kabbalah are the 10 Sephirot powers in the divine realm, their unification being the task of man. In Lurianism, man redeems the sparks of holiness in materiality, rectifying the divine persona from its primordial exile.

16th and 17th century[edit]

During the Renaissance, use of the term diverged to refer to gnostic knowledge that offers the individual enlightenment and salvation through a knowledge of the bonds that are believed to unite her or him to the world of divine or intermediary spirits.[7] By the 16th century the word theosophy was being used in at least one of its current meanings.[7][by whom?]. Christian theosophy arose in Germany in the 16th century. Inspired to a considerable extent by the works of Paracelsus (1493–1541),[12] theosophy flourished in the works of Aegidius Gutmann (de) (1490–1584), Valentin Weigel (1533–1588), Heinrich Khunrath (1560–1605), Johann Arndt (1555–1621), and Kaspar Schwenckfeld (de) (1490–1584).[citation needed] The term had not yet reached a settled meaning, however, as the mid-16th century Theosophia by Johannes Arboreus provided a lengthy exposition that included no mention of esotericism.[13]

The work of the 17th-century German Christian mystic Jakob Boehme (1575–1624) strongly contributed to spread the use of the word "theosophy", even though Boehme rarely used the word in his writings. It is on account of the title of some of his works, but these titles appear to have been chosen more by the editors than by Boehme himself.[14] Moreover, Boehme gave the word "theosophy" a limited meaning, making it clear that he was not conflating nature with God.[15]

There were relatively few theosophers in the 17th century, but many of them were prolific.[16] Outside of Germany, there were also theosophers from Holland, England, and France. This group is represented by Jan Baptist van Helmont (1618–1699), Robert Fludd (1574–1637), John Pordage (1608–1681), Jane Leade (1623–1704), Henry More (1614–1687), Pierre Poiret (1646–1719), and Antoinette Bourignon (1616–1680).[17] Theosophers of this period often inquired into nature using a method of interpretation founded upon a specific myth or revelation, applying active imagination in order to draw forth symbolic meanings and further their pursuit of knowledge toward a complete understanding of these mysteries.[7][18]

In Athanasius Kircher's Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1652), Kircher assigned the word theosophy to the metaphysics adhered to in ancient Egypt, and to Neo-Platonism, and thus he gave once again the word one of its most generally accepted meanings, that of divine metaphysics.[19]

18th century[edit]

In the 18th century, the word theosophy came into more widespread use among some philosophers. However, the term "theosophy" was still "practically absent" throughout the entire eighteenth century in dictionaries and encyclopedias, where it only appeared more and more frequently beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century.[20] Theosophers themselves used the word theosophy sparingly, at least up until the middle of the nineteenth century.[21] Johann Jakob Brucker (1696–1770) included a long chapter on theosophy in his monumental work Historia critica philosophia.  (1741). He included theosophers alongside other currents in esotericism in what was then a standard reference in the history of philosophy. German philosophers produced major works of Christian theosophy during this period: Theophilosophia theoritica et practica.  (1710) by Samuel Richter (de) (pseudo. Sincerus Renatus) and Opus magocabalsticum et theosophicum.  (1721) by Georg von Welling (pseudo. Salwigt, 1655-1727).[citation needed] Other notable theosophers of the period include Johann George Gichtel (1638–1710), Gottfried Arnold (1666–1714), Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702–1782), William Law (1686–1761), and Dionysius Andreas Freher (1649–1728)[citation needed]. By the 18th century, the word theosophy was often used in conjunction with panosophy, i.e., a knowledge of divine things that is acquired by deciphering the supposed hieroglyphics of the concrete universe.[clarify] The term theosophy is more properly reserved for the reverse process of contemplating the divine in order to discover the content of the concrete universe.[22]

In England, Robert Hindmarsh, a printer with a Methodist background, formed a "Theosophical Society" in 1783, for translating, printing and distributing the writings of Swedenborg.[23] This society was renamed in 1785 as "The British Society for the Propagation of the Doctrines of the New Church", consisting of Swedenborgian based beliefs.[24][25][lower-alpha 2]

In France, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (1743–1803) and Jean-Philippe Dutoit-Membrini (alias Keleph Ben Nathan, 1721-1793) contributed to a resurgence of theosophy in the late 18th century.[citation needed] Other theosophical thinkers of this period include Karl von Eckartshausen (1752–1803), Johann Heinrich Jung (1740–1817), Frédéric-Rodolphe Saltzmann (fr) (1749–1821), Johann Michael Hahn (1758–1819), and Franz von Baader (1765–1841).[citation needed]. Denis Diderot gave the word theosophie more attention than other encyclopedias of this period by including an article on it in his Encyclopédie, published during the French Enlightenment.[26] The article dealt mostly with Paracelsus and essentially plagiarized Brucker's "Historia".[27]

19th century[edit]

Groups such as the Martinist Order founded by Papus in 1891, followed the theosophical current closely linked to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition and Western esotericism. Theosophers outside of the initiate societies included people such as Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900), whose views have been described as follows: "although empiricism and rationalism rest on false principles, their respective objective contents, external experience, qua the foundation of natural science, and logical thought, qua the foundation of pure philosophy, are to be synthesized or encompassed along with mystical knowledge in 'integral knowledge,' what Solovyov terms 'theosophy.'"[28]

Common characteristics[edit]

Theosophy actually designates a specific flow of thought or tradition within the modern study of esotericism. Thus, it follows the path starting from the more modern period of the 15th century onward. Faivre describes the "theosophic current" or theosophy as a single esoteric current among seven other esoteric currents in early modern Western thought (i.e., alchemy, astrology, Neo-Alexandrian hermetism, Christian Kabbalah, Paracelsism, philosophia occulta and Rosicrucianism).[29] Christian theosophy is an under-researched area; a general history of it has never been written.[30]

Faivre noted that there are "obvious similarities" between earlier theosophy and modern Theosophy as both play an important part in Western esotericism and both claim to deal with wisdom from a gnostic perspective. But he says there are also differences, since they do not actually rely on the same reference works; and their style is different. The referential corpus of earlier theosophy "belongs essentially to the Judeo-Christian type", while that of modern Theosophy "reveals a more universal aspect".[31] Although there are many differences between Christian theosophy and the Theosophical movement begun by Helena Blavatsky, the differences "are not important enough to cause an insurmountable barrier."[32] When referring to the ideas related to Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society, the word "Theosophy" is capitalized; otherwise it is not. Theosophy and theosophists refer to Blavatsky's philosophy while theosophy and theosophers refer to Christian theosophy. Some Theosophists were also theosophers.[8] Blavatsky linked her use of the word theosophy to the Neoplatonists and Ammonius Saccas, rather than to the later Christian theosophers.[33]

Theosophers engage in analysis of the universe, humanity, divinity, and the reciprocal effects of each on the other. The starting point for theosophers may be knowledge of external things in the world or inner experiences and the aim of the theosopher is to discover deeper meanings in the natural or divine realm. Antoine Faivre notes, "the theosophist dedicates his energy to inventing (in the word's original sense of 'discovering') the articulation of all things visible and invisible, by examining both divinity and nature in the smallest detail."[7] The knowledge that is acquired through meditation is believed to change the being of the meditator.[34]

Faivre identified three characteristics of theosophy.[35] The three characteristics of theosophy are listed below.

Theosophy:

  1. Divine/Human/Nature Triangle: The inspired analysis which circles through these three angles. The intradivine within; the origin, death and placement of the human relating to Divinity and Nature; Nature as alive, the external, intellectual and material. All three complex correlations synthesize via the intellect and imaginative processes of Mind.
  2. Primacy of the Mythic: The creative Imagination, an external world of symbols, glyphs, myths, synchronicities and the myriad, along with image, all as a universal reality for the interplay conjoined by creative mind.
  3. Access to Supreme Worlds: The awakening within, inherently possessing the faculty to directly connect to the Divine world(s). The existence of a special human ability to create this connection. The ability to connect and explore all levels of reality; co-penetrate the human with the divine; to bond to all reality and experience a unique inner awakening.

Blavatskyan Theosophy and The Theosophical Society[edit]

The Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875 with the motto, "There is no Religion higher than Truth".[36] Its principal founding members were Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907), and William Quan Judge (1851–1896).

After several changes and iterations its declared objectives became the following:[37]

  1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.
  2. To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science.
  3. To investigate the unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.

The emblem of the Theosophical Society includes seven symbols of particular importance to the Society's symbology: 1) the motto of the Society; 2) a serpent biting its tail (ouroboros); 3) the swastika; 4) the hexagram; 5) the cruxansata (Ankh); 6) the pin of the Society, composed of crux ansata and serpent entwined, forming together "T.S.", and 7) Om (or aum). The seal of the Society contains all of these symbols, except aum, and thus contains, in symbolic form, the doctrines its members follow.[38]

The Society was organized as a non-proselytizing, non-sectarian entity.[39][40] Blavatsky and Olcott (the first President of the Society) moved from New York to Bombay, India in 1878. The International Headquarters of the Society was eventually established in Adyar, a suburb of Madras. The original organization, after splits and realignments has (as of 2011) several offshoots; all of them accept the three objectives above, and the precepts put forth by Blavatsky. Blavatsky was influential on spiritualism and related subcultures: "The western esoteric tradition has no more important figure in modern times."[41]

Helena Blavatsky was a charismatic, unconventional and controversial woman of mixed Russian and German descent, who had travelled extensively; she became the major proponent of both theoretical and practical Theosophy.[42] Since its inception, and through doctrinal assimilation or divergence, Theosophy has also given rise to or influenced the development of other mystical, philosophical, and religious movements.[5] Following Blavatsky's death, disagreements among prominent Theosophists caused a series of splits and several Theosophical organizations emerged.[lower-alpha 3] One successor of the original Society is as of 2011 known as the Theosophical Society Adyar. After a split in 1895, William Quan Judge established a Theosophical organization in New York City which later eventually moved to Pasadena, California. It is known as of 2011 as the Theosophical Society Pasadena. The latter split yet again; another Theosophical organization, the United Lodge of Theosophists was the result, formed by Robert Crosbie in 1909.

Contemporaries of Blavatsky, including William Quan Judge and Alfred Percy Sinnett, and later exponents have contributed to the development of this Theosophy, producing works that at times expanded on the original concepts.[lower-alpha 4] Through the various Theosophical Societies and Organizations, Theosophy remains an active philosophical school with presences in more than 50 countries around the world.

The World Teacher Project[edit]

During the 1890s and 1900s, the international leadership of the Adyar Society and their circle became increasingly convinced that the appearance of an "emissary" from the Spiritual Hierarchy was imminent; the expected emissary was further identified as the so-called World Teacher or Maitreya, originally by Leadbeater, who "discovered" fourteen-year-old Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986) as the entity's probable "vehicle".[43] Krishnamurti was groomed extensively for his expected messianic role, and a new organization, the Order of the Star in the East (OSE), was formed in 1911 to support him in this mission. The project received widespread publicity and enjoyed worldwide following, chiefly among Adyar Theosophists. It also encountered opposition within and without the Theosophical Society, and contributed or led to years of upheaval, power struggles and doctrinal schism within Theosophy.[44] Additional negative repercussions occurred in 1929, when Krishnamurti repudiated the messianic status claimed on his behalf and dissolved the OSE; soon after he severed ties with the Society and Theosophy in general. The adverse reactions and mixed publicity generated by the entire World Teacher Project, and especially by its demise and aftermath, damaged the standing of Theosophy and of its institutions. However, Krishnamurti eventually established a worldwide reputation as an original and respected independent speaker and thinker on spiritual and philosophical issues.[45]

Post-Blavatskyan Theosophy and new religious movements[edit]

Contemporaries of Blavatsky, as well as later theosophists, contributed to the development of this school of theosophical thought, producing works that at times sought to elucidate the ideas she presented (see Gottfried de Purucker), and at times to expand upon them.[lower-alpha 5] Since its inception, and through doctrinal assimilation or divergence, Theosophy has also given rise to or influenced the development of other mystical, philosophical, and religious movements.[46]

During the two decades that followed the death of Blavatsky, a number of leading Theosophists expanded or reinterpreted her own and other theosophical works. Prominent among them were Charles Webster Leadbeater (1854–1934), then considered the Society's main occult investigator, and Annie Besant (1847–1933), who became the International President of the Society in 1907, following the death of Olcott. Some of their (and others') prolific commentaries and newly introduced concepts became subjects of doctrinal debate and dispute; dissidents charged them with straying from Theosophical orthodoxy and derisively labeled such works Neo-Theosophy.[47] However, in later usage the term came to signify presumed theosophical or quasi-theosophical thought advanced by people not directly connected to the Theosophical movement or its institutions, especially former Theosophist Alice Bailey and groups associated with her; and also the people and organizations mentioned below under the heading New Age Movement.

G.R.S. Mead was an early Theosophist. In 1909 he resigned from the Theosophical Society which was Orientalist. Prior to his break from the Society Mead had already begun emphasizing sources from the Western esoteric tradition in his writing. Mead was among the first Theosophists to explicate a "'Western' theosophy deriving from Alexandrian and Hellenistic sources in the early centuries A.D."[48]

Influence[edit]

File:Leo Tolstoy The Voice of the Silence.jpg
The book The Voice of the Silence presented by Blavatsky to Leo Tolstoy
Following

During the 1920s the Theosophical Society Adyar had around 7,000 members in the United States.[49] According to a Theosophical source, the Indian section in 2008 was said to have around 13,000 members while in the US the 2008 membership was reported at around 3,900.[50]

India and Sri Lanka

The Theosophical Society Adyar was closely linked to the Indian independence movement: the Indian National Congress was founded across the street in 1885 during a Theosophical conference, and many of its leaders, including M. K. Gandhi were associated with Theosophy.[51] However, Hindu spiritual teacher and leader Swami Vivekananda has criticized Theosophy and Theosophists.[52]

Some early members of the Theosophical Society were closely linked to the Indian independence movement, including Allan Octavian Hume, Annie Besant and others. Hume was particularly involved in the founding of the Indian National Congress.[53]

The Theosophical Society had a major influence on Buddhist modernism[54] and Hindu reform movements, and the spread of those modernised versions in the west.[54]

Blavatsky and Olcott took part in Anagarika Dharmapala's revival of Theravada Buddhism in Ceylon.[55][56]

Anthroposophy

Rudolf Steiner, head of the German branch of the Theosophical Society in the early part of the 20th century, disagreed with the Adyar-based international leadership of the Society over several doctrinal matters including the so-called World Teacher Project (see above). Steiner left the Theosophical Society in 1913 to promote his own theosophy-influenced philosophy,[57][58] which he called Anthroposophy, through a new organization, the Anthroposophical Society; the great majority of German-speaking members of the Theosophical Society joined the newly formed Anthroposophical Society.

New Age movement

The present-day New Age movement is said to be based to a considerable extent on original Theosophical tenets and ideas. "No single organization or movement has contributed so many components to the New Age Movement as the Theosophical Society. ... It has been the major force in the dissemination of occult literature in the West in the twentieth century."[59]

Other organizations loosely based on Theosophical texts and doctrines include the Agni Yoga, and a group of religions based on Theosophy called the Ascended Master Teachings: the "I AM" Activity, The Bridge to Freedom and The Summit Lighthouse, which evolved into the Church Universal and Triumphant. These various offshoots dispute the authenticity of their rivals.

Scholarship

Scholar Alvin Boyd Kuhn wrote his thesis, Theosophy: A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, on the subject – the first instance in which an individual obtained his doctorate with a thesis on Theosophy.[60] It can called also Olav Hammer's and Arnold Kalnitsky's doctoral dissertations (in 2000 and in 2003 respectively).[61][62]

Art, music, literature

Artists and authors who investigated Theosophy include Talbot Mundy, Charles Howard Hinton, Geoffrey Hodson, James Jones,[63] H. P. Lovecraft, and L. Frank Baum. Composer Alexander Scriabin was a Theosophist whose beliefs influenced his music, especially by providing a justification or rationale for his chromatic language. Scriabin devised a quartal synthetic chord, often called his "mystic" chord, and before his death Scriabin planned a multimedia work to be performed in the Himalayas that would bring about the armageddon; "a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world."[64] This piece, Mysterium, was never realized, due to his death in 1915. Leonid Sabaneyev, in his book Reminiscences about Scriabin (1925), wrote that The Secret Doctrine and journals "Bulletin of theosophy" constantly were on Scriabin's work table.[65] Scriabin reread The Secret Doctrine very carefully and marked the most important places with a pencil.[66][lower-alpha 6] Artists reported to be Theosophists were Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian.

Blavatsky presented her book The Voice of the Silence, The Seven gates, Two Paths to Leo Tolstoy. In his works, Tolstoy used the dicta from the theosophical journal Theosophischer Wegweiser.[67] In his diary, he wrote on 12 February 1903, "I am reading a beautiful theosophical journal and find many common with my understanding."[68]

Quotes[edit]

STRAY REMARKS ON THEOSOPHY (Found among Swami Vivekananda's papers.)

The Theosophists are having a jubilee time of it this year, and several press-notices are before us of their goings and doings for the last twenty-five years.

Nobody has a right now to say that the Hindus are not liberal to a fault. A coterie of young Hindus has been found to welcome even this graft of American Spiritualism, with its panoply of taps and raps and hitting back and forth with Mahâtmic pellets.

The Theosophists claim to possess the original divine knowledge of the universe. We are glad to learn of it, and gladder still that they mean to keep it rigorously a secret. Woe unto us, poor mortals, and Hindus at that, if all this is at once let out on us! Modern Theosophy is Mrs. Besant. Blavatskism and Olcottism seem to have taken a back seat. Mrs. Besant means well at least - and nobody can deny her perseverance and zeal.

There are, of course, carping critics. We on our part see nothing but good in Theosophy - good in what is directly beneficial, good in what is pernicious, as they say, indirectly good as we say - the intimate geographical knowledge of various heavens, and other places, and the denizens thereof; and the dexterous finger work on the visible plane accompanying ghostly communications to live Theosophists - all told. For Theosophy is the best serum we know of, whose injection never fails to develop the queer moths finding lodgment in some brains attempting to pass muster as sound.

We have no wish to disparage the good work of the Theosophical or any other society. Yet exaggeration has been in the past the bane of our race and if the several articles on the work of the Theosophical Society that appeared in the Advocate of Lucknow be taken as the temperamental gauge of Lucknow, we are sorry for those it represents, to say the least; foolish depreciation is surely vicious, but fulsome praise is equally loathsome.

This Indian grafting of American Spiritualism - with only a few Sanskrit words taking the place of spiritualistic jargon - Mahâtmâ missiles taking the place of ghostly raps and taps, and Mahatmic inspiration that of obsession by ghosts.

We cannot attribute a knowledge of all this to the writer of the articles in the Advocate, but he must not confound himself and his Theosophists with the great Hindu nation, the majority of whom have clearly seen through the Theosophical phenomena from the start and, following the great Swami Dayânanda Sarasvati who took away his patronage from Blavatskism the moment he found it out, have held themselves aloof.

Again, whatever be the predilection of the writer in question, the Hindus have enough of religious teaching and teachers amidst themselves even in this Kali Yuga, and they do not stand in need of dead ghosts of Russians and Americans.

The articles in question are libels on the Hindus and their religion. We Hindus - let the writer, like that of the articles referred to, know once for all - have no need nor desire to import religion from the West. Sufficient has been the degradation of importing almost everything else.

The importation in the case of religion should be mostly on the side of the West, we are sure, and our work has been all along in that line. The only help the religion of the Hindus got from the Theosophists in the West was not a ready field, but years of uphill work, necessitated by Theosophical sleight-of-hand methods. The writer ought to have known that the Theosophists wanted to crawl into the heart of Western Society, catching on to the skirts of scholars like Max Müller and poets like Edwin Arnold, all the same denouncing these very men and posing as the only receptacles of universal wisdom. And one heaves a sigh of relief that this wonderful wisdom is kept a secret. Indian thought, charlatanry, and mango-growing fakirism had all become identified in the minds of educated people in the West, and this was all the help rendered to Hindu religion by the Theosophists.

The great immediate visible good effect of Theosophy in every country, so far as we can see, is to separate, like Prof. Koch's injections into the lungs of consumptives, the healthy, spiritual, active, and patriotic from the charlatans, the morbids, and the degenerates posing as spiritual beings. (Vivekananda)

"What do you think of Mrs. Besant and Theosophy?" "Mrs. Besant is a very good woman. I lectured at her Lodge in London. I do not know personally much about her. Her knowledge of our religion is very limited; she picks up scraps here and there; she never had time to study it thoroughly. That she is one of the most sincere of women, her greatest enemy will concede. She is considered the best speaker in England. She is a Sannyâsini. But I do not believe in Mahâtmâs and Kuthumis. Let her give up her connection with the Theosophical Society, stand on her own footing, and preach what she thinks right." (Vivekananda, Madras Times, February, 1897)

1. They said in their first letters that the Theosophical Society was to be regarded as a branch of the Arya Samaj, but subsequently they changed their mind (and did not declare their Society as a branch of the Arya Samaj).

2. They said that they were coming as students, to understand and embrace the Vedic Religion, and to acquire a knowledge of Sanskrit. They have not only failed to keep their promise, but have become disbelievers in any and every Dharma whatsoever. They never studied any Dharma in the capacity of an inquirer, have not yet commenced studying Sanskrit, nor is there any hope of their ever doing so. ... It is not all necessary that any more should be written for the wise. What has been said above will enable everybody to understand the real facts. The object aimed at in issuing this pamphlet is to point out that nothing but harm can come to Aryavarta and to the Arya Samajes by keeping up a connection with the Theosophical Society. For what their real object is, they alone can tell. Were they pure-minded, why would they do such deeds and write such letters? When they are such dangerous atheists, so unfaithful to their word, and so selfish, Aryavarta and the Arya Samajists and other Aryas had better give up the hope that they will do any good to the country. ... When the Swami had a talk with Madame Blavatsky on "yoga," at Meerut, Madame asserted that she practised yoga as taught in the Yoga and the Sankhya Shastra. On the Swami’s desiring her to explain the methods of the yoga recommended by the Shastras, no answer whatever was forthcoming. In other words, it is only mesmerism or the juggler’s art which they can practice. Those who practice yoga, though but to a small extent, they are always the same externally and internally, and in their dealings they are upright. The dealings of these people are marked by deceit and falsehood. If they knew yoga ever so little, they would not be such dangerous atheists, unbelievers in God. That they are wholly ignorant of yoga, is proved by the single fact of their having no faith in God. Hence the certain conclusion from all this is, that their contradictory professions and doings do not deserve to be put any faith in, and the best thing is, therefore, to keep aloof from them. (Humbuggery of the Theosophists [A Tract based on a Lecture given by Swami Dayananda Sarasvati] In July of 1882, Colonel Olcott published a rebuttal to Swami Dayananda's charges.)

A niece of Einstein reported that a copy of The Secret Doctrine was always on his desk*. Another witness, Jack Brown, reports similarly in an article, "I visited Professor Einstein."**

Theosophy is the teaching of Madame Blavatsky. It is Hinduism at its best. Theosophy is the Brotherhood of Man.... Jinnah and other Moslem leaders were once members of the Congress. They left it because they felt the pinch of Hinduism patronizing.... They did not find the Brotherhood of Man among the Hindus. They say Islam is the Brotherhood of Man. As a matter of fact, it is the Brotherhood of Moslems. Theosophy is the Brotherhood of Man. (Mahatma Gandhi, from Fischer, The Life of Mahatma Gandhi)

James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Jack London, E. M. Foster, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Paul Gauguin, Gustav Mahler, Jean Sibelius, Alexander Skrjabin, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, Thornton Wilder, L. Frank Baum, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Paul Gauguin, Gustav Mahler, Jean Sibelius, and Alexander Scriabin


This was succeeded by A Treatise on Cosmic Fire. This book was an expansion of the teaching given in The Secret Doctrine on the three fires - electric fire, solar fire and fire by friction - and it was an awaited sequence; it also presented the psychological key to The Secret Doctrine and is intended to offer study to disciples and initiates at the close of this century and the beginning of the next century, up until 2025 A. D. (Alice Bailey)


"THERE IS NO RELIGION (OR LAW) HIGHER THAN TRUTH" -- "SATYAT NASTI PARO DHARMAH"

Such a work as this has to be introduced with no simple Preface, but with a volume rather; one that would give facts, not mere disquisitions, since the SECRET DOCTRINE is not a treatise, or a series of vague theories, but contains all that can be given out to the world in this century. ENQUIRER. What are the objects of the "Theosophical Society"? THEOSOPHIST. They are three, and have been so from the beginning. (1.) To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, colour, or creed. (2.) To promote the study of Aryan and other Scriptures, of the World's religion and sciences, and to vindicate the importance of old Asiatic literature, namely, of the Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies. (3.) To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature under every aspect possible, and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man especially. These are, broadly stated, the three chief objects of the Theosophical Society.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.

If an organizatin be created for this purpose, it becomes a crutch , a weakness, a bondage, and must cripple the indivudual, and prevent him from growing, from establishing his uniqueness, whch lies in the discovery for himself of that absolute, unconditioned Truth.

My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.

(August 2, 1929, Ommen Camp)


Allice Bailey

This was succeeded by A Treatise on Cosmic Fire. This book was an expansion of the teaching given in The Secret Doctrine on the three fires - electric fire, solar fire and fire by friction - and it was an awaited sequence; it also presented the psychological key to The Secret Doctrine and is intended to offer study to disciples and initiates at the close of this century and the beginning of the next century, up until 2025 A. D.

Often in the late afternoon there were classes and I look back to those times in which I taught the fundamentals of the Secret Doctrine as some of the most profitable and satisfactory times in my life. In many ways today H.P.B.'s book The Secret Doctrine is out of date and its approach to the Ageless Wisdom has little or no appeal to the modern generation. But those of us who really studied it and arrived at some understanding of its inner significance have a basic appreciation of the truth that no other book seems to supply. H.P.B. said that the next interpretation of the Ageless Wisdom would be a psychological approach, and A Treatise on Cosmic Fire, which I published in 1925, is the psychological key to The Secret Doctrine. None of my books would have been possible [215] had I not at one time made a very close study of The Secret Doctrine.

In A Treatise on Cosmic Fire the Tibetan has given us what H. P. Blavatsky prophesied he would give, namely, the psychological key to the Cosmic Creation. H.P.B. stated that in the 20th century a disciple would come who would give the psychological key to her own monumental work The Secret Doctrine on which treatise the Tibetan worked with her; and Alice A. Bailey worked in complete recognition of her own task in this sequence.

Dedicated with Gratitude to Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, that great disciple who lighted her torch in the east and brought the light to Europe and America in 1875.

Rudolf Steiner

"Nun muss man aber, wenn man die Erscheinung der Blavatsky ins Auge fasst, eine Eigenschaft dieser Persönlichkeit betonen, weil sie eine hervorragende Eigenschaft ist, das ist diese, dass Blavatsky ganz und gar, man kann schon sagen, antichristlich gesinnt war, ganz und gar antichristlich orientiert war".

Internet

It has been said (by the modern American philosopher A. N. Whitehead) that all Western philosophy has been ultimately footnotes to Plato.  In the same way, all subsequent western esotericism can rightly be described as footnotes to Blavatsky.

Katherine Tingley

I never think of the teachings of theosophy without feeling surge up within me an intense, an affectionate, an infinite regard for the wonderful woman who brought them to the Western world -- teachings far older than those of the Nazarene, and yet with all the beauty, charm and purity of new life. I feel that she must have passed through many schools of experience in many, many lives to gain the marvelous knowledge that she possessed, the self-sacrificing love for humanity that was hers, and the courage that sufficed to carry her through the suffering and persecution that came. She was as one who had been cleansed as by fire, who had passed through the travail of the soul.

She left the world in its thought-life teeming with an urge for higher things, which only the few could understand. She was inspired beyond the knowing, and the great message which she brought, the mighty undertones and overtones of universal love, sounded by her in the silences, were part of the great universal plan. She was the messenger of years to come, the torchbearer of the age, the great transmitter of spiritual light to the future.

"Helena Petrovna Blavatsky...[is]...the most insightful and comprehensive teacher of esoteric philosophy in modern times...." Shirley Nicholson. Ancient Wisdom, Modern Insight. 1985.

"...Madame Blavatsky...stands out as the fountainhead of modern occult thought...." J. Gordon Melton, Jerome Clark and Aidan A. Kelly. New Age Almanac. 1991.

"Helena Petrovna Blavatsky...is surely among the most original and perceptive minds of her time....[In her two major books]....lies...the first philosophy of psychic and spiritual evolution to appear in the modern West...." Theodore Roszak. The Unfinished Animal. 1975.

"H.P. Blavatsky...is regarded by all modern theosophical movements as the most important theosophical writer and teacher of the modern era." Robert Ellwood, author of Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America, Alternative Altars and other works.

  • The possible truths, hazily perceived in the world of abstraction, like those inferred from observation and experiment in the world of matter, are forced upon the profane multitudes, too busy to think for themselves, under the form of Divine revelation and scientific authority. But the same question stands open from the days of Socrates and Pilate down to our own age of wholesale negation: is there such a thing as absolute truth in the hands of any one party or man? Reason answers, "there cannot be." There is no room for absolute truth upon any subject whatsoever, in a world as finite and conditioned as man is himself. But there are relative truths, and we have to make the best we can of them.
  • Nothing of that which is conducive to help man, collectively or individually, to live — not "happily" — but less unhappily in this world, ought to be indifferent to the Theosophist-Occultist. It is no concern of his whether his help benefits a man in his worldly or spiritual progress; his first duty is to be ever ready to help if he can, without stopping to philosophize.
  • I speak "with absolute certainty" only so far as my own personal belief is concerned. Those who have not the same warrant for their belief as I have, would be very credulous and foolish to accept it on blind faith. Nor does the writer believe any more than her correspondent and his friends in any "authority" let alone "divine revelation"!
  • Theosophy brought to India yet another strain of sarva-dharma-samabhâva. It proclaimed that all religions were ultimately derived from and were distortions of the Original One Religion known to the ancient Mahatmas, who had kept themselves hidden for a long time. But so far as the prevalent religions are concerned, Theosophy never said that they were the same or equally true. In fact, the first Theosophists who come to South India showed a marked preference for Hinduism, and encouraged Hindus to ridicule and denounce Christianity, its totem, and its missions. Later on, Annie Besant founded the first Hindu College at Varanasi, and could never see eye to eye with Mahatma Gandhi when it came to Islam. The only Theosophist who really stood for sarva-dharma-samabhâva came from the heartland of Indian Islam, U.P. in North India. That was Dr. Bhagwan Das. But anyone who has studied different religions in right earnest can say without any hesitation that Bhagwan Das' magnum opus, Essential Unity of All Religions, is not much more than silly and sentimental humbug. He has missed the forest for the trees in the case of all religions when he picks up stray sentences from different scriptures and strings them together without any reference to context or their real meanings beyond the literal. Rather than studying and understanding all religions he is out to foist his own pet and preconceived notions on all of them.
    • Sita Ram Goel, Freedom of expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998)

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Societies and Organizations include, but are not limited to: The Theosophical Society, Adyar [1], The Theosophical Society, Pasadena [2], The United Lodge of Theosophists [3]
  2. For mention of the 1783 Theosophical Society, see Odhner, Carl T., ed. (1898). Annals of the New Church. Philadelphia: Academy of the New Church. pp. 119–120, 122–123, 125, 127, 140, 219, 297, 314, 330, 405. OCLC 680808382. 
  3. Some of the later works have become the focus of, or have contributed to, lively discussion among leading proponents of Theosophy, and on occasion have led to serious doctrinal disputes.
  4. Some of the later works have become the focus of, or have contributed to, lively discussion among leading proponents of Theosophy, and on occasion have led to serious doctrinal disputes. See Neo-Theosophy.
  5. Some of the later works have become the focus of, or have contributed to, lively discussion among leading proponents of Theosophy, and on occasion have led to serious doctrinal disputes. See Neo-Theosophy.
  6. For more about how Scriabin was influenced by Blavatsky, see Adamenko, Victoria (2007) [2006]. Neo-mythologism in music: from Scriabin and Schoenberg to Schnittke and Crumb. Interplay series. 5. Hillsdale, NY: Pendagon Press. pp. 152–154. ISBN 9781576471258. 

Citations[edit]

  1. Huss, Boaz (2013), "Forward, to the East: Mapthali Herz Imber's Perception of Kabbalah", Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, 12 (3): 398, doi:10.1080/14725886.2013.826464 
  2. Hanegraaff, Wouter J (2013), Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed, London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 35, 99, ISBN 9781441146748, LCCN 2012019254, OCLC 777652932 
  3. Liddell and Scott: Greek-English Lexicon
  4. Blavatsky 1888
  5. 5.0 5.1 Melton 1990, xxv–xxvi
  6. 6.0 6.1 Lobel 2007, p. 27
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Faivre 1987
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Faivre, Antoine (1994). Access to Western Esotericism. State University of New York Press. ISBN 0791421783. 
  9. Faivre 2000, p. 4
  10. The Jewish Religion: A Companion, Louis Jacobs, Oxford University Press 1995; entry on Kabbalah
  11. Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, Joseph Dan, Oxford University Press; chapters on Medieval and Lurianic Kabbalah
  12. Faivre, Antoine (1994). Access to Western Esotericism. State University of New York Press. p. 8. ISBN 0791421783. 
  13. Faivre 1987, p. 465
  14. Faivre 2000, p. 13, see also p.19
  15. Faivre 2000, p. 13
  16. Faivre 2000, pp. 10–11 Faivre's list of 17th century theosophers in North-Western Europe (including Germany) consists of roughly ten names.
  17. Faivre 2000, p. 10-11 Henry More is added to the list by Faivre with some reservations
  18. OED 1989 v. XVII, p. 903.
  19. Faivre 2000, p. 14
  20. Faivre 2000, p. 47 (Diderot is the one exception Faivre mentions)
  21. Faivre 2000, p. 24
  22. Faivre 1987, p. 467
  23. Hindmarsh, Robert, Rise and Progress of The New Jerusalem Church In England, America and Other Parts, Hoderson and Sons, London 1861; ISBN 1-4021-3146-1. Online [4]
  24. Rix 2007, p. 98.
  25. Goodrick-Clarke 2008, pp. 168-169.
  26. Faivre 1987, p. 466
  27. Faivre 2000, pp. 18–19
  28. Nemeth IEP
  29. Faivre 2000, p. 32
  30. Faivre 2000, p. 31, also xxx.(Preface)
  31. Faivre 2000, pp. 4–5
  32. Faivre 2000, p. 5 Faivre quotes and agrees with Jean-Louis Siémons.
  33. Blavatsky, H.P. (1889). The Key to Theosophy. p. Section 1 "The name Theosophy dates from the third century of our era, and began with Ammonius Saccas and his disciples (1), who started the Eclectic Theosophical system.". 
  34. Williamson, Lola (2010). Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements (HIMM) as New Religion. New York, NY: New York University Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-8147-9449-4. 
  35. Faivre 2000, pp. 7–8
  36. Blavatsky 1888, p. xli [Volume I: Introduction]. "In other words—'THERE IS NO RELIGION (OR LAW) HIGHER THAN TRUTH'—'SATYÂT NÂSTI PARO DHARMAH'—the motto of the Maharajah of Benares, adopted by the Theosophical Society."
  37. Kuhn 1992, pp. 63-64.
  38. Nilakant 1886.
  39. Olcott 1891. "Article I: Constitution: 4. The Theosophical Society is absolutely unsectarian, and no assent to any formula of belief, faith or creed shall be required as a qualification of membership; but every applicant and member must lie in sympathy with the effort to create the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity."
  40. Blavatsky 1888b.
  41. Johnson 1994.
  42. Davenport-Hines 2004
  43. Wood 1964. Eyewitness account of Krishnamurti's "discovery", and comments on related events and controversies, by one of Leadbeater's close associates.
  44. Tillet 1986, pp. 506–553 [Volume I: "Chapter 15: Conflict over Krishnamurti"]. Information on the contemporary controversies regarding Krishnamurti, inside and outside the Theosophical Society. See also Anthroposophy in this page.
  45. Campbell 1980, p. 130; Vernon 2001, pp. 188–189, 268–270; see also alpheus 2001.
  46. Melton 1990, xxv–xxvi.
  47. Thomas 2003.
  48. Goodrick-Clarke, Claire and Nicholas (2005). G. R. S. Mead and the Gnostic Quest. North Atlantic Books. pp. 9, 19 and 32. ISBN 155643572X. 
  49. Tillet 1986, pp. 942–947 [Volume III: "Appendix 4: Membership of the Theosophical Society"].
  50. TIS 2009
  51. Bevir, Mark (2001). "Theosophy as a Political Movement". Alpheus.org. Archived from the original on 19 May 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  52. STRAY REMARKS ON THEOSOPHY 
  53. Кранстон 1999, sect. 5/1.
  54. 54.0 54.1 McMahan 2008.
  55. Gombrich 2006, pp. 136-140.
  56. Fields 1992, pp. 83–118.
  57. Rudolf Steiner's book Theosophy, An Introduction to Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man (published in German as, "Theosophie. Einfuerung in uebersinnliche Welterkenntnis und Menschenbestimmung"), first appeared in 1904 [5]
  58. Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy of the Rosicrucian, lectures given in 1907 [6]
  59. Melton 1990, pp. 458–461. Note "Chronology of the New Age Movement" pp. xxxv–xxxviii in same work, starts with the formation of the Theosophical Society in 1875; see also Lewis & Melton 1992, xi.
  60. Kuhn 1992.
  61. Hammer 2003.
  62. Kalnitsky 2003.
  63. Carter 1998.
  64. Minderovic 2011; Кранстон 1999, sect. 7/4-6
  65. Сабанеев, Леонид Л., ed. (2000). Воспоминания о Скрябине. Москва: Классика-XXI. pp. 63, 173, 241. 
  66. Schloezer, Boris de (1923). A. Skrjabin. 1. Berlin: Grani. p. 27. OCLC 723767921.  Цит. по: Бандура А. И. А. Н. Скрябин и Е. П. Блаватская // 175 лет со дня рождения Е. П. Блаватской. Материалы Международной научно-общественной конференции. – Санкт-Петербургское отделение Международного Центра Рерихов, Санкт-Петербург, 2006 г. – С. 120 (А. И. Бандура – кандидат искусствоведения, председатель музыкально-философского общества имени А. Н. Скрябина, Москва)
  67. Толстой 1955, p. 67.
  68. Толстой 1935, p. 155.

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Theosophy and Buddhism[edit]

theosophical books[edit]

katinkahesselink.net[edit]

Other[edit]

anthroposophy[edit]

scholarly books[edit]

bailey roerich[edit]


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