Theosophy, Evolution and the Perfection of Man

The term "Theosophy" means Divine Wisdom. It has not been defined anywhere in the Theosophical literature, for to define is to limit. However, what it is and what it is not may emerge as one makes a deeper study of it.

The Theosophical Movement began with the founding of the Theosophical Society on November 17, 1875.

The three objects of the Society are:

  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 unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.

Theosophy and the Divine Plan

Theosophy postulates that there is a Divine Plan, and that Plan is Evolution. The basic postulates of the Ancient Wisdom as presented by Theosophy are:

  • One Life pervades the universe and sustains it. The universe is not just a place where nature's forces operate by chance. Every event that has happened from the beginning of time has happened according to certain laws inherent in the universe. These laws are the expressions of a Consciousness of Life. Everything that exists, from the electron to the largest star is impregnated with that Consciousness.

  • The phenomenal universe is the manifestation of an eternal, boundless and immutable Principle beyond the range of human understanding. This fundamental Reality is far beyond our grasp, and that is why sages and saints have called it Law, Heaven, the Great Architect, Evolution. Each man, according to his temperament and his experience, must determine how he will regard the Consciousness which directs everything.

  • Spirit (or consciousness) and matter are the two polar aspects of the Ultimate Reality. These two with the interplay between them comprise a trinity from which proceed innumerable universes, which come and go in an endless cycle of manifestation and dissolution, all being expressions of that Reality.

  • There are many solar systems of which ours is one. Every Solar System is an orderly scheme governed by laws of nature that reflect transcendental intelligence. "Deity is Law", said H.P. Blavatsky. The visible planets of the solar system are its densest parts; it also contains invisible worlds of exceedingly tenuous matter interpenetrating the physical. The entire system is the scene of a great scheme of evolution.

  • The spirit of Man (often called the soul) is in essence identical with the Supreme Spirit, all pervasive Consciousness "that Unity (as Emerson put it), that Oversoul, within which every man's particular being is contained and made one with all other". The gradual unfolding of this latent divinity takes place by means of a process of reincarnation, in accordance with the Cyclic Law, seen everywhere in Nature, of periods of activity alternating with periods of rest and assimilation. Men and women are units of consciousness.

  • The nature of God resides in every man and woman, and we are not these bodies which perish; they are only garments which we wear for a while and cast aside. We are immortal souls. The perfection of God dwells in us also, for we "live and move and have our being" in Him. But we are unconscious of our Divine Nature.

  • Our birth is as the entrance into a workshop or laboratory, where we work slowly to unfold our faculties and realize our true nature. But it is not possible to realize the divine nature in us by the experiences of one lifetime. So, we reincarnate again and again. We enter the phenomenal world, we are born, we grow, we act, we finish our work and we return. Our return is death. After a rest in heaven, growing by realizing the joys we planned but did not achieve, we return to birth again, more purified, stronger, wiser, to work again, so as to become more perfect in thought and feeling and action. This is reincarnation.

  • "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". This is the law of Karma, under which men weave their own destiny through the ages. This is the great hope for humanity, for man can indeed become the master of his future by what he does in the present. As we live and act, sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. We do good and we do evil, guided by our altruism or our selfishness. When we do evil, we create discord in the universal harmony, and we must restore that harmony. The evil we did must be balanced by new good; the good we did must be reshaped to a more far reaching good. This process of sowing and reaping is called Karma. It is a law of readjustment of forces which a man sets into motion by every one of his thoughts, words and deeds. Since all the units of consciousness or the souls are divine, all souls are equal. There are young souls and old souls, according to their experiences but all are brothers. In spite of every difference of birth, capacity, environment; of race, creed, sex, caste or color; of goodness or wickedness - all men form an indivisible Brotherhood. All of us, high or low, ignorant or wise, make a chain, and the stronger grow by helping the weaker. Brotherhood is the Law of growth for all men.

    But this brotherhood extends to all - animals, birds, fishes, even the plants, mountains and seas. We grow by our unity with all things. The Divine Nature, which is latent in them as in us, helps our inherent Divinity to step forth in its beauty.

Process of the Soul's Evolution

Theosophy is in agreement with science about the existence of an evolutionary process. The life of the Supreme Being, permeating every atom of the universe, and being partially expressed in the multiplicity of the mineral, vegetable, animal and human forms that fill the world, is slowly evolving these to manifest in an ever increasing measure their potentialities through increasingly complex forms.

The soul is the germ of divine life immersed in matter - an individualized portion of the universal consciousness. Through long periods of time it slowly evolved before it reached the human stage. Consciousness is involved in matter and is evolving through its association with matter. Inseparable companions, they are but two aspects of one thing - of the one reality. A center of consciousness working in matter builds a form about itself; at the earlier stages more and more complex forms. But the matter referred to is not always visible matter - matter that is known to the physical senses. Even in physical matter, we have grades which are invisible and intangible, like the air and these gradations of rarer and rarer matter continue far beyond the point.

There is a point in evolution where consciousness becomes self consciousness and then where the selfconsciousness becomes the all consciousness. At the point the human race has now reached - roughly, the half-way point in the whole evolutionary journey - the individual consciousness is functioning a part of the time in invisible matter. When a human being reaches the time for that change which we know as death the consciousness leaves this physical body and goes on with life in bodies composed of the matter of the invisible worlds. Later consciousness parts with the invisible body, and also in due course of time transfers its activities once more to the physical world, appearing again in an infant physical body which serves its purpose until the succeeding physical death. In this alternation from the visible to the invisible, from the grosser to the rarer, from the outer to the inner, from the objective to the subjective the soul finds its possibilities of evolution from lower to higher states of consciousness, each cycle carrying it to a higher point than it has previously attained. The method by which it grows is the acquirement of experience in the physical life, and the working up of this experience into faculties or powers during the life in the invisible worlds. This succession of returns to the physical life is the soul's reincarnation; souls in evolution are much like children in study. They represent many grades of intelligence and many degrees of effort. Souls are like children in nature's school. Millions are in higher grades, hundreds have finished their education and are voluntarily staying back to act as teachers of the rest. These, Theosophy knows as the Masters of the Wisdom.

The Path of Perfection

Adeptship is the identity of the innermost self of man with the innermost self of the universe, the Atma with the Paramatma, pseudo-individuality is dissolved. The Adept abides in perpetual experience of identity with Universal Spirit. This is Perfection, Nirvana or Salvation - liberation from illusion of separated individuality. This is the highest human attainment and the spiritual "purpose" of existence.

The means of attainment consists of interior unfoldment of consciousness and its internal and external experiences. Interior unfoldment is continuous, while repeated physical rebirth or reincarnation provides the necessary time, opportunity and experience.

A cosmic law of compensation, partly seen operating in man as cause and effect, ensures absolute justice to every man. The places and conditions in which individuals and races are born, as well as those later entered, are exactly the "right" places and conditions, for only in them can justice be done and experience required for the attainment of Adeptship be obtained.

Already some men and women have attained the state of Adeptship. Some of them remain on earth as members of a highly organized fraternity of directors of planetary evolution. Of these great sages, some, in compassion for humanity accept individual men and women for training in the mode of life and thought which increases the rate of evolutionary progress, and the training is called The Path.

These Adepts who teach and train pupils are known as Masters. They can be successfully approached by those who fulfill the necessary conditions and apply for admission to their presence in the appointed way.

Man can delay or hasten the process of attaining perfection, deliberate hastening of the process accurately describes the treading of the Path.

What kind of an individual must the would-be disciple/pupil be? It is said that affinity alone can draw us close to Them. The Adepts are the very embodiments of Love and Selfless Service. So none can approach Them unless he has in him in howsoever small a measure the spirit of Brotherhood - kinship with the entire creation - and eagerness to serve to alleviate the suffering and distress of those around him.

These qualifications are said to be necessary for the successful entry upon the Path of Discipleship. The first is absolute self-surrender, which implies a transcendence of the limitations of I-ness, of self-separateness with its concomitants of pride, personal ambition, selfishness and desire. Material acquisitiveness and possessiveness are displaced by spiritual aspiration. The second is called self-study or enquiry. It implies a development of the mental faculties of the highest degree. The third qualification is service. Realization of the oneness of Life must show itself in selfless action. Then for him the gate will swing open. The open mind, the pure heart - which means the selfless heart and the co-operative life, these are the three essentials to triumph through the Judgement Hall into the Presence of the Divine Judge.

This material was taken almost in its entirety from the brochure: "Theosophy and its Concept of Plan - Evolution and Perfection of Man," published by the Indian Section of the Theosophical Society in its Centenary Year: 1990-1991.
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