[Based on notes and studies to be found in the writings of H. P. Blavatsky and Wm. Q. Judge.]
Theosophy: What is it?
Theosophy is a modern presentation of the history of discovery done by Wise Sages and devoted Men, assisted by their pupils.
The range of study covers a period that starts before the present program of evolution of our Earth. These records are not only preserved in the Libraries maintained by this "College of the Sages," but partial records and fragments of philosophies, scientific observations, religious theogonies, rites and literature are to found scattered all over the world, and including that of scholars. [see Introduction to Isis Unveiled, and The Secret Doctrine.]
Madame Blavatsky in her works has attempted to draw those significant facts together, so that modern scholars might check and verify them. Books: Isis Unveiled, The Secret Doctrine, The Voice of the Silence, The Key to Theosophy, and numerous articles and letters. -- available online through Blavatsky.Net
Theosophy is not a Creed or a set of Theories -- A Report on Observation
Theosophy has been named: "The Wisdom-Religion." It is not a sect, nor is it an attempt to build one. It offers a theory of nature and of life which is not speculatively laid down and then proved by adjusting facts or conclusions to fit it; but is an explanation of existence, cosmic and individual, derived from knowledge reached by those who have acquired the power to see behind the curtain that hides the operations of Nature from the average mind. As history, theosophy does not vary nor is it a set of concepts that can be modified at will. It draws on Nature as a whole, and declares that Nature is the Universe in toto with laws and rules that operate incessantly and serve to unite all beings. Mankind it says (and as we are in general today, all over the Earth) represents the mid-way point of evolution. Consciousness and Intelligence have formed the present condition of all the beings alive -- from the sub-atomic "Monad" or "life-unit" to the ultimate reach of the UNIVERSAL GALAXY.
A College of Wise Men -- The Lodge of Adepts
Such Wise Beings have been called Sages, (in the highest sense), Mahatmas, Masters of Wisdom and Adepts. In ancient times they were known as Prophets, Teachers of Mankind, Reformers of degraded Religions, and, the most ancient of mankind's teachers: the Rishis (Sage Teachers) and Maharishis- or, Great Rishis. As a group, they all know each other and for those who desire to learn their lore they publish from time to time, or send envoys to various groups of people so that the traditions and achievements of man may be sustained and maintained alive.
One may surmise that the modern THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT (barely 126 years old) is one of these efforts, and this may be said to be similar to the Neo-Platonists of the first centuries in Alexandria, or Plato's Academy (6th Century BC) were examples of this effort. Great Sages like St. Germain, Boehme, Pythagoras, Paracelsus, Gautama the Buddha, Lao-Tse, Confucius, Manco Capac, Krishna, Kapila, Vyasa, Zoroaster, and a thousand others, have helped in sustaining a kind of college where the Root Wisdom of perennial Theosophy (as described in Isis Unveiled, vol. 2, pp. 93-103) has been kept alive.
The process of evolution up to reunion with the Divine is, and includes successive elevation from rank to rank of power and usefulness. The most exalted beings still in the flesh are Sages, Rishis, Brothers, Masters. Their great function being the preservation at all times, and when cyclic laws permit, the extension of spiritual knowledge and influence. When union with the Divine is effected, all the events and experiences of each incarnation are known.
The whole of mankind and, in fact, the whole of Nature is engaged at one degree, or another in this vast program of self-improvement. Theosophy is a study of ourselves, and of our powers. It includes our progress up to date, and opens to our view the potentials of our future.
Evolution is a complete System
It is held that Evolution forms a complete system of development. It concerns Intelligence (which is universal) and Consciousness (which is personal) to every "life-unit" (these are held to be eternal, and in their variety and reality, they entirely fill all SPACE). The study of evolution commences from the beginning of the Universe when all these intelligences come back into individual consciousness and resume their program of individual development from the point when the earlier Evolutionary Program (called a Manvantara) came to an end.
Early Universes and Sleep between Periods of Manifestation
The intervening time was spent like sleep, and the dreams during that period, served each entity in the review of the progress it had made. Theosophy holds that every manifestation is a re-birth in toto of that which went to sleep at a much earlier stage. Thus the phenomenon of Life passes through cyclic phases (of an enormous time period amounting to many trillions of our solar years). This is analogous to reincarnation and to our daily sleep and waking cycle.
The so-called BIG BANG is merely the emerging simultaneously on the plane of manifestation of the entire Universe and all its creatures as they all awake at that instant of beginning. Nothing is "created out of NO-THING, by some monstrous Being shaped by fancy into a "Persona god." The Universe is to be viewed as a living entity (in some ancient theogonies it has been likened to a Universal Man - like Adam Kadmon or the Macroprosopus -- each human being a "small-face" or a Microprosopus.).
From the atom to the UNIVERSE it is held that there a continuous and traceable line and a cyclic system of experience between the two poles of Life: SPIRIT (or Perfection) and MATTER (or form). For purposes of convenience, this Life-unit (to us, "sub-atomic") is called a Monad. It is said by the Sage Patanjali of old: "For the sake of the soul alone, the Universe exists... The Soul is the Perceiver; is assuredly vision itself pure and simple; unmodified and looks directly upon ideas." [Patanjali Yoga Sutras, p. 26].
Teachers and Pupils in Evolution -- The Sages
Clearly, it will appear that there must be various grades among the students (and the Teachers) of this Wisdom-Religion. Those belonging to lower degrees are able to give out only as much of the knowledge as their grade reached. For further information, they depend on students who are higher yet. It is these higher students for whom the claim is made that their knowledge is not inference, but it concerns realities (of history and of operative Laws in Nature, which can be verified by any who acquire the necessary qualifications.) [see The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, pp. 272-3].
Acquiring Wisdom and Knowledge
The power to see and absolutely know such laws is surrounded by natural and inherent regulations which must be complied with as precedent conditions. It is, therefore, not possible to respond to the demand for an immediate statement of this entirety of this Wisdom, insomuch as one could not comprehend it until those conditions of prior study, testing and self-discipline are fulfilled.
As this knowledge deals with laws and states of matter, and of consciousness, so far undreamed of by the "practical" Western world. For this reason, it can only be grasped, piece by piece, as the student pushes forward his study, which in some cases will require the demolition of his preconceived notions, due either to inadequate or to erroneous theories.
Obstacles Facing us in Learning
It is claimed by these higher students that, in the Occident especially, a false method of reasoning has for many centuries prevailed, resulting in a universal habit of mind which causes men to look upon many effects as causes, and to regard that which is real as the unreal, putting meanwhile the unreal in the place of the real.
As a minor example, the phenomena of precognition, thought transference, and clairvoyance have, until lately, been looked on with suspicion by Western science, yet there have always been numerous persons who know for themselves, by incontrovertible, and introspective evidence, the truth of these phenomena, and, in some instances, understand their cause, laws and rationale.
The Causal World is Invisible but Totipotent
Within the surface world of phenomena and events, that we deal with every day, there is a causal world dependent on thought, deeds and desires. It is said to be similar in action to electro-magnetic impulses, fields, structures and the powerful impact of the passional and desire nature of mankind. Additionally to this, there lies a superior plane, which one might name the Plane of Mentality, of Intellect, of Reason, of memory, and finally of the Mind engaged in active and creative Thinking, of the creation of future plans and programs.
Fundamental Ideas in Theosophy
The following are some of the fundamental propositions of Theosophy: [S.D., I pp. 14-20]
The Spirit in man is the only real and permanent part of his being; the rest of his nature being variously compounded. And since decay is incident to all composite things, everything in man but his Spirit is impermanent. The Universe is said to be the reflection to our sight of the UNIVERSAL SPIRIT. In effect it pervades all Space and our "spirit" may be likened to a "ray" of the universal Spirit.
The universe being one thing and not diverse, and everything within it being connected with the whole and with every other thing therein, of which upon the upper plane (below referred to ) there is a perfect knowledge, no act or thought occurs without each portion of the great whole perceiving and noting it. Hence all are inseparably bound together by the bond of an unbreakable and un-dissolving Brotherhood.
This WHOLE is what is denominated "Deity" by Western Philosophers, (and "Para-Brahm" by the Hindu Vedantins). It may be called the Unmanifested, containing within itself the potency of every form of manifestation, together with the laws governing those manifestations. This first fundamental proposition of Theosophy postulates that the universe is not an aggregation of diverse unities but that it is One Whole. It is a cosmos of diversity, harmonized by one Law: the attainment of PERFECT KNOWLEDGE by all its component entities, by means of individual chosen self-effort, directed by the free-will of each.
It is taught that there is no creation of worlds in the theological sense; but that their appearance is due strictly to evolution. When the time comes for the Unmanifested to come forth again as an objective Universe, which it does periodically, it emanates a Power or "The First Cause"-so called, because it itself is the Rootless Root of that Cause, and called in the East the "Causeless Cause." It is the ONE and CHANGELESS ROOT -- ABSOLUTENESS -- into which no finite mind can ever hope to inquire and secure a finite answer or a limited description. It is that "logical necessity" which provides the ever-mysterious "background." Being faced with this impregnable ALL, the priesthood of al ages, cultures and climes have erected a "Personal God Image." This they claim to be able to contact and propitiate. This is the source of all creeds and their variant and divergent sects as well as the continuous struggle to secure votaries and adherents who will blindly follow the dicta of some clergy or theological hierarchy.
Every Life-Unit forms a part of this program; and the great sensitivity of the Universe (NATURE) is such, that every one returns (from a deep sleep) to formal and limited "life" and to face experiences in a situation or position comparable to that from which it last went to "sleep the Sleep of Pralaya."
Nothing is left out, destroyed, erased or abandoned. There is no "refuse heap" where nature disposes of the unshapely, disorganized, recalcitrant, lazy, or unwieldy life-units, but endlessly and mercifully each is nurtured and given endless opportunities to learn, improve and eventually return (if it will) to the One vast Community of Life and living that we call the Universe.
These Laws are said to pertain to all Universes and to the utmost confines of our visible UNIVERSAL SPHERE. [Recent exploration with the Hubble telescope reveals we seem to dwell in an enormous SUN -- as everywhere Suns pave every portion of the sphere we can view.]
Causeless Cause and the First Cause
The first Cause we may call Deity, or Brahma, or Ormazd, or Osiris, or by any name we please. The projection into time and manifested Space, of the awakening influence (or so-called "breath of Brahma") causes all the worlds and the beings upon them to gradually re-appear. They remain in manifestation just as long as that influence continues to proceed forth in evolution.
Pralaya the Cyclic Sleep of the Universe
After long aeons the outbreathing, evolutionary influence slackens, and the universe begins to go into obscuration, or the "sleep" of Pralaya, until, the "breath" being fully indrawn, no objects remain, because nothing is but Brahm. Care must be taken by the student to make a distinction between Brahm (the impersonal Parabrahm) and Brahma the manifested Logos --which stands for the prototype of all manifestation and every being in it. A discussion of the means used is also treated of by Theosophy and this will be found detailed in The Secret Doctrine.
Manvantara the Time for Progress
This breathing-forth is known as a Manvantara, or the Manifestation of the world between two Manus (from Manu "man," and Antara "between") and the completion of the inbreathing brings with it Pralaya, or destruction. It is from these factual and repetitive truths, that the erroneous theological doctrines of "creation" and the "last judgment" have sprung. Such Manvantaras and Pralayas have eternally occurred, and will continue to take place periodically and forever.
Man the Thinker is the Eternal Pilgrim, and this vast study, (almost stunning in terms of time and complexity); this living many lives and through universe after Universe in a complete experiencing and learning process, is designed by Nature's Laws to give each one the opportunity of knowing their own constitution, capacities and perfections. No one is left out or "eternally damned." Each has a right to determine their own rate and "Path" of progress. Each has free-will as a Thinker and with that can determine by choice their progress.
SpiritMatter -- the Monad
For the purpose of a Manvantara two so-called eternal principles are postulated, that is, Purusha and Prakriti (or SPIRIT and MATTER). This is because both are ever present and conjoined in each manifestation. Those terms are used here because no equivalent for them exists in English. Purusha is called "spirit," and Prakriti "matter," but this Purusha is not the unmanifested, nor is Prakriti matter as known to science.
The ancient Sages, Teachers of humanity in its infancy, the declare that there is a higher spirit still, called Purushottama (the Supreme Soul of the Universe). The reason for this is that at the night of Brahma, or the so-called indrawing of his breath, both Purusha and Prakriti are absorbed in the Unmanifested; a conception which is the same as the idea underlying the Biblical expression "remaining in the bosom of the Father." These remain "awake" and are referred to as "the opened eye of the Dangma (wise)" [S.D., Vol. I, p. 27]
This brings us to the doctrine of Universal Evolution as expounded by the Sages of the Wisdom-Religion. The Spirit, or Purusha, they say, proceeds from Brahma through the various forms of matter evolved at the same time. The "beginning" is to be seen as recorded, starting in the world of the Spiritual from the highest, and in the Material world from the lowest form. The lowest form is one unknown as yet to modern science. Thus, therefore, the mineral, vegetable and animal forms each imprison a spark of the Divine, a portion of the indivisible Purusha. [S.D., I pp. 14-20]
Metaphorically, it is said that there is inherent in each Monad (life-atom) a fundamental desire to learn and to progress. These sparks struggle to "return to the Father," or in other words, to secure Self-Consciousness, and at last come into the highest form, on Earth, that of MAN, where alone self-consciousness is possible to them. [S.D., I pp. 174-183, 619-635]
Cycles and Time Periods in Manifestation
The period, calculated in human time, during which this evolution goes on embraces millions of ages. [S.D., II pp. 68-70] A Maha-Kalpa (Great cycle) is said to consist of 311 trillion and 40 billion of mortal years -- [311,040,000,000,000.000]
Self-Consciousness -- the Goal of Evolution
Each spark of divinity has, therefore, millions of ages in which to accomplish its mission-that of obtaining complete SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS while in the form of man. But by this is not meant that the mere act of coming into human form of itself confers self-consciousness upon this divine spark.
That great work may be accomplished during the Manvantara in which a Divine spark reaches the human form, or it may not; all depends upon the individual's own will and efforts. Each particular spirit thus goes through the Manvantara, or enters into manifestation for its own enrichment and for that of the Whole.
Adept, Mahatmas are Higher Degrees of Man's possible Achievements
Mahatmas and Rishis (Great Souls) are thus gradually evolved during a Manvantara, and become, after its expiration, planetary spirits, who guide the evolutions of other and future planets. The planetary spirits of our globe are those who in previous Manvantaras-or days of Brahma--made the efforts, and became in the course of that long period Mahatmas.
Each Manvantara is for the same end and purpose, so that the Mahatmas who have now attained those heights, or those who may become such in the succeeding years of the present Manvantara, will probably be the Planetary Spirits (that assist Nature in guiding a reawakening to all the entities which will find themselves awakening in the "new Universe" consisting of the same old "materials."
Sleep and Reincarnation as Analogies
The process is analogous to reincarnation and to our daily awakening, when we resume control of our bodies after sleep.) of the next Manvantara for this or other planets. This system is thus seen to be based upon the continued and Eternal Identity of Spiritual Being, and, under the name of "Universal Brotherhood," constitutes idea of the Theosophical Movement, whose object is the practical and active realization of that Brotherhood among humans.