Theosophy, strictly speaking, is Divine Knowledge or Science. The real meaning of the term is "Divine Wisdom," Θεοσοφια (Theosophia) or Wisdom of the gods, as Θεογονια (theogonia), genealogy of the gods. The word Θεοσ means a god in Greek, one of the divine beings, certainly not "God" in the usual sense of our day. Therefore, it is not "Wisdom of God," as translated by some, but Divine Wisdom such as that possessed by the gods. The term is many thousand years old.
The name comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth, Philaletheians, from φιλ (phil) "loving," and αληθεια (aletheia) "truth." The name Theosophy dates from the third century of our era, and began with Ammonius Saccas and his disciples, who started the Eclectic Theosophical system.
The object of this system is, first of all, to inculcate certain great moral truths upon its disciples, and all those who were "lovers of the truth." Hence the motto adopted by the 19th Century Theosophical Society: "There is no religion higher than truth." The chief aim of the Founder of the Eclectic Theosophical School was one of the three objects of its modern successor, the Theosophical Society, namely, to reconcile all religions, sects and nations under a common system of ethics, based on eternal verities.
What can be shown that this is not an impossible dream, and that all the world's religions are based on the one and the same truth, is their comparative study and analysis. The "Wisdom-religion" was one in antiquity; and the sameness of primitive religious philosophy is proven to us by the identical doctrines taught to the Initiates during the MYSTERIES, an institution once universally diffused." All the old worships indicate the existence of a single Theosophy anterior to them. The key that is to open one must open all; otherwise it cannot be the right key."
The tenets of what is properly called the Wisdom-Religion have always been esoteric. The Wisdom-Religion was ever one, and being the last word of possible human knowledge, was, therefore, carefully preserved. It preceded by long ages the Alexandrian Theosophists, reached the modern, and will survive every other religion and philosophy. It was preserved among Initiates of every country; among profound seekers after truth - their disciples; and in those parts of the world where such topics have always been most valued and pursued: in India, Central Asia, and Persia. The best proof of its esotericism is the fact is that every ancient religious, or rather philosophical, cult consisted of an esoteric or secret teaching, and an exoteric (outward public) worship. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that the Mysteries of the ancients comprised with every nation the "greater" (secret) and "Lesser" (public) Mysteries - e.g. in the celebrated solemnities called the Eleusinia, in Greece. From the Hierophants of Samothrace, Egypt, and the initiated Brahmins of the India of old, down to the later Hebrew Rabbis, all preserved, for fear of profanation, their real bona fide beliefs secret.
This body of knowledge - carefully preserved by initiates and hierophants of every historical culture - was gradually introduced into the West over 7 centuries through the work of spiritual Teachers who worked for the enlightenment of the human race.
Intrinsically, Theosophy is the most serious movement of this age; and one, moreover, which threatens the very life of most of the time-honoured humbugs, prejudices, and social evils of the day - those evils which fatten and make happy those who live at the top of society, while they positively crush and starve out of existence millions of the poor.
Theosophical doctrines are not a revival of Buddhism, nor are they entirely copied from the Neo-Platonic Theosophy.
The members of any theosophical organization, whether The United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT) or the Theosophical Society (TS) or any other at large organization are free to profess whatever religion or philosophy they like, or none if they so prefer, provided they are in sympathy with, and ready to carry out one or more of the three objects of the Association. The Society is a philanthropic and scientific body for the propagation of the idea of brotherhood on practical instead of theoretical lines. The Fellows may be Christians or Moslems, Jews or Parsees, Buddhists or Brahmins, Spiritualists or Materialists, it does not matter; but every member must be either a philanthropist, or a scholar, a searcher into Aryan and other old literature, or a psychic student. In short, he has to help, if he can, in the carrying out of at least one of the objects of the program. Otherwise he has no reason for becoming a member. Members they are, by virtue of their having joined the Society; but the latter cannot make a Theosophist of one who has no sense for the divine fitness of things, or of him who understands Theosophy in his own - if the expression may be used - sectarian and egotistic way. "Handsome is, as handsome does" could be paraphrased in this case and be made to run: "Theosophist is, who Theosophy does."
Do Theosophists believe in God, the God of the Christians, the Father of Jesus, and the Creator: the Biblical God of Moses, in short? No, Theosophists do not believe in such a god. We reject the idea of a personal, or an extra-cosmic and anthropomorphic God, who is but the gigantic shadow of man, and not of man at his best, either. The God of theology, we say - and prove it - is a bundle of contradictions and a logical impossibility. Therefore, we will have nothing to do with such a conception. If this so-called personal god is infinite and absolute, i. e., limitless, and especially if absolute, how can he have a form, and be a creator of anything? Form implies limitation, and a beginning as well as an end; and, in order to create, a Being must think and plan. How can the ABSOLUTE be supposed to think - i. e., to have any relation whatever to that which is limited, finite, and conditioned? This is a philosophical, and a logical absurdity. Even the Hebrew Kabala rejects such an idea, and therefore, makes of the one and the Absolute Deific Principle an infinite Unity called Ain-Soph. In order to create, the Creator has to become active; and as this is impossible for ABSOLUTENESS, the infinite principle had to be shown becoming the cause of evolution (not creation) in an indirect way - i.e., through the emanation from itself (another absurdity, due this time to the translators of the Kabala) of the Sephiroth.
When we speak of the Deity and make it identical, hence coeval, with Nature, the eternal and uncreate nature is meant, and not your aggregate of flitting shadows and finite unrealities. We leave it to the hymn-makers to call the visible sky or heaven, God's Throne, and our earth of mud His footstool. Our DEITY is neither in a paradise, nor in a particular tree, building, or mountain: it is everywhere, in every atom of the visible as of the invisible Cosmos, in, over, and around every invisible atom and divisible molecule; for IT is the mysterious power of evolution and involution, the omnipresent, omnipotent, and even omniscient creative potentiality.
On September 7, 1875, H.P. Blavatsky, W.Q. Judge and H.S. Olcott passed notes at a lecture given by George Felt, and on September 8 they decided to found the Theosophical Society. By mid-October it was agreed that Olcott should be president, Judge legal counselor and H.P. Blavatsky corresponding secretary. On November 17 Olcott delivered the inaugural address of the Theosophical Society. H.P. Blavatsky thereafter outlined the basic principles of the ageless Theosophical Movement. Drawing together the golden threads of past cycles, she crowned them with the public revelation that Masters are living Men, in touch with individuals, and ready to welcome into the Great Work those who meet the criteria set forth for discipleship.
During the next two years, the fledgling Society held a few meetings and received little notice from the public. H.P. Blavatsky, however, instructed Olcott and Judge in Theosophical principles and modes of investigation and self-discovery. While receiving and teaching a continuous flow of visitors from around the world and publishing a number of articles and letters, she worked intently upon her first book. In 1877 she published Isis Unveiled, a master-key to the mysteries of ancient and modern science and theology. W.Q. Judge accompanied her when she signed the contract for its publication. "When that document was signed," he later wrote, "she said to me in the street, 'Now I must go to India.'" The book had a profound impact in America and England, especially among students of occultism. Its insightful treatment of abstruse philosophical problems, its erudition and bold analyses of perplexing phenomena, its first-hand accounts of strange places and stranger events fascinated, excited and sometimes outraged the English-speaking world. It became clear that the Theosophical Movement would neither compromise the right of inquirers to search out knowledge wherever it was to be found nor pander to appeals to external authority. Spiritualists found their phenomena appreciated but their theories criticized, scholars learned that their findings could be used while their preconceptions were abandoned, and scientists discovered that their nineteenth century smugness did not intimidate Theosophical examination.
H.P. Blavatsky became an American citizen on July 8, 1878, and left with Colonel Olcott for India late in the year. W.Q. Judge remained in charge of the Society in America. Establishing herself in Bombay, she began publishing The Theosophist in October 1879. Orientalists were attracted to the Indian centre and thought highly of H.P. Blavatsky's efforts, even when they, like Bernouf, failed to grasp the connection between universal brotherhood and divine wisdom. Indian scholars, naturally pained by the treatment their sacred works received at the profane hands of Western orientalists, came into the Theosophical arena. T. Subba Row and Tukaram Tatya published translations and commentaries in India while Judge encouraged such work in America.
Permanent headquarters were found in Adyar, Madras, in 1883. By now the Society had a broad international impact and its success was marked by the appearance of real chelas like Damodar K. Mavalankar as well as a host of jealous and small-minded self-seekers. In 1884 H.P. Blavatsky travelled to France, Germany and England where she found a favourable climate for Theosophy. After a brief return to India, she left for Europe on March 31, 1885, never to go back. The machinations of the Coulombs, an ungrateful couple who had been housed and fed by H.P. Blavatsky when they were on the verge of starvation, led to the infamous Hodgson Report to the London Society for Psychical Research. Based on falsified evidence, the report accused H.P. Blavatsky of trickery in respect to phenomena she sometimes produced. Though the S.P.R. repudiated its report in 1968, long after it had ceased to be convincing to anyone, it resulted in mutual recriminations and hard feelings in Adyar. H.P. Blavatsky chose not to expend her energies on such matters, and instead travelled through Italy and Germany, settling in London in May 1887. In September she commenced publication of Lucifer.
H.P. Blavatsky knew that time was precious. Theosophy had to be stated in a form which challenged the thought-forms of the age; it had to be accessible to the sincere student; it had to speak to future generations. At the same time, a core of students who could be counted upon to assimilate and propagate the teachings and exemplify them before the world as a prelude to possible chelaship needed to be gathered together in a mutual bond. The ground for the next Teacher had to be prepared. Though in poor health and pestered from every side, she bent her incredible energies towards these ends.
In 1888 Olcott came to England to help her organize the Esoteric Section, designed to draw fully committed Theosophists together in a manner which would guarantee that the spirit of the Movement and the centrality of Masters would be preserved after the Founders departed. On October 9 the Esoteric Section was announced. In the same month The Secret Doctrine, a monument and a mystery in both its production and its contents, was published. In an elaborate commentary on selected stanzas from the Book of Dzyan, the origin, nature and evolution of cosmos and man is outlined and elucidated with a philosophical analysis of myth and religion and an uncompromising critique of nineteenth century science. In 1889 she published The Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence.
The Secret Doctrine aroused great interest among close disciples. H.P. Blavatsky answered questions on the stanzas in London and they were stenographically recorded, revised by her and published as Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge in 1890 and 1891. In 1890 the European headquarters of the Theosophical Movement was established in London, and a great stream of articles and letters, scintillating with insight and wisdom, poured from her pen throughout this period.
Having seen that the teachings which could be given out in the 1875 Cycle were clearly enunciated and that a core of disciples would carry the torch of Truth into the twentieth century, H.P. Blavatsky was entitled to leave her mortal tenement at the age of sixty on May 8, 1891. W.Q. Judge stayed on in America expanding the work and exemplifying thoughtful and devoted loyalty to the Magus-Teacher until March 21, 1896. H.S. Olcott remained President of the Theosophical Society until his death in 1907.
There is a very great difference between the Theosophical Movement and any Theosophical Society. The Movement is moral, ethical, spiritual, universal, invisible save in effect, and continuous. A Society formed for theosophical work is a visible organization, an effect, a machine for conserving energy and putting it to use; it is not nor can it be universal, nor is it continuous. Organized Theosophical bodies are made by men for their better cooperation, but, being mere outer shells, they must change from time to time as human defects come out, as the times change, and as the great underlying spiritual movement compels such alterations.
The Theosophical Movement being continuous, it is to be found in all times and in all nations. Wherever thought has struggled to be free, wherever spiritual ideas, as opposed to forms and dogmatism, have been promulgated, there the great movement is to be discerned. Jacob Boehme's work was a part of it, and so also was the Theosophical Society of over one hundred years ago; Luther's reformation must be reckoned as a portion of it; and the great struggle between Science and Religion, clearly portrayed by Draper, was every bit as much a motion of the Theosophical Movement as is the present Society of that name - indeed that struggle, and the freedom thereby gained for science, were really as important in the advance of the world, as are our different organizations. And among political examples of the movement is to be counted the Independence of the American colonies, ending in the formation of a great nation, theoretically based on universal Brotherhood. One can therefore see that to worship an organization, even though it be the beloved theosophical one, is to fall down before Form, and to become the slave once more of that dogmatism which our portion of the Theosophical Movement, the T.S., was meant to overthrow.
The Theosophical Movement in its broadest sense has suffused and quickened the noetic upsurge of human evolution for well over eighteen million years. The sacred impulsion consecrated by Tsong-Kha-Pa rose like a mighty wave across seven centuries to reach its climacteric under the fiery Wisdom-Eye and Hand of Compassion of the Magus-Teacher. While the irreversible consequences of divine magic are inscrutable, the recent course of recorded history has been altered and the majestic evolution of self-conscious monads is advanced everywhere. The more immediate goals are (1) the permanent establishment of the Mystery-Fires in the West as in the East, and (2) the parapolitical pioneering of a minor Golden Age for all humanity at this point of time in Kali Yuga. The breath of all Work for the Movement must be for humanity and the civilization of the future. Only Buddhi Yoga, the meditative withdrawal of the mind from the illusion of time and the delusion of uniqueness, and its spontaneous blending with pure consciousness will unveil the immense sanctity and awesome seriousness of the Work as well as the inestimable privilege of participation in the birth of a new world - Novus Ordo Seclorum. The noetic mode of this spiritual unfoldment - theurgy in the world - invites the inclusion of all who are willing and able to serve the timetables of the Mahatmas under their Purna Avatar.
The Seven Century Plan is intimately connected with the 2500-year cycle of the Buddha, and the 5000-year cycle with which Krishna inaugurated Kali Yuga. Robert Crosbie said that Krishna "was an administrator, while Buddha was ethical intelligence." Vinoba Bhave has reiterated that Krishna was the incarnation of pure love, the Buddha of oceanic compassion. The synthesis of the "royal art" and the science of living, of unconditional love and unerring compassion, sets the archetype for the Aquarian Man: one whose head can feel and whose heart is intelligent, "like twins upon a line" while the star which is his goal burns overhead. The New Teacher laid down the invisible lines which are the parameters of human development for the next 2000 years.
Prepared by the Editorial Board of Theosophy Trust
More About THEOSOPHY