We shall in vain interpret their words by the notions of our philosophy
and the doctrines in our schools.
Knowledge of the lowest kind is un-unified knowledge; Science is partially unified knowledge; Philosophy is completely unified knowledge.
HERBERT SPENCER, First Principles.
New accusations are brought by captious censors against our Society
in general and Theosophy, especially. We will summarize them as
we proceed along, and notice the "freshest" denunciation.
We are accused of being illogical in the "Constitution and
Rules" of the Theosophical Society; and contradictory in
the practical application thereof. The accusations are framed
in this wise:
In the published "Constitution and Rules" great stress
is laid upon the absolutely non-sectarian character of the Society.
It is constantly insisted upon that it has no creed, no philosophy,
no religion, no dogmas, and even no special views of its own to
advocate, still less to impose on its members. And yet
"Why, bless us! is it not as undeniable a fact that certain
very definite views of a philosophic and, strictly speaking, of
a religious character are held by the Founders and most prominent
members of the Society?"
"Verily so," we answer. "But where is the alleged contradiction in this? Neither the Founders, nor the 'most
prominent members,' nor yet the majority thereof, constitute the Society, but only a certain portion of it, which, moreover,
having no creed as a body, yet allows its members to believe as
and what they please." In answer to this, we are told:
"Very true; yet these doctrines are collectively called 'Theosophy.'
What is your explanation of this?"
We repy: "To call them so is a 'collective' mistake; one
of those loose applications of terms to things that ought to be
more carefully defined; and the neglect of members to do so is
now bearing its fruits. In fact it is an oversight as harmful
as that which followed the confusion of the two terms 'buddhism'
and 'bodhism,' leading the Wisdom philosophy to be mistaken for
the religion of Buddha."
But it is still urged that when these doctrines are examined it
becomes very clear that all the work which the Society as a body
has done in the East and the West depended upon them. This is
obviously true in the case of the doctrine of the underlying unity
of all religions and the existence, as claimed by Theosophists,
of a common source called the Wisdom-religion of the secret teaching,
from which, according to the same claims, all existing forms of
religion are directly or indirectly derived. Admitting this, we
are pressed to explain, how can the T.S. as a body be said to
have no special views or doctrines to inculcate, no creed and
no dogmas, when these are "the back-bone of the Society,
its very heart and soul"?
To this we can only answer that it is still another error. That
these teachings are most undeniably the "back-bone of the
Theosophical Societies" in the West, but not at all
in the East, where such Branch Societies number almost five to
one in the West. Were these special doctrines the "heart
and soul" of the whole body, then Theosophy and its T.S.
would have died out in India and Ceylon since 1885 and this is
surely not the case. For, not only have they been virtually abandoned
at Adyar since that year, as there was no one to teach them, but
while some Brahmin Theosophists were very much opposed to that
teaching being made public, others the more orthodox positively
opposed them as being inimical to their exoteric systems.
These are self-evident facts. And yet if answered that it is not
so; that the T.S. as a body teaches no special religion but tolerates
and virtually accepts all religions by never interfering with,
or even inquiring after the religious views of its members, our
cavillers and even friendly opponents, do not feel satisfied.
On the contrary: ten to one they will non-plus you with the following
"How can this be, since belief in 'Esoteric Buddhism' is
a sine qua non for acceptance as a Fellow of your Society?"
It is vain to protest any longer; useless, to assure our opponents
that belief in Buddhism, whether esoteric or exoteric,
is no more expected by, nor obligatory in, our Society than reverence
for the monkey-god Hanuman, him of the singed tail, or belief
in Mahomet and his canonized mare. It is unprofitable to try and
explain that since there are in the T.S. as many Brahmins, Mussulmans,
Parsis, Jews and Christians as there are Buddhists, and more,
all cannot be expected to become followers of Buddha, nor even
of Buddhism, howsoever esoteric. Nor can they be made to realize
that the Occult doctrines a few fundamental teachings of which
are broadly outlined in Mr. Sinnett's "Esoteric Buddhism" are
not the whole of Theosophy, nor even the whole of the secret
doctrines of the East, but a very small portion of these: Occultism
itself being but one of the Sciences of Theosophy, or the WISDOM-Religion, and by no means the whole of THEOSOPHY.
So firmly rooted seem these ideas, however, in the mind of the
average Britisher, that it is like telling him that there are
Russians who are neither Nihilists nor Panslavists, and that every
Frenchman does not make his daily meal of frogs; he will simply
refuse to believe you. Prejudice against Theosophy seems to have
become part of the national feeling. For almost three years the
writer of the present helped in this by a host of Theosophists has
tried in vain to sweep away from the public brain some of the
most fantastic cobwebs with which it is garnished; and now she
is on the eve of giving up the attempt in despair! While half
of the English people will persist in confusing Theosophy with
"esoteric bud-ism," the remainder will keep on
pronouncing the world-honoured title of Buddha as they do butter.
It is they also who have started the proposition now generally
adopted by the flippant press that "Theosophy is not a philosophy,
but a religion," and "a new sect."
Theosophy is certainly not a philosophy, simply because it includes
every philosophy as every science and religion. But before we
prove it once more, it may be pertinent to ask how many of our
critics are thoroughly posted about, say, even the true definition
of the term coined by Pythagoras, that they should so flippantly
deny it to a system of which they seem to know still less than
they do about philosophy? Have they acquainted themselves with
its best and latest definitions, or even with the views upon it,
now regarded as antiquated, of Sir W. Hamilton? The answer would
seem to be in the negative, since they fail to see that every
such definition shows Theosophy to be the very synthesis of Philosophy
in its widest abstract sense, as in its special qualifications.
Let us try to give once more a clear and concise definition of
Theosophy, and show it to be the very root and essence of all
sciences and systems.
Theosophy is "divine" or "god-wisdom." Therefore,
it must be the life-blood of that system (philosophy) which is
defined as "the science of things divine and human and the
causes in which they are contained" (Sir W. Hamilton), Theosophy alone possessing the keys to those "causes."
Bearing in mind simply its most elementary division, we find that
philosophy is the love of, and search after wisdom, "the
knowledge of phenomena as explained by, and resolved into, causes
and reasons, powers and laws." (Encyclopedia.) When
applied to god or gods, it became in every country theology; when to material nature, it was called physics and natural history; concerned with man, it appeared as anthropology and psychology; and when raised to the higher regions
it becomes known as metaphysics. Such is philosophy "the
science of effects by their causes" the very spirit of
the doctrine of Karma, the most important teaching under
various names of every religious philosophy, and a theosophical
tenet that belongs to no one religion but explains them all. Philosophy
is also called "the science of things possible, inasmuch
as they are possible." This applies directly to theosophical
doctrines, inasmuch as they reject miracle; but it can
hardly apply to theology or any dogmatic religion, every one of
which enforces belief in things impossible; nor to the
modern philosophical systems of the materialists who reject even
the "possible," whenever the latter contradicts their
Theosophy claims to explain and to reconcile religion with science.
We find G. H. Lewes (History of Philosophy, vol. I., Prolegomena,
p. xviii. ) stating that "Philosophy, detaching its widest
conceptions from both (Theology and Science), furnishes a doctrine
which contains an explanation of the world and human destiny." "The office of Philosophy is the systematisation of the
conceptions furnished by Science. . . . Science furnishes the
knowledge, and Philosophy the doctrine" (loc. cit.). The
latter can become complete only on condition of having that "knowledge"
and that "doctrine" passed through the sieve of Divine
Wisdom, or Theosophy.
Ueberweg (History of Philosophy) defines Philosophy as "the
Science of Principles," which, as all our members know, is
the claim of Theosophy in its branch-sciences of Alchemy, Astrology,
and the occult sciences generally.
Hegel regards it as "the contemplation of the self-development
of the ABSOLUTE," or in other words as
"the representation of the Idea" (Darstellung der
The whole of the Secret Doctrine of which the work bearing that
name is but an atom is such a contemplation and record, as far
as finite language and limited thought can record the processes
of the infinite.
Thus it becomes evident that Theosophy cannot be a "religion,"
still less "a sect," but it is indeed the quintessence
of the highest philosophy in all and every one of its aspects.
Having shown that it falls under, and answers fully, every description
of philosophy, we may add to the above a few more of Sir W. Hamilton's
definitions, and prove our statement by showing the pursuit of
the same in Theosophical literature. This is a task easy enough,
indeed. For, does not "Theosophy" include "the
science of things evidently deduced from first principles,"
as well as "the sciences of truths sensible and abstract"?
Does it not preach "the applications of reason to its legitimate
objects," and make it one of its "legitimate objects" to
inquire into "the science of the original form of the Ego,
or mental self," as also to teach the secret of "the
absolute indifference of the ideal and real"? All of which
proves that according to every definition old or new of philosophy,
he who studies Theosophy, studies the highest transcendental
We need not go out of our way to notice at any length such foolish
statements about Theosophy and Theosophists as are found almost
daily in the public press. Such definitions and epithets as "new
fangled religion" and "ism," "the system invented by the high priestess of Theosophy," and other remarks
as silly, may be left to their own fate. They have been and in
most cases will be left unnoticed.
Our age is regarded as being pre-eminently critical: an age which
analyses closely, and whose public refuses to accept anything
offered for its consideration before it has fully scrutinized
the subject. Such is the boast of our century; but such is not
quite the opinion of the impartial observer. At all events it
is an opinion highly exaggerated since this boasted analytical
scrutiny is applied only to that which interferes in no way with
national, social, or personal prejudices. On the other hand everything
that is malevolent, destructive to reputation, wicked and slanderous,
is received with open embrace, accepted joyfully, and made the
subject of everlasting public gossip, without any scrutiny or
the slightest hesitation, but verily on a blind faith of the most
elastic kind. We challenge contradiction on this point. Neither
unpopular characters nor their work are judged in our day on their
intrinsic value, but merely on their author's personality and
the prejudiced opinion thereon of the masses. In many journals
no literary work of a Theosophist can ever hope to be reviewed
on its own merits, apart from the gossip about its author. Such
papers, oblivious of the rule first laid down by Aristotle, who
says that criticism is "a standard of judging well,"
refuse point blank to accept any Theosophical book apart from
its writer. As a first result, the former is judged by the distorted
reflection of the latter created by slander repeated in the daily
papers. The personality of the writer hangs like a dark shadow
between the opinion of the modern journalist and unvarnished truth;
and as a final result there are few editors in all Europe and
America who know anything of our Society's tenets.
How can then Theosophy or even the T.S. be correctly judged? It
is nothing new to say that the true critic ought to know something
at least of the subject he undertakes to analyse. Nor is it very risky to add that not one of our press Thersites
knows in the remotest way what he is talking about this, from
the large fish to the smallest fry;* but
whenever the word "Theosophy" is printed and catches
the reader's eye, there it will be generally found preceded and
followed by abusive epithets and invective against the personalities
of certain Theosophists. The modern editor of the Grundy pandering
kind, is like Byron's hero, "He knew not what to say,
and so he swore" at that which passeth his comprehension.
All such swearing is invariably based upon old gossip, and stale
denunciations of those who stand in the moon-struck minds as the
"inventors" of Theosophy. Had South Sea islanders a
daily press of their own, they would be as sure to accuse the
missionaries of having invented Christianity in order to bring
to grief their native fetishism.
How long, O radiant gods of truth, how long shall this terrible
mental cecity of the nineteenth century Philosophists last?
How much longer are they to be told that Theosophy is no national
property, no religion, but only the universal code of science
and the most transcendental ethics that was ever known; that it
lies at the root of every moral philosophy and religion; and that
neither Theosophy per se, nor yet its humble unworthy vehicle,
the Theosophical Society, has anything whatever to do with any
personality or personalities! To identify it with these is to
show oneself sadly defective in logic and even common sense. To
reject the teaching and its philosophy under the pretext that
its leaders, or rather one of its Founders, lies under various
accusations (so far unproven) is silly, illogical and absurd.
It is, in truth, as ridiculous as it would have been in the days
of the Alexandrian school of Neo-Platonism, which was in its essence Theosophy, to reject its teachings, because it came to
Plato from Socrates, and because the sage of Athens, besides his
pug-nose and bald head, was accused of "blasphemy and of
corrupting the youth."
Aye, kind and generous critics, who call yourselves Christians,
and boast of the civilisation and progress of your age; you have
only to be scratched skin deep to find in you the same cruel and
prejudiced "barbarian" as of old. Were an opportunity
offered you to sit in public and legal judgment on a Theosophist,
who of you would rise in your nineteenth century of Christianity
higher than one of the Athenian dikastery with its 500
jurors who condemned Socrates to death? Which of you would scorn
to become a Meletus or an Anytus, and have Theosophy and all its
adherents condemned on the evidence of false witness to a like
ignominious death? The hatred manifested in your daily attacks
upon the Theosophists is a warrant to us for this. Did Haywood
have you in his mind's eye when he wrote of Society's censure:
O! that the too censorious world would learn
This wholesome rule, and with each other bear;
But man, as if a foe to his own species,
Takes pleasure to report his neighbour's faults,
Judging with rigour every small offence,
And prides himself in scandal. . . .
Many optimistic writers would fain make of this mercantile century
of ours an age of philosophy and call it its renaissance. We
fail to find outside of our Society any attempt at philosophical
revival, unless the word "philosophy" is made to lose
its original meaning. For wherever we turn we find a cold sneer
at true philosophy. A sceptic can never aspire to that title.
He who is capable of imagining the universe with its handmaiden
Nature fortuitous, and hatched like the black hen of the fable,
out of a self-created egg hanging in space, has neither the power
of thinking nor the spiritual faculty of perceiving abstract truths;
which power and faculty are the first requisites of a philosophical
mind. We see the entire realm of modern Science honeycombed with
such materialists, who yet claim to be regarded as philosophers.
They either believe in naught as do the Secularists, or doubt
according to the manner of the Agnostics. Remembering the two
wise aphorisms by Bacon, the modern-day materialist is thus condemned
out of the mouth of the Founder of his own inductive method, as
contrasted with the deductive philosophy of Plato, accepted in
Theosophy. For does not Bacon tell us that "Philosophy when
superficially studied excites doubt; when thoroughly explored
it dispels it;" and again, "a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth of philosophy
bringeth man's mind about to religion"?
The logical deduction of the above is, undeniably, that none of
our present Darwinians and materialists and their admirers, our
critics, could have studied philosophy otherwise than very "superficially."
Hence while Theosophists have a legitimate right to the title
of philosophers true "lovers of Wisdom" their
critics and slanderers are at best PHILOSOPHICULES the
progeny of modern PHILOSOPHISM.
Lucifer, October, 1889
* From Jupiter Tonans of the Saturday Review down to the scurrilous editor of the Mirror. The first
may be as claimed one of the greatest authorities living on fencing, and the other as great at "muscular" thought reading,
yet both are equally ignorant of Theosophy and as blind to its
real object and purposes as two owls are to day-light. back to text