Theosophy is an esoteric religious movement established in the United States during the late nineteenth century. It was founded largely by the Russian émigrée Helena Blavatsky and draws its beliefs predominantly from Blavatsky's writings. Categorised by scholars of religion as both a new religious movement and as part of the occultist stream of Western esotericism, it draws both upon older European philosophies like Neoplatonism and upon Asian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.
- THEOSOPHISTS.— In the mediæval ages it was the name by which were known the disciples of Paracelsus of the sixteenth century, the so-called fire-philosophers or Philosophi per ignem. As well as the Platonists they regarded the soul fuch and the divine spirit, nous (nou'" ) as a particle of the great Archos — a fire taken from the eternal ocean of light. The Theosophical Society... was organized at New York in 1875. The object of its founders was to experiment practically in the occult powers of Nature, and to collect and disseminate among Christians information about the Oriental religious philosophies. Later, it has determined to spread among the "poor benighted heathen" such evidences as to the practical results of Christianity as will at least give both sides of the story to the communities among which missionaries are at work. With this view it has established relations with associations and individuals throughout the East, to whom it furnishes authenticated reports of the ecclesiastical crimes and misdemeanors, schisms and heresies, controversies and litigations, doctrinal differences and biblical criticisms and revisions, with which the press of Christian Europe and America constantly teems.
- H.P. Blavatsky, in Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Vol. I, Before the Veil, (1877)
- Christendom has been long and minutely informed of the degradation and brutishness into which Buddhism, Brahmanism, and Confucianism have plunged their deluded votaries, and many millions have been lavished upon foreign missions under such false representations. The Theosophical Society, seeing daily exemplifications of this very state of things as the sequence of Christian teaching and example — the latter especially — thought it simple justice to make the facts known in Palestine, India, Ceylon, Cashmere, Tartary, Thibet, China, and Japan, in all which countries it has influential correspondents. It may also in time have much to say about the conduct of the missionaries to those who contribute to their support.
- H.P. Blavatsky, in Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Vol. I, Before the Veil, (1877)
- 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.
- It must be remembered... that (the Theosophical Society) ...was intended to stem the current of materialism... For by “materialism” is meant not only an anti-philosophical negation of pure spirit, and, even more, materialism in conduct and action — brutality, hypocrisy, and, above all, selfishness — but also the fruits of a disbelief in all but material things, a disbelief which has increased enormously during the last century, and which has led many, after a denial of all existence other than that in matter, into a blind belief in the materialization of Spirit. The tendency of modern civilization is a reaction towards animalism, towards a development of those qualities which conduce to the success in life of man as an animal in the struggle for animal existence. Theosophy seeks to develop the human nature in man in addition to the animal, and at the sacrifice of the superfluous animality which modern life and materialistic teachings have developed to a degree which is abnormal for the human being at this stage of his progress.
- The function of Theosophists is to open men’s hearts and understandings to charity, justice, and generosity, attributes which belong specifically to the human kingdom and are natural to man when he has developed the qualities of a human being. Theosophy teaches the animal-man to be a human-man; and when people have learnt to think and feel as truly human beings should feel and think, they will act humanely, and works of charity, justice, and generosity will be done spontaneously by all.
- There is often greater martyrdom to live for the love of, whether man or an ideal, than to die" is a motto of the Mahatmas.
- There is no religion higher than truth.
- Motto of the Theosophical Society. Collected Writings, Volume 6, p. 168
- 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"!
- This book is intended to place in the hands of the general reader an epitome of theosophical teachings, sufficiently plain to serve the elementary student, and sufficiently full to lay a sound foundation for further knowledge. It is hoped that it may serve as an introduction to the profounder works of H.P. Blavatsky, and be a convenient stepping stone to their study. Those who have learned a little of the Ancient Wisdom know the illumination, the peace, the joy, the strength, its lessons have brought into their lives. That this book may win some to consider its teachings, and to prove for themselves their value, is the prayer with which it is sent forth into the world. Preface
- Many persons who feel themselves attracted towards Theosophy, whose interest is aroused by its reasonableness and by the manner in which it accounts for many things which otherwise seem inexplicable, yet hesitate to take up its study more deeply, lest they should presently find it contradicting the faith in which they have been brought up — lest, as they often put it, it should take away from them their religion. How, if a religion be true, the study of another truth can take it away, is not very clear; but, however illogical the fear may be, there is no doubt that it exists It is nevertheless entirely unwarranted. Theosophy neither attacks nor opposes any form of religion; on the contrary, it explains and harmonizes all. It holds that all religions alike are attempts to state the same great underlying truths— differing in external form and in nomenclature, because they were delivered by different teachers, at different periods of the world’s history, and to widely different races of men; but always agreeing in fundamentals, and giving identical instruction upon every subject of real importance.
- Charles Webster Leadbeater, Some Glimpses of Occultism: Ancient and Modern (1903)
- We hold in Theosophy that this truth which lies at the back of all these faiths alike is itself within the reach of man, and indeed it is to that very truth that we give the name Theosophy, or Divine Wisdom, and it is that which we are trying to study.
No man need fear that we shall attack his religion, but we may help him to understand it better than he did before There is nothing in Theosophy which is many way in opposition to true primitive Christianity, though it may not always be possible to agree with the interpretations put upon that truth by modern dogmatic theology, which is quite another matter... Our own Theosophical Society... is striving to help humanity It has no connection with any form of politics, and it is not trying to act directly in any way with regard to social conditions, its effort is rather to dispel ignorance, to put before men the truth about life and death, to show them why they are here and what lessons they have to learn and so to bring them to understand and to realize the great truth of the brotherhood of man.
- Charles Webster Leadbeater, Some Glimpses of Occultism: Ancient and Modern (1903)
- The Existence of Perfected Men is one of the most important of the many new facts which Theosophy puts before us. It follows logically from the other great Theosophical teachings of karma and evolution by reincarnation. As we look round us we see men obviously at all stages of their evolution—many far below ourselves in development, and others who in one way or another are distinctly in advance of us.
- I recall having read, at the brothers’ direction Madame Blavatsky’s Key to Theosophy. This book stimulated in me the desire to read books on Hinduism, and disabused me of the notion fostered by the missionaries that Hinduism was rife with superstition.
- 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 quoted in “The Life of Mahatma Gandhi” by Louis Fischer, p. 437 (1950)
- Theosophy holds that all things, including the human mind, are evolving. We are in the midst of an unfinished world and are ourselves unfinished....We are only in the middle of our development, so we still have a great deal to discover.
- Although this Wisdom has been offered throughout the ages under various names and in many languages, its essence is fundamentally the same, however much its outer aspects and manner of presentation may vary. It especially points to the reality of brotherhood and the imperative necessity of practicing it; but it also gives insight into the unexplained around us and helps the development of our latent powers; and it is the inner harmony of religion, philosophy, and science.
- 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 came 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.
- Sita Ram Goel, Freedom of expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998)
- We have not yet clearly grasped the fact that Western Theosophy is an amateurish imitation of the East.
- F.T. Brooks left a deep impress upon me and I feel that I owe a debt to him and to Theosophy.
- Theosophy, with which Rowling has some familiarity, as is clear from her reference in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to the fictitious author “Cassandra Vablatsky” and her equally fictitious book Unfogging the Future. “Vablatsky” is a metathesis of “Blavatsky,”... Although “Cassandra Vablatsky” shows that Rowling has some knowledge of the Theosophical tradition, one cannot assume that knowledge to be either deep or extensive... Moreover, the fictitious book title' 'Unfogging the Future suggests Isis Unveiled, Helena Blavatsky’s first major work.
The Key to Theosophy by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, (1889)Edit
- The purpose of this book is exactly expressed in its title, “The Key to Theosophy,” and needs but few words of explanation. It is not a complete or exhaustive text-book of Theosophy, but only a key to unlock the door that leads to the deeper study.
- Theosophy is Divine Knowledge or Science... Divine Wisdom, (Theosophia) or Wisdom of the gods, as (theogonia), genealogy of the gods. The word theos means a god in Greek, one of the divine beings, certainly not "God" in the sense attached in our day to the term. 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... It comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth, Philaletheians, from phil "loving," and 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.
- Our age, we say, is inferior in Wisdom to any other, because it professes, more visibly every day, contempt for truth and justice, without which there can be no Wisdom. Because our civilization, built up of shams and appearances, is at best like a beautiful green morass, a bog, spread over a deadly quagmire. Because this century of culture and worship of matter, while offering prizes and premiums for every "best thing" under the Sun, from the biggest baby and the largest orchid down to the strongest pugilist and the fattest pig, has no encouragement to offer to morality; no prize to give for any moral virtue.
- We hold that a good book which gives people food for thought, which strengthens and clears their minds, and enables them to grasp truths which they have dimly felt but could not formulate—we hold that such a book does a real, substantial good.
- You must bear in mind how many powerful adversaries we have aroused ever since the formation of our Society... 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 the upper ten and their imitators and sycophants, the wealthy dozens of the middle classes, while they positively crush and starve out of existence the millions of the poor.
- We have to contend against... the hatred of the Spiritualists... the constant opposition of the clergy of all denominations... especially the relentless hatred and persecution of the missionaries in India.
- To this day no one seems even to feel quite certain whether the Theosophists are a kind of Serpent-and-Devil worshippers, or simply “Esoteric Buddhists”—whatever that may mean. It was useless for us to go on denying, day after day and year after year, every kind of inconceivable cock-and-bull stories about us; for, no sooner was one disposed of, than another, a still more absurd and malicious one, was born out of the ashes of the first.
- So long as the T.S. has a few devoted members willing to work for it without reward and thanks, so long as a few good Theosophists support it with occasional donations, so long will it exist, and nothing can crush it.
Enquirer: I have heard many Theosophists speak of a “power behind the Society” and of certain “Mahatmas,” mentioned also in Mr. Sinnett’s works, that are said to have founded the Society, to watch over and protect it.
HPB: You may laugh, but it is so.
- We call them “Masters” because they are our teachers; and because from them we have derived all the Theosophical truths, however inadequately some of us may have expressed, and others understood, them. They are men of great learning, whom we term Initiates, and still greater holiness of life. They are not ascetics in the ordinary sense, though they certainly remain apart from the turmoil and strife of your western world.
- The Society will live on into and through the twentieth century. It will gradually leaven and permeate the great mass of thinking and intelligent people with its large-minded and noble ideas of Religion, Duty, and Philanthropy. Slowly but surely it will burst asunder the iron fetters of creeds and dogmas, of social and caste prejudices; it will break down racial and national antipathies and barriers, and will open the way to the practical realization of the Brotherhood of all men.
- Through its teaching, through the philosophy which it has rendered accessible and intelligible to the modern mind, the West will learn to understand and appreciate the East at its true value. Further, the development of the psychic powers and faculties, the premonitory symptoms of which are already visible in America, will proceed healthily and normally.
- Mankind will be saved from the terrible dangers, both mental and bodily, which are inevitable when that unfolding takes place, as it threatens to do, in a hot-bed of selfishness and all evil passions. Man’s mental and psychic growth will proceed in harmony with his moral improvement, while his material surroundings will reflect the peace and fraternal goodwill which will reign in his mind, instead of the discord and strife which is everywhere apparent around us to-day.
A Textbook of Theosophy, by Charles Webster Leadbeater, (1912)Edit
- We often speak of Theosophy as not in itself a religion, but the truth which lies behind all religions alike. That is so; yet, from another point of view, we may surely say that it is at once a philosophy, a religion and a science. It is a philosophy, because it puts plainly before us an explanation of the scheme of evolution of both the souls and the bodies contained in our solar system.
- It is a religion in so far as, having shown us the course of ordinary evolution, it also puts before us and advises a method of shortening that course, so that by conscious effort we may progress more directly towards the goal.
- It is a science, because it treats both these subjects as matters not of theological belief but of direct knowledge obtainable by study and investigation. It asserts that man has no need to trust to blind faith, because he has within him latent powers which, when aroused, enable him to see and examine for himself, and it proceeds to prove its case by showing how those powers may be awakened. It is itself a result of the awakening of such powers by men, for the teachings which it puts before us are founded upon direct observations made in the past, and rendered possible only by such development. Chapter I
- As a philosophy, it explains to us that the solar system is a carefully-ordered mechanism, a manifestation of a magnificent life, of which man is but a small part. Nevertheless, it takes up that small part which immediately concerns us, and treats it exhaustively under three heads--present, past and future. Chapter I
- It deals with the present by describing what man really is, as seen by means of developed faculties. It is customary to speak of man as having a soul. Theosophy, as the result of direct investigation, reverses that dictum, and states that man is a soul, and has a body -- in fact several bodies, which are his vehicles and instruments in various worlds. These worlds are not separate in space; they are simultaneously present with us, here and now, and can be examined; they are the divisions of the material side of Nature--different degrees of density in the aggregation of matter, as will presently be explained in detail. Man has an existence in several of these, but is normally conscious only of the lowest, though sometimes in dreams and trances he has glimpses of some of the others.
- What is called death is the laying aside of the vehicle belonging to this lowest world, but the soul or real man in a higher world is no more changed or affected by this than the physical man is changed or affected when he removes his overcoat. All this is a matter, not of speculation, but of observation and experiment. Chapter I
- One of the most striking advantages of Theosophy is that the light which it brings to us at once solves many of our problems, clears away many difficulties, accounts for the apparent injustices of life, and in all directions brings order out of seeming chaos. Thus, while some of its teaching is based upon the observation of forces whose direct working is somewhat beyond the ken of the ordinary man of the world, if the latter will accept it as a hypothesis he will very soon come to see that it must be a correct one, because it, and it alone, furnishes a coherent and reasonable explanation of the drama of life which is being played before him. Chapter I
- The existence of Perfected Men, and the possibility of coming into touch with Them and being taught by Them, are prominent among the great new truths which Theosophy brings to the western world. Another of them is the stupendous fact that the world is not drifting blindly into anarchy, but that its progress is under the control of a perfectly organized Hierarchy, so that final failure even for the tiniest of its units is of all impossibilities the most impossible. A glimpse of the working of that Hierarchy inevitably engenders the desire to co-operate with it, to serve under it, in however humble a capacity, and some time in the far-distant future to be worthy to join the outer fringes of its ranks. Chapter I
- In its capacity as a religion, too, Theosophy gives its followers a rule of life, based not on alleged commands delivered at some remote period of the past, but on plain common sense as indicated by observed facts. The attitude of the student of Theosophy towards the rules which it prescribes resembles rather that which we adopt to hygienic regulations than obedience to religious commandments. We may say, if we wish, that this thing or that is in accordance with the divine Will, for the divine Will is expressed in what we know as the laws of Nature. Because that Will wisely ordereth all things, to infringe its laws means to disturb the smooth working of the scheme, to hold back for a moment that fragment or tiny part of evolution, and consequently to bring discomfort upon ourselves and others. It is for that reason that the wise man avoids infringing them -- not to escape the imaginary wrath of some offended deity. Chapter I
- But if from a certain point of view we may think of Theosophy as a religion, we must note two great points of difference between it and what is ordinarily called religion in the West. First, it neither demands belief from its followers, nor does it even speak of belief in the sense in which that word is usually employed. The student of occult science either knows a thing or suspends his judgment about it; there is no place in his scheme for blind faith. Naturally, beginners in the study cannot yet know for themselves, so they are asked to read the results of the various observations and to deal with them as probable hypotheses--provisionally to accept and act upon them, until such time as they can prove them for themselves. Ch I
- Secondly, Theosophy never endeavours to convert any man from whatever religion he already holds. On the contrary, it explains his religion to him, and enables him to see in it deeper meanings than he has ever known before. It teaches him to understand it and live it better than he did, and in many cases it gives back to him, on a higher and more intelligent level, the faith in it which he had previously all but lost. Ch. I
- Put shortly, and in the language of the man of the street, this means that God is good, that man is immortal, and that as we sow so we must reap. There is a definite scheme of things; it is under intelligent direction and works under immutable laws. Man has his place in this scheme and is living under these laws. If he understands them and co-operates with them, he will advance rapidly and will be happy; if he does not understand them--if, wittingly or unwittingly, he breaks them, he will delay his progress and be miserable. These are not theories, but proved facts. Let him who doubts read on, and he will see. Ch. I
- Of the Absolute, the Infinite, the All-embracing, we can at our present stage know nothing, except that It is; we can say nothing that is not a limitation, and therefore inaccurate. Ch. II
- In It are innumerable universes; in each universe countless solar systems. Each solar system is the expression of a mighty Being, whom we call the LOGOS, the Word of God, the Solar Deity. He is to it all that men mean by God. He permeates it; there is nothing in it which is not He; it is the manifestation of Him in such matter as we can see. Yet He exists above it and outside it, living a stupendous life of His own among His Peers. As is said in an Eastern Scripture: "Having permeated this whole universe with one fragment of Myself I remain." Ch. II
- Of that higher life of His we can know nothing. But of the fragment of His life which energises His system we may know something in the lower levels of its manifestation. We may not see Him, but we may see His power at work. No one who is clairvoyant can be atheistic; the evidence is too tremendous. Ch. II
- Theosophy explains to us the laws under which this school-life must be lived, and in that way gives a great advantage to its students. The first great law is that of evolution... The second great law under which this evolution is taking place is the law of cause and effect. There can be no effect without its cause, and every cause must produce its effect. They are in fact not two but one, for the effect is really part of the cause, and he who sets one in motion sets the other also. There is in Nature no such idea as that of reward or punishment, but only of cause and effect. Anyone can see this in connection with mechanics or chemistry... Chapter VII
- According to which the man who sends out a good thought or does a good action receives good in return, while the man who sends out an evil thought or does an evil action, receives evil in return with equal accuracy—once more, not in the least a reward or punishment administered by some external will, but simply as the definite and mechanical result of his own activity. The action of this law affords the explanation of a number of the problems of ordinary life. It accounts for the different destinies imposed upon people, and also for the differences in the people themselves. If one man is clever in a certain direction and another is stupid, it is because in a previous life the clever man has devoted much effort to practise in that particular direction, while the stupid man is trying it for the first time. Chapter VII
- Another most valuable result of his Theosophical study is the absence of fear. Many people are constantly anxious or worried about something or other; they are fearing lest this or that should happen to them, lest this or that combination may fail, and so all the while they are in a condition of unrest; and most serious of all for many is the fear of death... He realizes the great truth of reincarnation. He knows that he has often before laid aside physical bodies, and so he sees that death is no more than sleep—that just as sleep comes in between our days of work and gives us rest and refreshment, so between these days of labour here on earth, which we call lives, there comes a long night... Chapter VII
The Masters and the Path of Occultism by Gottfried de Purucker (1939)Edit
- Jesus, the Buddha, Sankaracharya: all these great men have been Messengers from the Lodge, the great White Lodge. Their teachings can be found in the great religious philosophies of the world, and today may be found in Theosophy.
- What then is Theosophy? It is the formulated system of natural Religion-Philosophy-Science, embracing the verities of infinite Nature, and teaching therefore of the structure, operations, and laws of Nature as they have been and are visioned, seen, experienced, witnessed by all the great Sages and Seers of the past and present.
- The Mysteries were originally the secret schools founded by the great Seers and Sages of the human race. The national Sages and Seers, one or more in each country, founded each his own school in which he taught not merely esoteric law, and discipline, and many of the arts and sciences, but also taught men how to live, and how to receive the Vision Sublime. That was the origin of the Mysteries; and the teachings of Theosophy today are the doctrines expressed in modern formulation of the tenets then taught and lived.
- It is one of our Theosophical duties to show men the way to wisdom, to peace, to happiness, to strength, and to spiritual power - the real powers, the powers which are safe and clean and sweet, which make a man lovable, which make him compassionate, which guarantee that power put into his hands will be wielded never for self but always in order to benefit others.
Theosophical Teachers & TeachingsEdit
- Annie Besant
- H.P. Blavatsky
- Gems from the East
- Geoffrey Hodson
- William Quan Judge
- C.W. Leadbeater
- Henry Steel Olcott
- The Secret Doctrine
- Alfred Percy Sinnett