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Modernization of Theosophy

written by Martin Euser
Towards a modernization of Theosophy. (First draft, Jan., 1997)
Misconceptions cleared - about H.P. Blavatsky -
introduction of a new, more up to date terminology
In this note I will deal with some common misunderstandings about theosophy. Also, I will describe my vision as to how theosophy could be gradually reformulated in modern terms, without sacrificing the essence of its teachings.

Now, while Theosophy is in essence a beautiful system of teachings about the human being, its faculties and potencies, and its place in the natural order process (see Vitvan's work for a further description of this term) things have happened in the past that make this philosophy suspect in the eyes of many intellectuals and others.

What has happened and what caused this suspicion about Theosophy? While this is not the place to enter into a full scale discussion about the history of Theosophical organizations or the perversion of ancient symbols and ideas by the nazis and contemporary extreme right wing groups, I can give some salient points to clarify issues a bit.

To begin with, the teachings about the root-races has been completely misunderstood by many intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals, etc. One has to keep in mind that Theosophy is in essence a philosophy of consciousness, not of forms, bodies, etc.

From the viewpoint of development of aspects of consciousness the world looks quite different than from the standpoint of evolution of form!

The biggest mistake people can make when they study/read H.P.Blavatsky [HPB] is taking her words entirely literal. She warns explicitly against this in the Secret Doctrine, yet people continue to reify her teachings , take it all literal, etc.

Those who are still in 'objective identification' - who think that the world as appearing to the outer senses is all there is- will never understand anything of theosophy since this philosophy of life is rather transcendental in nature, although it is more than that alone.

Some people quote her out of context, which is the last thing one should do with esoteric teachings because it mostly destroys the meaning of passages and perverts them. Instead of that one should try to connect various passages with each other and let one's intuition work them out. A habit of superficial reading is a dangerous thing because the reader will form pictures in his/her mind that will very likely not be conform the intended message (often hidden between the lines). Study means pondering about things,trying to relate aspects of teachings to each other. In the traditional Eastern method of spiritual (esoteric) teaching there is a gradual giving out of information, leaving much to the intuition to ponder about.

The idea behind the teachings about the root-races is one of development of aspects of consciousness, 'octaves of consciousness' in the spectrum of consciousness. The term 'octaves' refers to the energy-frequency nature of our universe. Those who would like to know more about that do well to study Vitvan's book 'The first crossing' (see bibliography for URL)

You have to keep in mind that every individual on earth goes through a process of development of consciousness, in whatever race this individual happens to be incarnated. When Blavatsky writes about so-called 'fifth root-race people' she is describing the state of consciousness humanity has currently developed. There maybe individuals who have developed some more octaves of consciousness and there may be some who are just starting to develop, to experience, some octaves that others have already developed. In addition, the process of development of consciousness is cyclic rather than linear and comparing states of consciousness is a tricky thing to do.

In other words: there is some variety in the degree that (octaves of ) consciousness has been developed (expression is given to what is already there - in everybody) and this is not something strange and has nothing to do with 'political (in)correctness'. Furthermore, if people crystallize in their state of consciousness, others can catch up with them and bypass them in development. It's all a dynamic process and it's the way nature works. Another way of putting things in perspective is to consider that on the scale of development of consciousness there are infinite possibilities.

So differences between human beings are very relative indeed and from the viewpoint of multiple reincarnations differences are rather insignificant and temporary.

Blavatsky gives the key to an understanding of the term 'root-races' when she says that:

"In Occultism every qualitative change in the state of our consciousness gives to man a new aspect, and if it prevails and becomes part of the living and acting Ego [not merely the personality- Martin Euser], it must be (and is) given a special name, to distinguish the man in that particular state from the man he is when he places himself in another state.

Q. It is just that which it is so difficult to understand.

A. It seems to me very easy, on the contrary, once that you have seized the main idea, i.e., that man acts on this or another plane of consciousness, in strict accordance with his mental and spiritual condition. But such is the materialism of the age that the more we explain the less people seem capable of understanding what we say. Divide the terrestrial being called man into three chief aspects, if you like, and unless you make of him a pure animal you cannot do less. Take his objective body; the thinking principle in him-which is only a little higher than the instinctual element in the animal-or the vital conscious soul; and that which places him so immeasurably beyond and higher than the animal-i.e., his reasoning soul or "spirit.""

This quote from ~ The key to theosophy ~ is clear enough.

You can find it in the section: ~ On the Various Principles in Man ~ where it is elaborated.

Now, some terrible things have happened in the first half of this 20th century hich have put theosophy in a false light in the eyes of some people. I'm thinking especially about the insane work of nazi-writers like Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels who degraded and perverted the meaning of ancient symbols and scriptures.

He was one of the developers of ariosophy, a debased version of theosophy. The term 'aryan' has a special sinister history, since the nazis used it for their idea of the 'chosen' people, being the Germanic race.

Originally, the term 'aryan' is mentioned in the Indian sacred books, the Vedas.

It referred to the wise men, the rishis or seers of Northern India- see Theosophical Glossary by H.P. Blavatsky (Publ.: Theosophy Company, LA). The term 'aryan' was redefined by the Orientalists who have made 'aryans' of all Europeans. Later it was narrowed down by nazi writers to mean the Germanic race (and closely related ones, I think).

There are extreme right-wing groups nowadays who use the term 'aryan' to mean 'white race' . You can see the confusion that arises in the minds of people when they encounter the term 'aryan race' in Blavatsky's writings. These people don't realize that with Blavatsky it means 'type of consciousness', 'principle of consciousness to be developed', etc., and this has nothing to do with skin-color! In India the term 'aryan' has not such a value loaded connotation as in the West since it is part of the ancient Vedic terminology.

[As a side note, the extreme right wing group 'the national alliance' has now appropriated the term 'natural order' to indicate their idea of the position of the white race. Vitvan would have been disgusted to see that ( I wonder whether his School of the Natural Order will get plagued by the same misunderstandings as theosophical organizations have been and are- history seems to repeat itself!)]

Let me state here clearly and unambiguously that every human being is equivalent to another human being.

This does not mean, however, that everybody is equal. That's an entirely different thing. Simple fact is that human beings can be observed to function at different 'levels', psychologically speaking.

If you doubt this fact, then it may be instructive to study Abraham Maslov's studies on human nature, the hierarchy of needs, self-actualization, etc. Ken Wilber's writings on the spectrum of consciousness is also instructive.

Let me add that every human being has multiple needs and is probably motivated by different factors concurrently in his/her life. The dominating factors vary greatly, however, between members of the human family as is very easy to observe. One person may be obsessed with power-games , another with helping the poor, etc. So many people, so many differences in motivation..

Let me continue to clear some misunderstandings about Theosophy. H.P. Blavatsky talked a lot about races, root-races, Atlantis, Lemuria, etc., and you might wonder what this is all about and whether it has any scientific basis at all. As to the latter point, Atlantis has not been found to exist according to current scientific research, let alone Atlanteans, tall human beings who have populated this earth in a long past time according to theosophy.

So, what do I think about that? Well, for me it's quite simple: I consider the existence of Atlantis as a working hypothesis for which there is probably little (or no) evidence at all on the moment. One can also reject such a hypothesis at all, of course.

Maybe terms like Atlanteans, Lemurians, etc. only refer to the type of consciousness developed in certain periods of human evolution. We will need to reconsider a literal interpretation of descriptions of these old people when archaeologists have found large skeletons that clearly belonged to human beings. Future will show whether there is any basis to a speculation on the once physical existence of Atlanteans, etc.

Having said this, I would like to point out that the diverse sciences work within so-called paradigmas, and that fact alone narrows down the type of experiments done, the range or scope of interpretations of results, etc. Thomas Kuhn's book on the structure of scientific revolutions and Paul Feyerabend's book "Against Method" elucidate these points. I sometimes wonder when main-stream scientists will get the obvious points that are made in these works.

In addition, science 'popularizers' often present scientific theories as facts, doing a disservice to the public (misleading it).

At least the fundamental equality of matter and energy has been established in science. Note that this notion is also present in the wisdom-tradition that taught this fact before scientists had discovered it. See also lit.2 where De Purucker mentions some agreements between theosophy and modern science.

Theosophy is not about believing anything, but about investigating things (spiritual and psychic) and relating them to each other, trying to get to know oneself better and helping to make this world a better place. A study of religions, philosophies, and science is also encouraged. This is all part of the second and third object of the original theosophical society (the first object being to form a nucleus of human beings which serves as a practical example of harmonious cooperation without any distinction being made regarding sex, race, skin color, etc.- [my paraphrase])

Indeed, my own preference is to study several formulations of the perennial philosophy varying from such writings as from Plotinus, Upanishads & Vedanta, Boehme, Kabbalah, modern Gnosis, etc.

Such a study can lead one to refine and enlarge one's understanding of spiritual teachings. Experience, of course, is the test by which ideas fall or stand.

Some words about the use of the word 'races'. To my best knowledge H.P. Blavatsky mostly used the word 'race' as an indication of a period or cycle of evolution of consciousness for humanity, hardly ever in the strict anthropological sense.

Of course, today we use it only in the latter sense. See the confusion? I think she also sometimes used the word root-races and races as synonyms and hasn't clearly defined all the terms she used. [Late twentieth century people may have great trouble in understanding nineteenth century writings such as those from H.P. Blavatsky (whose writings cover such a large field of religion, science and philosophy) since the scope of education (for those who were priviliged to have an education) was then broader than it is now. It often included Greek, Latin, ancient history, etc. Today there's a lot of specialization and specialists have great trouble in understanding developments in fields not directly related to their own.]

My personal opinion is that it is better to define or describe the terms that are used in esoteric philosophies such as theosophy as elaborate as possible since such a description will minimize the possibility of confusion.

The use of analogies will be often necessary in these descriptions since many terms deal with things that cannot be seen by the ordinary senses.

Traditionally, theosophy was taught by the Oriental method that stimulates the intuition of the student. In this method the teacher starts with a general sketch on a topic and subsequently fills in the sketch. Much is left to ponder about, however, since the idea is to prevent any crystallization of thought in the student.

While I've no problem with that method per se I realize that Western students are traditionally only trained (on school and universities) in the use of their brain-mind, a very limited method indeed.

It may be necessary to put the teachings in a more concrete form without sacrificing too much of depth. Vitvan has made a good start with that. As a side note,let me mention that Gottfried de Purucker gives a more systematic account of theosophy than HPB has done. It makes it a little bit easier to understand this philosophy.

A little more on Helena Petrovna Blavatsky:

I'm aware of her sometimes exaggerated and over-generalized comments on the Judaeo-Christian tradition and peoples.That was part of her sometimes polarizing style of writing. She also bashed many scientists that she found too materialistic in their thinking.

She called the Darwinist Haeckel an intellectual and moral murderer of the coming generations (rightly so, from a spiritual viewpoint!). She called the Jewish people grossly materialistic and didn't like the orthodox Jewish religion because of it's materialistic precepts, yet this is not to mean that she was anti-Semitic. She preferred more transcendental religions and philosophies, like Buddhism, Vedanta, and Kabbalah (the Jewish theosophy) as a study of her works will clearly show.

The Christian religion is shown by her to have deviated very much from what Jesus, the Christ, originally meant to say.

The bible is a collection of scriptures that have been tampered with. Wrong translations from the Hebrew and Greek still prevail as anyone with a fair amount of knowledge of those languages can tell you if they take the trouble of looking at the original versions of the manuscripts.

See lit. 2-6 and her writings on the esoteric nature of the gospels.

[Of course, nowadays the Nag Hammadi library is available, which contains scriptures (e.g. gospel of Thomas) that are older than the canonical gospels.

The translation of the Dead Sea scrolls was greatly retarded (by the Vatican as far as I know) to keep the people ignorant of the early history of Christianity.]

This is not to say that I agree with all her [overgeneralized] statements on people,Christian, Jewish or otherwise. She was not infallible, perfect, etc. And she certainly didn't want people to blindly believe her!

Study her writings and you will see this latter statement confirmed. It was never her intent that her Secret Doctrine would be made into a new bible!

Always remember that she was on a mission to cause a crack in the materialistic way of thinking that prevailed in her days

(I mean materialism as a way of viewing consciousness as a by-product of matter).

She would attack in her writings almost every religion/philosophy/science (and their proponents)that prevented the human race to empower itself (like those religions that emphasize human sin and guilt and human dependency on others for salvation). She promoted the idea that humans can develop their inner Christos, Krishna or Buddha nature, which is indeed a possibility (and goal) in the natural order process! See lit.1,2,3,4,7.

She has succeeded to a certain degree, but there is certainly a lot of unfinished business as even today many people haven't got the vaguest clue of what it means to be human. Of course, on such a mission one makes a lot of enemies, as always happens when the vested powers are threatened. The Jesuits in her time seem to have plotted against many (maybe all) esoteric organizations. Even today there are many people who take their resort to slander, insinuations, etc. to make honest people look suspect in the eyes of the public.

Let me end this section with some remarks about the neo-theosophy of Annie Besant and Charles Webster Leadbeater. I reject parts of their work as being nonsense and not theosophical at all. As usual, it is a matter of separating the chaff from the wheat.

Introduction of a new terminology and a first correlation of theosophical terms with Vitvan's new cycle Gnosis.

As you will have understood by now, I am of the opinion that a clearer definition of terms in theosophy is necessary. I have to credit Vitvan with his beautiful rephrasing of ancient teachings about human nature, human's place in the scheme of things, esoteric human psychology, etc. One of his achievements is the introduction of general semantics into the field of the wisdom-tradition.

It makes things easier to understand. He also correlated his Gnosis with terms and ideas that are found in the Christian Bible, which is of course a good thing to do. Note that Blavatsky has done that too for Theosophy and the Bible. She also correlated terms from many other religions with each other and with the wisdom-tradition concepts, terms, etc., which is an unparalleled achievement in this field!

My considered opinion is that Theosophical Societies (it's members, prominent or not) should give great attention to the issue of defining the theosophical terms, words, concepts, etc. in an as clear and unambiguous manner as possible. This is not an easy task, as I fully realize. Developers of a philosophy of consciousness, such as theosophy, may have to invent new words or compounds of words in order to describe the intended meaning of a term pertaining to consciousness. A reformulation of teachings will be appropriate at times, to correlate them with new scientific discoveries.

The word 'consciousness' itself is almost impossible to define.

I prefer to think of it as a manifestation of the One Life-force. The latter force or principle is an axiom in theosophy (see Secret Doctrine, proem).

One might also define it by giving examples of acts-of-awareness, awareness of pain, love, joy, hatred, etc. or experience of an insight , perception of thoughts, etc.

Some suggestions for new terms (partly based on Vitvan, De Purucker and HPB):

Theosophical: 'root-races' - proposed: octaves of consciousness being developed by the human family (in the frequency-energy world that is our world - see lit. 1)

or: principle of consciousness being mastered by human beings (conform Blavatsky)

Theosophical: 'races'- proposed: periods of evolution for the human family

Theosophical: 'round' - proposed: cycle of development of consciousness (individual and/or collective)

Theosophical: 'globe' - proposed: set of octaves of consciousness in the frequency-energy world

This includes all forms and states of matter pertaining to that globe

The term 'matter' is not to be understood as being solely restricted to what we commonly think it is. It includes far more than that . Honest scientists will admit that they (we) don't understand everything about 'matter', what it really is, all its possible states, etc. In order to understand what I'm saying here study Vitvan's teachings and especially his mention of the World-Mother and the Light-Mother. Mother is in Latin: Mater, which also equals Matter in the ancient symbology.

Bibliography

1. Vitvan, The first crossing

2. Gottfried de Purucker (GdeP), Fundamentals of the esoteric philosophy

(his ~ Fountain source of occultism ~ is also very helpful in understanding what esoteric philosophy, perennial wisdom, theosophy or Gnosis, is all about. It is currently not yet available on line).

GdeP's occult glossary

3. H.P. Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy

4. Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Ph. D, 'The lost light - an interpretation of ancient scriptures', 'The root of all religion', and, 'Shadow of the third century - a revaluation of Christianity'

5. Alan Bain, The Nazarenes

This site is also the homepage of THEOSOPHY INTERNATIONAL: Ancient Wisdom for a New Age.

6. Ralston Skinner, Source of measures, Wizards bookshelf, San Diego, 1982. A delightful and refreshing interpretation of the biblical Genesis by way of gematria (Kabbalah). Also correlated with measurements of the great pyramid of Gizeh.

7. The Katherine Tingley manuals on theosophy