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What is Theosophy

Vicki Davies

Theosophy is Divine Knowledge or Science. The term comes from the Greek 'theos' meaning god (one of the divine beings, not "God" in the sense attached to it today) and 'sophia' meaning wisdom. Therefore, it is not "Wisdom of God" but Divine Wisdom such as that possessed by the gods. The basic idea of theosophy is that all that exists in the world, both good and evil, consists of one spiritual reality. Theosophy has ancient origins, but became a recognised movement in the 19th century through the teachings of the Russian mystic, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and the English social reformer, Annie Besant. Theosophy is the idea and the Theosophical Society is the imperfect embodiment of that idea.

The Theosophical Society (established in New York in 1875) is an international group of people who have a common interest in their search for truth and in investigating the teachings of what has become known as "The Ancient Wisdom". This is the body of truth that forms the basis of all the great religions and philosophies of mankind. Nobody, including members of the Society, is required to accept or believe any of the teachings. The Society is divided into an outer and an inner body - exotic and esoteric. Theosophy has no creed and no dogma. The only thing asked of a prospective member of the Society is that he or she be in sympathy with the Objects of the Theosophical Society which are as follows:

  1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
  2. To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science.
  3. To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.

I would like to briefly mention some of the teachings of Theosophy.

Origin of the Soul. Theosophy contends that the sleeping state results when the soul temporarily withdraws from the body - a process identical with death except that the withdrawal is only temporary during sleep. The soul, then, is the consciousness which activates the physical and provides the motive force during life. The soul in its turn uses an emotional nature, known as the astral body, and a vehicle of thought, known as the mental body. The brain, by itself, is incapable of thinking. The thought process can be driven from the body by the use of anaesthetics, and Theosophy contends that this is because the mind is, in fact, another vehicle which contributes to the operation of the soul.

The mind, like the astral and physical body, is mortal, but the spiritual soul is immortal, and this is the true and real man. It too, is made up of several vehicles of even finer matter, in which the God like ego consciousness of man lives an inner life while still exerting a beneficent influence on the personality.

Theosophy submits that heaven is a condition rather than a place and that hell is non existent other than the temporary condition created for oneself by one's baser nature. Thus, the Divine plan establishes man as an immortal spiritual being; with life on earth as a training ground for the growth of the real man.

Reincarnation. It is the contention of Theosophy that man is an evolving spiritual being moving on a pilgrimage during which he develops the character, capacities and attributes which will fit him for the responsibilities that lie ahead. To understand this, one must identify oneself with the spiritual soul which temporarily inhabits the body, rather than the physical body. This evolutionary process does not take place in the space of only one lifetime here on earth, but involves the return of the soul again and again, each time taking birth in a new body suited to the needs of that particular life. Proof of reincarnation in the judicial sense is more difficult to establish as the memory of the past life does not normally carry over to the present life.

Cause and Effect. Theosophy submits that the answer to the apparent injustices that abound everywhere - extremes of wealth and poverty, innocent children dying in concentration camps during the Second World War, people killed in wars - lies in the law of Cause and Effect or "What you Sow, you reap" or "Karma". Reincarnation and Karma are inseparable companions which account for the apparent injustices and tragedies of life. Our past, even though we cannot remember it, has determined for us the circumstances into which we are now born, as well as the qualities and capacities we possess. All suffering is educative and remedial. It is designed to encourage us to comply with nature's laws and develop the positive qualities appropriate to the negative ones which caused our trouble. Karma is equally the giver of pleasure, of comfort, of family happiness.

Bible. Theosophy scientifically explains the apparent inconsistencies in the Bible and regards it as one of the most esoteric works in all of sacred literature. eg Noah and the Ark and the Creation story. In the mystery language of the Bible, objects assume a particular meaning or quality eg water denotes the emotional nature of man; a storm on the water represents disturbed emotions and a ship represents the physical body. Theosophists say that behind the teachings of the Bible (and the teachings of all the worlds religions) there is a deeper spiritual message with which man can establish contact. This message can be understood by allegorical interpretation of sacred Scriptures and doctrines. The special knowledge attained enables man to understand the mysteries of nature as well as his own spiritual being.

Comparative Religions. It is the contention of Theosophy that all the major religions of the world stem from one universal source, and that periodically there is sent among humanity a Divine teacher to establish a faith which is suited to the needs of that age. Theosophy does not expect or require anyone to surrender his own faith in favour of another. Theosophy is not concerned with religious adherence and can count among its members people of all faiths. Their bond of union is a search for Truth. Theosophy endeavours to synthesise and explain the teachings of all religions and present them not as a matter of faith, but rather for study, so that the student may achieve a wiser understanding of the divine plan and purpose of life, and discover that there is no divergence between true religion and true science.

Theosophy is not a religion since it is the essence of all religion and of absolute truth, a drop of which only underlies every creed. Theosophy on earth is like the white ray of the spectrum, and every religion only one of the seven prismatic colours. It is by studying the various religions and philosophies of humanity, by comparing them dispassionately and with an unbiased mind, that men can hope to arrive at the truth of their inner meaning which in almost every case expresses some great truth in Nature.

Theosophy can cater for all levels of understanding, for it has been described as a lake in which babes may paddle and giants may swim.