Theosophical Encyclopedia

Necromancy

TE 8 necromancy

The evocation of the spirits of the dead. Other terms associated with this subject are necyomantia which refers to interaction with an animated corpse and scyomantia, communication with a shade.

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Bubbles of Space

TE 6 Bubbles of Space

A term used in Theosophical literature to describe how matter is created by “digging holes” into space by Fohat. The Secret Doctrine states that “the great Breath digs through Space seven holes into Laya to cause them to circumgyrate during Manvantara” (SD I:147).

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Deluge

TE 4 Deluge noahs ark
Ark in the making

A universal legend that is found in many ancient traditions around the world.

In the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, it is the story of Noah, who was told by the Lord to build an ark to save himself and his family when the Lord drowned the whole human race which had become wicked.

In various Hindu sources, such as the Satapatha Brahmana, Mahabharata, and Puranas, it is the story of Vaivasvata building a ship or ark that saved him and the seven Rishis from the flood that swept all living things. His ark rested on the Himalayas.

In Greek mythology, it was the deluge caused by Zeus when he became disgusted with the King of Arcadia, and decided to drown the entire human race. Deucalion was warned by his father, Prometheus, of the coming flood. He built an ark which saved him and his wife, Pyrrha. The ark rested on Parnassus.

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Capital Punishment

TE 2 Capital Punishment

This form of punishment is the application of the death penalty to certain crimes as a result of a legal process. Theosophical writers generally oppose capital punishment on various grounds, the main one being that it involves committing another murder, as well as the fact that the executed criminal, whose natural life has been cut short, becomes an earth-bound entity who can still influence the thoughts and feelings of living people to commit crime. Helena P. Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, has made a somewhat sobering comment about capital punishment – “. . . the juryman, in deciding for a verdict of guilty, of necessity, becomes an accessory in a fresh murder.” She also, in the same article (Lucifer, June 1890, p. 335) points out that the juryman or jurywoman decides the issue on a “head” basis and not a “heart” basis, which means that not all the circumstances have been taken into account. Further, by analogy she says that a true physician wishes to cure the cause rather than the disease.

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Free Will

TE-8-two-types-free-will

The question of whether human beings have or do not have free will has been a perennial problem in Western philosophy, starting with the Greeks and continuing down to the present time. Early Chinese philosophy did not address the question and it took an Indian approach when Buddhism entered China in the 1st cent. CE. Indian philosophy, however, has considered the question of central importance, most systems arguing that human beings do not exercise real free will until they attain Self-realization. Theosophy has generally adopted the Indian point of view when the issue is discussed at all.

There are two different approaches taken to the problem in the West, usually stated as “freedom from” and “freedom to.” The former usually claims that causal determinism (“Every event has a cause”) implies lack of real free will since one’s actions are always the result of prior causal conditions. If one knew all those prior causal conditions, so the argument goes, one could predict unerringly what a person would do under any specific circumstances. But, as some philosophers have pointed out, if one did not have such causal conditions, one would never be able to do anything at all. From this it follows logically that causality is both necessary for free will and incompatible with it! Obviously something has gone wrong somewhere.

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Epistemology

TE-6-epistemology-1

From the Greek epistēmē, knowledge, it is the study of the justification for our claim to know certain things.

Human beings assume a common-sense view of the world and this is the normal epistemological start point. It is called common-sense realism or naive realism. I see a chair in front of me. I assume that there is such a chair out there and not merely something I imagine. When I leave the room, I believe that the chair remains there. But here is where the problem begins: how do I know that it is still there when I leave, or even that there is a really a chair out there when I am looking? How reliable is my perception as well as my conclusions about my perceptions? This is the departure point of many theories of knowledge posited by philosophers, both East and West.

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Basilides

TE-4-basilides

A Christian gnostic teacher of the 2nd century CE. Very little is known for certain about this historical personage. That he lived and worked in the Gnostic tradition is fairly certain. Clement of Alexandria reported that Basilides claimed to have received a secret tradition from Glaucias who was an interpreter of St. Peter; Hippolytus said that the apostle Matthias communicated secret teachings of Jesus to him. Scholars have cast doubt on the theory that Basilides was influenced by Buddhism. Since his claims were anathema to the Christian Church Fathers, it appears that much of his writings were burnt, including 24 volumes of his Interpretation of the Gospels. Helena P. Blavatsky (TG, p. 51), states that the Gospels referred to may not have been those in the New Testament and that therefore important truths were forever lost.

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