Theosophical Encyclopedia

Free Will

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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

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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

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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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Anaxagoras

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(c. 500-428 B.C.). Greek philosopher who was born about 500 BCE at Clazomenae. There is a story to the effect that he disposed of all his property, believing that possessions were an impediment to the search for knowledge. He settled at Athens where his students included Socrates, Euripedes and Archelaus.

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Korean Buddhism

Korean Buddhism

TE 2 Korean Buddhism

Buddhism entered the northern Korean peninsula in the 4th century CE (the official date is given as 372, but it was probably earlier) from China and spread south when, with Chinese help, the Silla kingdom conquered the Paekche and Koguryo kingdoms in the 7th century. In 935 the Silla dynasty was overthrown peacefully by Wang Kon who founded the Koryo dynasty and established Buddhism as the state religion, although Confucianism, which also had entered with the Chinese, was the dominant philosophy for running the government. When the Mongols invaded China, an alliance was made between them and the Koryos. The Ming dynasty replaced the Mongols in 1368 CE and Yi Songgye set up the Yi Dynasty in Korea in 1392, establishing the capital at Seoul and making Confucianism the state religion, although Buddhism never died out. In the first half of the 17th century, the Manchus invaded China and made Korea a vassal state. This resulted in Korea closing its border to all non-Chinese influences until 1876 when Japan forced a commercial treaty and Korea became open to both Japanese and Western influences. These various cultural influences – including the Communist rule in the north as a result of the Cairo Conference in 1943 – have made Korea a mixture of atheist, Buddhist, Confucian, and Christian philosophies.

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Mandaeans

 

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A Gnostic sect sometimes called Nasoreans surviving in southern Iraq and Khuzistan. It is of interest to theosophists because some of the beliefs held by the Mandaeans are not dissimilar to certain Theosophical ideas. Its origins are obscure, but it appears to have emerged in Palestine in the late first or early second century CE and had its roots in primitive Christianity since they claim John the Baptist as a member; on the other hand they brand Jesus a false prophet. The sect is rapidly diminishing in numbers with the spread of education among them and the pressures for change exerted by modern technology. The lay members are called Mandaiia which simply means “Gnostics”; priests are tarmidia or “disciples.” Priests initiated into The Secret Doctrine are called Nazuraiia.

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Nazarenes

 

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A Jewish sect to whom Jesus belongs. It must be distinguished from the name of the place called Nazareth, but it is probably related to the Nazarite order of the Jews.

In the New Testament, Jesus was frequently referred to as Jesus the Nazarene (or the Nazorian) as in Matt 2:23, and Mark 14:66. The Greek original is Iesous Nazarene. In the New American Bible (with Apocrypha), this is now translated as “Jesus the Nazorian.” This is different from the passages that identify him as someone from Nazareth, such as in Matt 21:11: “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.” The original Greek is Iesous ho apo Nazareth or “Jesus the (one) from Nazareth.” In Acts 24:5 the Nazarene sect is identified as one to which Paul belonged: “For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes (Nazaraion)”

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