Jim Colbert – USA
Most of us have a friend, relative, or an associate that at one time or another asks, “What is Theosophy?” They want to know what you are into or, even better, they may want to know if this is something they would like to know about.
If you assemble the articles and statements addressing the question “What Is Theosophy?” from just about all traditions, you may be left with the following. A dictionary definition is given, a history of the term going back to the third Century or beyond is given, impressive scholarship, with very few Theosophical ideas. The rationale, most likely, is that we do not want Theosophy to become a dogma or a religion trying to take its place among so many others. Listing out Theosophical ideas could lend itself to this.
While the above is true, it is suggested here that we can go too far with omitting Theosophical ideas. That is, even with the outstanding scholarship and extensive statements, if some of the Theosophical ideas are not presented we may be confusing those who ask the question.
This student wrote what is meant to be a one page statement entitled a Brief Outline of Theosophy. It is mostly composed of the 3 fundamentals of The Secret Doctrine and the seven principles. The only “unique” addition was to state in the first line that Theosophy is the philosophy of transformation. If you let your mind review the Theosophical writings (e.g. reincarnation, evolution and involution, etc.) you can have the thought that we are all on a journey to the Higher Self. In the third fundamental of The Secret Doctrine, this is called the “obligatory pilgrimage” hence the first line in our Brief Outline, Theosophy is the philosophy of transformation. In our Bhagavad Gita class we have in San Diego, California, students often ask, “Does Arjuna have to be on a journey to regain his kingdom?” We sometimes answer “No” but it is our duty for each of us and for all of life.
The “Brief Outline” is presented below. It can also be found on our website, www.theosophysd.org (found in the About heading). We also pass it out as a single page to begin a discussion with a newcomer.
It is hoped other Theosophical centers may consider it of value.
1. Theosophy is the philosophy of transformation. It is the transcendence of the material to the spiritual levels of consciousness.
2. Examples of Transcendence. The man or woman who may be lost in the forest but then reaches higher ground transcends his perspective. The person in a spacecraft who looks down on a small and vulnerable earth may transcend to a higher level of consciousness. The person who finds ideas freeing him may recognize a higher level of perception. The universe including ourselves may be thought of as a journey of transcendence. From the tiniest atom to the universe all is being and ever becoming.
3. The pillars on which the bedrock of the philosophy rests (taken from HPB’s The Secret Doctrine) are: 1. Oneness or the All called by Blavatsky the Absolute. It is from which the universe emanates and will return in eternal cycles. 2. Order or cyclic law. Perhaps subsumed under this would be karma and reincarnation (moral law and the cycle of our existence – reincarnation). 3. The evolutionary journey called by Blavatsky the “obligatory pilgrimage.” It is the journey of transcendence – as described in 1 above.
4. The nature of our being consists of seven principles. There are seven layers of consciousness not only within us but in the universe as well.
a. There is the parallel of our bodies and the material universe.
b. The next layer is called the pattern body or electrical body perhaps recognized in the incredible advances in modern technology.
c. The emotional layer found in each of us is reflected in the idea of desire or the stirrings of universal change.
d. Energy, called Prana by Blavatsky. This is found with all activities including the constant birth and rebirth of universes.
e.Mind influencing all the Principles. Our thoughts can influence all levels with greater degrees of consciousness.
f. The next principle refers to the vehicle giving us the ability to experience Oneness or the All within ourselves.
g. This principle is Onenessitself which could be called God (but not a personal God as this can lead to separateness). It is the Absolute.
5. A brief summary: Theosophy is a philosophy pointing towards transcendence of ourselves and with the universe. It rests on the principles of Oneness (The Absolute), Order or cyclic law and the journey referred to as the “obligatory pilgrimage.” There are seven principles or layers of consciousness within each of us that define who we are.
6. Theosophical ethics. Possibly best reflected in Buddhism as the Paramitas and The Voice of the Silence – “the law of love eternal.”
7. Theosophical Mahatmas. In that evolution is seen as eternal it would suggest there are beings with great wisdom that may have reached heights beyond most of our understanding.
8. And More……… Hopefully, the above can help towards a basic outline of the Theosophical philosophy.