Theosophical Encyclopedia

Agnosticism

Agnosticism

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A word coined by T. H. Huxley (1825-95) to convey the idea that knowledge, from the Greek gnosis, is impossible in much of the matters embraced by religious doctrines and philosophy. He suggested that on these matters, unless science can offer a valid comment, it is better to remain silent. Agnostics do not necessarily deny all religious claims, but on the other hand may not accept them. They maintain that an open mind is much better than a mind closed to all discussion or disagreement about religious matters.

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Time

Time

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The period during which an action or condition exists or continues. We normally become conscious of time when there is awareness of change or motion. When there is none, we have no idea how much time has elapsed. When considered as an independent entity apart from movement and phenomena, time has baffled philosophers. The philosopher George Berkeley wrote that “whenever I attempt to frame a simple idea of time, abstracted from the succession of ideas in my own mind, . . . I am lost and embrangled in inextricable difficulties. I have no notion of it at all.” Augustine of Hippo similarly states: “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to a question, I do not know.”

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Eternity

Eternity

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Defined in dictionaries as time without beginning or end, it is sometimes used with a different meaning in some theosophical writings. Helena P. Blavatsky, for instance, writes of “Seventh Eternity” in The Secret Doctrine, probably because no other English term would quite convey her meaning (SD I:28). In her commentary, Blavatsky qualifies the seemingly paradoxical use of the word “Eternity” by saying that such use is sanctified in esoteric philosophy. “The latter divides boundless duration into unconditionally eternal and universal Time and a conditioned one (Khandakala)” (SD I:62).

Eternity might be described as an aspect of Ultimate Reality and a different kind of time from that which incarnated beings experience. In the physical world we perceive what is called MAYA, then the time which gives an appearance of duration to our world may be an illusion and eternity is all that has been, is, and will be. Perhaps this is what the SUFI mystic Rumi meant when he wrote, “The Sufi is the son of time present.”

 

Law of Periodicity

Law of Periodicity

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The law that the whole universe undergoes minor and major periodic cycles. The doctrine of constant renewal is central to the Ancient Wisdom philosophy. At the time of the emergence of theosophy in the West through the work of the Theosophical Society the commonly held view of the universe was that of a static expanse of stars and the vast size of the Universe had not been determined. It followed that any view of creation being a “repeat” process was not acceptable by the scientific establishment. It was not until 1912 that full confirmation of the spectrographic red shift of distant stars led to the theory of an expanding universe which in turn resulted in the “Big Bang” theory which is much closer to the theosophical view.

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Cycles

Cycles

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The concept of cycles is fundamental to Theosophical philosophy, which posits that everything, from the minutest particle or energy to the largest cosmic system, is subject to the law of cycles. It is also called the Law of Periodicity.

A cycle is a sequence of events that continuously recur according to the laws of nature. Examples are the regular beating of the heart, the ebb and flow of the tide, the rotation and revolution of planets, the seasons of the year, and other natural phenomena. The study of cycles has long been the subject of scientific inquiry in physics, geology, and astronomy; and much of our knowledge of cycles in nature comes from those disciplines. A correct understanding of cycles gives us a tool to predict both natural and social phenomena. For instance, studies have been made regarding suspected cycles in wars and crimes. Research into cycles found in nature have led to discoveries that help us to predict and prepare for disturbances that may affect agriculture, communications, and other human activities. One example is the cyclical nature of sunspots, which have strong electromagnetic effects on the earth’s atmosphere, affecting our communication systems. Such studies have led to a resurgence of interest in the law of harmonics, known since the time of Pythagoras, wherein natural and social phenomena appear to follow a cyclical pattern that is a multiple of specific time periods or distances.

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Sikhism

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Guru Nanak

A religion which started in the Punjab in northwest India in the late 15th century by Nanak (1469-1539), now called by his followers Guru Nanak Dev, the title guru meaning “teacher,” but having the connotation of deep respect or reverence, and dev being the Punjabi form of deva or “god,” “divinity.” The name Sikh is Punjabi for Sanskrit sisya or “pupil.” Nanak is identified in Theosophical literature as a genuine Prophet or Saint (cf. Besant, Sikhism, 1920, p.4) and a bas relief placard commemorating Sikhism is on the wall of the main hall of the headquarters building of The Theosophical Society (TS) in Adyar, Chennai (formerly Madras), India. The religion numbers some 6 million adherents. They are found mainly in the Punjab, but are also in other parts of India (especially the northern states) and in many other countries of the world where Sikhs have built temples, called gurudwaras (“gateways to the teacher”). Their spiritual center is the beautiful Golden Temple located in Amritsar.

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Mithraism

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Mithra

The worship of the Indo-Iranian god of light Mithra (in Sanskrit Mitra). The religion originated in Persia from where it spread to Asia minor and then to Rome and much of the Roman empire. It was the chief rival to Christianity. The Avestan hymns, particularly in Yasht, depict Mithra as the god of heavenly light, all-seeing, protector of the virtuous in this world and the next and, most importantly, the foe of the powers of evil and darkness.

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