Herman C. Vermeulen – the Netherlands
[This is a reprint from Lucifer – the Messenger of Light, an original publication of I.S.I.S. Foundation, i.e. International Study-centre for Independent Search for truth. The editor is grateful for the permission given to make this important paper available for all readers of Theosophy Forward.]
Three and seven: one system
In this issue of Theosophy Forward we briefly present the seven Jewels of Wisdom. You can find traces of these teachings in the books of the world religions and great philosophical systems, as is shown in the last article of this issue. All Theosophical teachings can be traced back to these seven Jewels.
Theosophy stretches over all fields of human thought. However, it is based on only three fundamental propositions, given by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine. (See the next article.) These propositions can be elaborated in seven principal ideas, called the seven Jewels of Wisdom.
Theosophy is a universal source of knowledge and wisdom. All great spiritual Teachers drew and still draw from it. Therefore you can find Theosophy in all the great religions and philosophies of the world. It is not dogmatic. It rises high above limited ideas. It is not a faith that one should believe. You should examine it yourself. The seven Jewels of Wisdom therefore are no dogmas but principal ideas you can recognize in nature and in your own life.
You can find these Jewels all through theosophical literature, in which they are explained at length. But you will rarely find them systematically ordered. Nevertheless, these seven Jewels do form one whole; one Jewel explains and complements the others. It is only by combining them that you can fully understand them. The profundity of a Jewel increases enormously if you take the other ones into consideration. For instance, reincarnation and karma cannot be understood separately. Furthermore, you understand them much better if you also study the other Jewels, which are far less publicly known. In the next issues of Theosophy Forward, we give principal explanations of all seven Jewels, and their mutual relations.
Practical tools to find answers to the questions of life
The three propositions and the seven Jewels together, are the foundation of the profound Theosophical philosophy. We state that everybody can recognize these seven core ideas in his life. When structurally applying these Jewels you can solve every problem. Questions like “why am I who I am?” and “what is the meaning of life?” can be answered satisfactorily. In fact, when you ponder on the principle thoughts Theosophy offers you, you will find your own answers to all questions of life. Whether it is a social, ethical, pedagogic, scientific, religious or any problem whatsoever, you can find a solution in the seven Jewels offered in Theosophy. Surely, you have to work to find the answers. You have to test Theosophy in your life. But you can find the answers in yourself when you thoroughly think about these Theosophical Jewels. Why is that? Because you possess all the knowledge of these teachings in the core of your being.
We especially endeavor to show the practical value of the seven Jewels. Therefore we have illustrated the Jewels with some practical examples that students in Theosophy told us. It is our intention to present these seven Jewels as practical tools, so that everybody is able to recognize and apply these teachings in his own life and his own environment. We live in a world that needs this practical wisdom more than ever.
The seven Jewels of Wisdom
A study of Theosophy will make you familiar with a number of core ideas like reincarnation, karma and evolution. These core ideas can also be found in eastern scriptures, where they are called the Seven Jewels of Wisdom: Sapta Ratnâni. They all follow from the three propositions of Theosophy.
The three fundamental propositions of Theosophy
By the editors of Lucifer— the Netherlands
Theosophy is based on three fundamental propositions. Those who become acquainted with Theosophy and investigate it beyond the surface will be changed forever. One cannot ignore something that resonates so deeply in oneself.
People who get in touch with Theosophy for the first time, quickly discover that this doctrine
is something completely different from the belief systems to which they may be accustomed. Theosophy, when studied with an open mind, surprises, astonishes and makes a deep impression upon us. In Theosophy we can find answers to all of our questions; a fact that may even irritate some people. Others may experience a certain emotional resistance to this comprehensive system, as it challenges some of their beliefs that they had never before questioned, or when they discover
that Theosophy is often contrary to many general, accepted opinions. However, many newcomers are struck by the consistency of this doctrine: a doctrine that seems somehow familiar to them, despite its apparent newness. It is familiar to them, because from deep within something starts
resonating, as if they had already known these things but have never been able to put them into words. There are also people who, after their first encounter with Theosophy, prefer to wait and keep some mental distance at first. Perhaps they don’t immediately recognize the scope of the doctrine. And even those who don’t want to invest their time to study Theosophy, often admit that
it is a clear and consistent thought system.
Combination of profound knowledge and philosophy of life
Why does Theosophy often make such an overwhelming impression on people? What is this Theosophy actually? To start with, Theosophy is a coherent system of profound knowledge that
has been tried and tested since the existence of mankind. Therefore, it is not a revealed doctrine, which one can only choose to believe or not, but it is a system of thought which, just like a scientific hypothesis, can be investigated and put to the test.
However, Theosophy is much more than a scientific theory; it penetrates every fiber of your consciousness, of your thoughts, your feelings, your actions. Once you have pondered over the vital questions of life in the light of Theosophy and experienced the truth of it, there is no going back to ignorance. In this fact lies the explanation for the overwhelming feelings that many people experience when they are introduced to Theosophy. For Theosophy is not merely a logical scientific system, not just a philosophy, and not another religion, but it is the synthesis of all three.
The three fundamental propositions
H. P. Blavatsky defines the three principal thoughts in her book The Secret Doctrine as follows:
1. An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable principle on which all speculation is
impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any
human expression or similitude. One absolute Reality which antecedes all manifested, conditioned, being.
2. The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically “the playground of
numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,” called “the manifesting stars,” and the “sparks of Eternity.”
3. The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being itself an
aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul – a spark of the former –
through the Cycle of Incarnation (or “Necessity”) in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term.
What distinguishes Theosophy from other thought systems is that it is consistently based on only three fundamental ideas, often called “the three principles” or “the three propositions.” These three principles are no dogmas but working hypotheses that should be able to explain the world we live in: the world of phenomena. Studying these three principles requires a continuous alertness on our
part. We must challenge every aspect of these principles by comparing them with the facts around us, before we can convince ourselves that the doctrine is correct. In other words, the study of Theosophy will never appeal to blind faith, but on the contrary, to critical investigation and thorough contemplation.
In short we can describe these three principle ideas as follows:
Boundlessness. Life is eternal and boundless.
Periodicity: the cyclic nature of the Universe. Life manifests and withdraws itself periodically.
There is an obligatory Pilgrimage for each soul. Each and every being gradually evolves from “atom to god” during the manifestations of life. This third proposition states that each being, at every level of development, has the same intrinsic value and the same divine destiny.
Especially the first principle – the Boundless Principle as H.P. Blavatsky calls it – is for many people a real eye opener. It revolutionizes our view on almost everything. Sometimes, this first principle is experienced as difficult. The reason is that the human mind cannot grasp the notion of Boundlessness. Each manifested being is limited per se, cannot be boundless in its manifestation, and thus is unable to conceptualize the meaning of boundlessness. Nevertheless, the application of this principle is not so difficult, although it may be different from what most people are accustomed to. Of course, it does need thorough contemplation. We are talking here about an unknowable causeless cause and not about an entity. Because this principle is boundless, it is omnipresent and it constitutes the very essence of everything. This also means that everything is alive; a galaxy is a living being just as much as an atom is. All the various life forms that we see around us are simply
different levels of evolutionary development. Yet, every phenomenon is in its deepest essence this Boundlessness, which we sometimes call, for lack of the right words, our Divine essence. Everything that exists belongs to this Boundlessness — is in fact Boundlessness. That’s why all
beings are inextricably related to each other. For when all beings are the Boundless Principle in the inmost of their inmost, then they are equal in essence.
Conclusions from the three principles
It is almost unimaginable that the very comprehensive and profound system of Theosophical teachings is based on only these three principles. The Theosophical teachings can only be understood in the light of these three basic thoughts. Therefore, we should try to understand these
principles in such a way that we are able to apply them in practice.
The most important conclusion one can draw from these propositions, is the so-called spiritualistic principle. This principle or basic assumption implies that there is a force working ‘behind’, ‘in’, or ‘through’ every phenomenon. If life is boundless, then this life has in every aspect no beginning and no end, neither in duration nor in volume, scope, depth or in any other characteristic. Thus, viewed from the world of manifestation – the world of phenomena – there must be a force behind every manifested being. The different religious systems have given a variety of names to that force. They call this for instance soul or spirit. That soul, however, is in its turn the result of a force acting behind it. And that force emanates again from an inner force behind it, and so on. In fact, it is always the same fundamental force which, reasoned from our own point of view, becomes radually
more spiritual, gradually more ethereal, until it is barely perceivable to us — or not perceivable at all.
In Theosophy we call that force “life” or “consciousness.”
Consciousness is therefore the inner cause of each phenomenon: a star, a human being, an animal, a mineral or anything. So consciousness or life does not arise from matter, which is what the materialistic thinking scientists state, nor is it the product of a creating deity. Instead, life is endless: sometimes it is manifested and sometimes it is not. If you fully understand this, then, in fact, you have solved the mystery of death.
Studying Theosophy may turn all your former ideas “upside down” as it were, because from now on you consider the world from the spiritualistic point of view. We heard someone say: “Once you grasp the main thoughts of Theosophy, you can hardly understand how you could have had a different view in the past. Everything becomes hopeful. You have taken a step towards a greater truth.” The spiritualistic principle also implies that every phenomenon comes and goes (see the second proposition). Each being appears in the world – in manifestation – and disappears from it again after some time. Life and death are therefore interrelated concepts, expressing nothing else
than a temporary state in which the consciousness remains. Another important conclusion is that we are all continually developing ourselves. Inner growth is a universal habit. This is a crucial lesson: all beings are “travelers.” This applies to a man, an animal, a god. Furthermore, we all need each other during this pilgrimage.
Therefore, equivalence of all life is an important practical conclusion of Theosophy. Theosophy not only teaches us to view our fellow human beings as companions on our journey, but to recognize plants, animals and all other living things as our companions as well. This idea is the fundament of all ethics. So, ethics is not created by human conventions; it is based on the Cosmic laws themselves. The three fundamental propositions are elaborated in the seven Jewels of Wisdom, which will be discussed in the following articles.
Background of religions
Theosophy is not a new doctrine. Far from it. It is said to be as old as humanity itself. That fact seems to strike people as interesting, particularly those who come from a religious family. Older people in particular, who have with Christian dogmas such as a cruel god who punishes people in an eternal hell. Theosophy liberates them from this fear. At the same time it gives them a true appreciation of what their religion really is. Theosophy sheds a completely different light on all mythical stories, like for example the Bible. Theosophy is therefore the essence of every religion. Every great religious or philosophical system originates from this Divine Wisdom, which in antiquity was known under many different names. This explains the joy of recognition that some people, who have grown up in a certain religious tradition, experience when they come in contact with Theosophy.
Synthesis of profound knowledge and philosophy of life
As mentioned above, Theosophy is not only a source of knowledge; it is just as importantly a philosophy of life. You could call Theosophy a synthesis of this profound knowledge and this philosophy of life. In other words, knowledge alone is not Theosophy. That would be like having a road map without looking at it. What’s the point of a navigation system if you don’t turn it on?
But on the other hand, Theosophy is not only a way of living. Without knowledge you don’t have a philosophy of life. It is the unique combination of the two that astonishes people when they first get in touch with Theosophy. In other words: you only really understand Theosophy when you apply its doctrines. To understand Theosophy is to apply Theosophy.
Hence we should become Theosophy: then we cannot act in any other way than living according to its principles.
The essence of the theosophical principles is best expressed by the concept of UNITY. All manifestations of life are aspects, components of the Boundless Life, and being part of the Boundless, they themselves are in the heart of their hearts the Boundless. So this means that every being is, in its essence, identical to other beings. Therefore, we are truly a part of one another. We are, speaking in human terms, each other’s brothers. Brotherhood is a fact in Nature. There is unity behind the diversity of beings, and this is the central idea of the philosophy of life that Theosophy is. Getting acquainted with this Divine Wisdom is discovering this idea of unity, a discovering of the different types of arguments and evidence that support this idea of Brotherhood. These arguments are intellectual arguments that call upon our hearts and our idealism, but satisfy our feelings too: in short, arguments that convince our whole being.
Then we can become Theosophy. This means that we adopt the idea of unity as the starting point of all our thoughts and acts, thus permeating our consciousness with the fact that in the very essence of our being we are all the same. Finally, we are Theosophy when we not only use the doctrine as the basis of our thoughts, but when we have fully absorbed it, so that we are no longer able to do anything else but to think and act in accordance with it. There is no need to look at the ‘road map’ anymore. You have become the Way! Compare this with the law of gravity. You can study it and understand it as a theory. But only a fool would act without taking it into account: who would place his cup in the air and not on a table?
In the next seven issues of Theosophy Forward, examples will be given on how you will live your life when you become or are Theosophy.
To be continued