The Mahatmas

Ali Ritsema – the Netherlands

[This article appeared in Dutch, being a part of a booklet published by the Dutch Section of the Theosophical Society-Adyar entitled Theosofie, eeuwige wijsheid voor deze tijd. This publication is primarily meant as an introduction to Theosophy.]

Theosophy Theosophy The Mahatmas 2 Ali Ritsema

In the founding and the history of the Theosophical Society (TS) the Mahatmas have played an important role. They have been the truly inspirational force in the coming about of the TS. The Mahatma’s have insight in the evolutionary process of the Universe and the Laws of Nature and thus They stimulate all movements meant to help the progress of the world in the spiritual sense. The intention of initiating the foundation of the TS was, and still is, to assist mankind in showing that “such a thing as Theosophy exists and to help humans to ascend towards it by studying and assimilating its eternal verities” (The Key to Theosophy, Section 4). The Mahatmas emphasize over and over again the importance and practice of a truly Universal Brotherhood of Humanity. They are said to be members of the Inner White Brotherhood, also called the White Lodge.

Read more: The Mahatmas

The seven Jewels of Wisdom – Reincarnation the first Jewel

By the editors of Lucifer – 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.]

Reincarnation, the first Jewel of Wisdom, teaches us who we are, the origin of our eternal core and the origin of our temporary bodies. It teaches us to look behind the physical forms and recognize the fundamental Life that is working behind it, and to free ourselves from the ‘you-only-live-once’ way of life.

When we elaborate on the three propositions that were presented in the preceding article, we arrive at the first of the seven Jewels of Wisdom: reincarnation or re-embodiment. The term normally used is reincarnation or ‘re-becoming flesh.’ A broader and therefore better term is rei-embodiment. The movement of ceaseless manifestation and withdrawal, and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul through the Cycle of Incarnation calls forth a majestic picture of re-embodiment: life – consciousness – that always is, and which time and again manifests itself in the worlds of form in order to unfold its latent, unlimited possibilities for spiritual growth. Life that withdraws into the inner worlds after each period of experience, so that it can assimilate its experiences and embed the insights gained, that thus will become part of the active consciousness in the next embodiment.

Read more: The seven Jewels of Wisdom – Reincarnation the first Jewel

The Public Work of the Theosophical Society (Part one)

Pablo Sender – USA

Theosophy The Public Work of the TS 2
Statues of HPB and Henry S. Olcott in Headquarters Building, Adyar

In an article by Cristian Conen, published in The Theosophist in December 2014, he began to examine the work of the Theosophical Society (TS) based on ideas expressed by the late International President, Radha Burnier. Continuing this inquiry, particularly in connection with work in the field of spiritual education, we may ask: what kind of public programmes should TS offer in order to help the spiritual growth of humanity?


My work for the Society has provided the opportunity to present programmes in different countries and cities, interacting with members from many Theosophical branches. In doing so, I have seen a variety of approaches to TS work and different ways in which members are responding to the challenges they encounter. To illustrate, there are two attitudes representing the opposite ends of the spectrum of responses I have observed. Different groups tend to lean towards one direction or the other, some of them actually getting quite close to either of the extremes. When we are too close to an extreme, we are in danger of getting too far off-track, thus losing our way. If we are going to accomplish the aims of our organisation, it is important to strive to find the highly desired, though equally elusive, middle path.

Read more: The Public Work of the Theosophical Society (Part one)

In the Light of Theosophy

Theosophy In The Light of Theosophy 2 God Helmet
God Helmet

[This article appeared in the April 2016 issue of The Theosophical Movement. For more articles published in this excellent magazine follow this ink:  ]

American cognitive neuroscience researcher and university professor, Michael Persinger said in the early 1990s that he had developed a “God helmet.” It was a head worn device which gave off very weakly generated magnetic fields. He claimed that the subjects wearing this device could experience mystical and religious phenomenon, such as, feeling the presence of the divine, spiritual oneness with the universe and a sense of Holy Communion with a higher power. It received wide publicity and led some of the neuroscientists and psychologists of that time to believe that there existed a corresponding “God Spot” in the human brain which was being tapped and activated and that the people who meditated, went into trance and prayed regularly were those who were likely to arouse the God Spot of their brain. Anyone who could stimulate this area would experience peace. This is now termed “Push” theory.

Read more: In the Light of Theosophy

Compassion: Goal of Theosophy and the Spiritual Life

Abraham Oron – Israel

Theosophy Compassion 2 Abraham Oron
Compassion and loving kindness

In all the main religions of the world we find some teachings concerning compassion and loving kindness. This is also the case with Judaism. There are 613 commandments in the Jewish religion, many of which are dealing with the way we should treat others. In general, we find well known commandments such as:

Love your neighbour as you love yourself.”

Do not do to others what you do not like being done to yourself.”

More specifically, there are commandments for helping the poor, visiting the sick, comforting mourners, and even celebrating with the bride and groom in their marriage feast.

Read more: Compassion: Goal of Theosophy and the Spiritual Life

Theosophy – A Scientific Discipline

Boris de Zirkoff – USA


A Living Philosophy For Humanity

Volume XVIII

No. 1 (87) - Summer 1961

Theosophy Boris de Zirkoff 2
[Original Cover photo: Hofats in the Algauer Alps (Photo by Eugen Dod.)]

There is a great deal more to the Ancient Wisdom and its teachings than appears at first glance; and after many years of serious study, a student becomes aware of the existence of far greater depths, unsuspected before, and, probably, beyond the reach of ordinary minds.

Read more: Theosophy – A Scientific Discipline

Theosophy and Mysticism

Warwick Keys – New Zealand

Theosophy and Mysticism 2 Warwick Keys

While many people discover Theosophy and join the Society via a mystic path, there is a misconception held by some theosophists about the role and value of ‘mystic experience.’ This misunderstanding needs correcting. I was disappointed recently when I heard someone state that mysticism is “just emotionalism.” I thought it sad that anyone could be so ill-informed. In true Theosophical understandings, mysticism and occultism go hand in hand, marrying into the one complete or ‘whole’ human being in the approach to enlightenment or wholeness.

Read more: Theosophy and Mysticism

What Madame Blavatsky accomplished in just 4 years!!

Daniel Caldwell – USA


 Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

It is really amazing what Madame Blavatsky accomplished in just 4 years.

She came to London from Belgium in early May 1887 and died 4 years later in early May 1891.

Yet in these 48 months she accomplished so much.

48 months....not actually a long time....if you think about it.

Read more: What Madame Blavatsky accomplished in just 4 years!!

The Things We Carry

Tim Boyd – USA

Theosophy TB 2
Tim Boyd during the opening of the School of the Wisdom at Adyar in January 2016

Some time ago a friend of mine shared something wondrous with me. It was a paperweight. One of those clear plastic things that contain an object inside, something intended to be interesting or inspiring. I have one on my office desk now that contains a simple business card. The card reads “Clarence A. Jones Attorney and Counsellor at Law”, and has the downtown Los Angeles address of his office. To anyone but me it is plain and without meaning, fit merely to hold some papers in place. Of course for me, it is a different story. It was my grandfather's business card, and though he died shortly before I was born, it is rich in meaning. It is the profession and the address that convey something extraordinary to someone who knows. The key piece of missing information is that my grandfather was African American. He was the first black graduate to receive a law degree from Ohio State University and the first to do business at a downtown Los Angeles address – the one on his business card.

For most people today the significance of such accomplishments is lost on them. In today's world it is accepted as normal and natural that anyone should be able to study and work wherever they are qualified to do so. However through most of the 1900's this was not the case. Racial discrimination, de jure and de facto, were the norm for the nation. The level of sacrifice, strength of character and will that were required to make the simple information on that card a reality, speak to me across the generations. On some of my more demanding days I have found myself looking at the paperweight and the card inside and being reminded that my lot is not so tough. It is remarkable to me that the mere thought of someone who has accomplished great things brings perspective and strength - even a person I never met.

Read more: The Things We Carry

The seven Jewels of Wisdom – solutions to questions of life

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.]

Theosophy The 7 Jewels of Wisdom 2

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.

Read more: The seven Jewels of Wisdom – solutions to questions of life

Shirley Nicholson – A Tribute

We remember Shirley Nicholson, January 8, 1925 – November 5, 2013

Jan Nicolaas Kind – Brazil

Theosophy SN A 2 INTRO
Shirley Nicholson

In previous issues of Theosophy Forward we honored some outstanding Theosophists such as: Dr. Richard Brooks, Ianthe Hoskins and Einar Adalsteinsson. In this issue we will remember yet another notable Theosophist and teacher, Shirley Nicholson. I do believe it is important to realize that, in order to know in which direction the vehicles of Theosophy are heading in the future, it is vital to also look backwards once in a while, and find inspiration in what others did during their lifetimes. Looking back, we are able to create a decent, better and prosperous Theosophical future!

Read more: Shirley Nicholson – A Tribute

Doctrine and Dogma

Shirley Nicholson – USA


One of the most precious benefits of the Theosophical Society to many members is the freedom of thought it offers. Theosophy may be regarded as an open search for truth with no dogma, nothing that anyone is required to believe or adhere to other than allegiance to the principle of brotherhood. This freedom is rare. There are few religious or philosophical organizations in the world today that permit members such latitude of belief and exploration. This may be one of the most important reasons that the Society has survived and viable for over a hundred years. (Written in 1983, editor)

Most churches and religions hold dogmas which their adherents are expected to accept. For example, in recent decades the Catholic Church declared the Assumption of Mary as a new dogma. This means that Catholics must accept as fact that Mary’s physical body ascended into heaven. By contrast, the members of the Theosophical Society are not required to accept any of its teachings. They may or may not believe in the existence of the Masters or the continuity of life after death on inner planes or any other notion found in the literature. There is no dogma in the Society in the sense that its members may dispute, reject, or accept any of its teachings except for brotherhood.

Read more: Doctrine and Dogma

A Holistic View of Karma

Shirley Nicholson

[As no cause remains without its due effect from greatest to least, from a cosmic disturbance down to the movement of your hand, and as like produces like, Karma is that unseen and unknown law which adjusts wisely, intelligently, and equitably each effect to its cause, tracing the latter back to its producer. H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine.]

Karma, the concept of cause and effect from Eastern religions, has become widely known in the West, as it has always been in the Orient. The word has found its way into conversations among people at all levels of Western society and has even shown up in popular music. However, most people familiar with the idea think of it as shaping our personal lives, as “paying us back” for our actions, good and bad. This perhaps is the realm in which karma seems closest to us. Yet karma is a universal law inherent in the One and encompasses all of manifestation, all kingdoms of nature, from atoms to galaxies, from rocks to human beings. H.P.B. assures us that “every creature is subject to Karma”1 and “no spot in the manifested universe is exempt from its sway.”2

Read more: A Holistic View of Karma

Shamanism: An Expanded View of Reality

Shirley Nicholson – USA

Shamanism may conjure up images of magic and strange practices, perhaps associated with a kind of wildness. In the not-so-distant past shamans were called witch doctors and often thought of as evil or satanic. They were also sometimes considered as frauds, using trickery.

However, since Mircea Eliade published his extensive study of shamanism worldwide in 1964, shamanism has been looked on with more respect and as a subject worthy of scientific investigation. Eliade was a noted historian of religion for many years at the University of Chicago. In his seminal work Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, he documented common features of shamanism in diverse cultures from many geographical locations. He uncovered universal among shamanic practices and worldviews and showed that shamanism, far from being a local peculiarity, is a worldwide phenomenon, and that shamans have a necessary place in their societies.

Shamanism has also been a topic of considerable interest to Theosophists, and has many features in common with the Ancient Wisdom, or Theosophy.

Read more: Shamanism: An Expanded View of Reality

Who Am I? What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Shirley Nicholson – USA

Nasrudin, the wise fool of Sufi tales, went to the bank one day to cash a check, and the teller asked him to identify himself. He whipped a mirror out of his pocket, looked at himself, and said, “Yep, that’s me all right.”

We might whip out a driver’s license instead of a mirror, but our sense of who we are may go no deeper than Nasrudin’s. We seldom ask ourselves, who am I? What does it mean to be human?


Throughout our history we Westerners have attempted to know ourselves, as the Delphic oracle advised. In the Middle Ages, we developed a theory of “humors” supposed to determine our physical and psychological types. More recently some of us have explored the subconscious that Freud uncovered, full of our worst qualities, or the wider unconscious with heroic and wise potentials that Jung discovered, or even the transpersonal consciousness beyond our separate personal concerns that has been more recently probed in the West.

Read more: Who Am I? What Does It Mean To Be Human?

The Voice of the Silence 19 (verses 303 – 316)

John Algeo – USA

Theosophy The Voice 2 of the Silence
Profound Silence

The final verses of the book present a summary of what TheVoice of the Silence has been saying about the Two Paths and the Seven Portals — and the choice, the inescapable choice, that is each of ours to make. That choice is a question of what we value in life and of what we will dedicate our lives to. The last six verses evoke a sense of admiration at the achievement of a return from “the other shore” by one of us, of joy at the benefits that achievement will bring to all of us, and of wonder at the magnificent mystery of a new birth. The very last verse is a conventional ending for works of this sort. But is it just conventional? In fact, the four words of the last verse are the theme of the whole book.

Read more: The Voice of the Silence 19 (verses 303 – 316)

Theosophy in the World Today

John Vorstermans – New Zealand

Theosophy THEOSOPHY 2 in the World Today
Our world today

Theosophy is not new to the world. Some say there have always been those amongst us seeking the divine wisdom or theosophia. However history shows that the term Theosophy was used as far back as the third century by Ammonius Saccas and Plotinus who founded the Alexandrian school of Neoplatonism. The modern-day Theosophical Society was founded in 1875. Its declared three objects are:

1. To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.

2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science.

3. To investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in humanity.

The Society presents for consideration ideas, distilled from the study and experience gained from exploring these objects over the last 140 years. Some of these ideas came from the founders of today’s Theosophical Society, while others are based on a study of the Sacred Texts of the world, from modern science and philosophy. The Theosophical Society does not require its members to accept all or indeed any Theosophical teachings. The motto of the Society is “There is no religion higher than Truth.” The term “religion” in that motto refers not only to churches, but to any system of belief or ideas – including the Society’s own statements on Theosophy.

Read more: Theosophy in the World Today

The Power of a Worldview

Dorothy Bell – Australia

Theosophy The Power 2 of a Worldview Dorothy Bell
The author

We enter this life by the gateway of birth and after spending about 70 years on this planet under all kinds of circumstances we disappear by the gateway of death. This procession of living beings has been going on for thousands of years and yet it does not occur to many people to ask the very pertinent questions as to where we have come from, where we are going, and why we are here.”

I.K. Taimni, The Theosophist, The Light of Buddhi, Vol. 125.5, p187

These types of pertinent questions are basic to the human quest to make sense of the world we live in – and this relates to having a worldview. In this introductory article, exploration of the following questions will plough some ground on the nature, origins, importance and power of worldviews.

  • What is a worldview? Where do worldviews originate?

  • What are some key elements in their make-up?

  • How can your worldview be expressed as a snapshot?

  • What does a worldview ‘snapshot’ based on Theosophy look like?

  • How do you measure the worth of a worldview?

    Read more: The Power of a Worldview

Human Regeneration – part ten

Radha Burnier – India

[Recognizing regeneration as the kernel of all Theosophical work, the International Theosophical Centre at Naarden, the Netherlands, jointly with the Federation of Theosophical Societies in Europe, organized two seminars in July 1990, with a number of office bearers, workers and members of the Society from different countries as participants. Proceedings of the seminar were published as a book under the title Human Regeneration: Lectures and Discussion (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij der Theosofische Vereniging in Nederland, 1990). This chapter (discussions) is here slightly revised.]

Theosophy Human Regeneration Ten 2
Radha Burnier at her best, addressing the 135
th annual International Convention in December 2010


Krishnamurti abolished all organizations. Some theosophists seem to think that the T.S. is 'the' instrument for the Hierarchy. Others say - and it seems there is more truth in this statement - that theosophy is higher than the T.S. How long will the T.S. remain important, supposing it is important?

RB: Krishnamurti did not abolish all organizations; there are innumerable organizations in the world. The T.S. will remain important as long as we do the right kind of work. It depends on what we do and what future generations of members will do. HPB said in The Key to Theosophy that the future of the T.S. will depend entirely upon the degree of selflessness, earnestness, and devotion of the members, and last but not least, on the amount of knowledge and wisdom possessed by those members on whom it will fall to carry on the work. We may not have wisdom, but at least we must be seekers for the wisdom. The T.S. will be important if it consists of selfless people who are seeking wisdom in order that the world may be better, not for their own satisfaction. The search for wisdom must not be a new form of egotism. If the I.S. really consists of altruistic seekers for wisdom, it surely will remain important. If we make it into something trivial – a social club, an academic institution etc. – then it will cease to fulfil its purpose. H. P. B. said that unless we ensure there is a living wisdom in it, the T.S. will become like a corpse which will be washed ashore somewhere. And there will be no living wisdom, if we do not try to discover the truth of life, translate it into our lives, and try to share with others new points of view. In other words, if the T.S. is an instrument for bringing about regeneration, a new human mind, it will remain important. But if it becomes a new sect, a body of people addicted to their own theories, it may survive outwardly, but it will be a lifeless thing.

Read more: Human Regeneration – part ten

God as a circle

From a student

[The magazine Vidya , edited by associates of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Santa Barbara, USA, published the following article in its autumn 2015 issue; here slightly revised version.]

Theosophy God as a circle 2
“Symbols of divine truth were not created for the amusement of the ignorant; they are the alpha and omega of philosophic thought.”

H. P. Blavatsky (CW, Volume IX, p. 266)

In what sense can we speak of an image of God? Theosophical teachings are very clear on this point. To describe and formulate, even to name, is to put limits on the limitless, to ascribe attributes to the attribute-less. How can that which is Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless and Infinite be given an image, a form, a name? To finite consciousness, we are told, the highest Deity-the Absolute-is the negation of thought. In Genesis it is most aptly described as “the Darkness on the face of the Deep,” in Mahayana Buddhism it is sunyata, “the Void” or Nothingness, in the Tao Te Ching, it is “the Tao which has no name.”

Read more: God as a circle

Esoteric Astrology and the Purpose of the Soul

Gary Kidgell – Scotland

The teachings of Ancient Wisdom are comprised of a vast body of timeless spiritual truths which underlie the tenets of the major religions of our world together with the various esoteric practises that have been devised by humanity throughout the ages. At the core of the wisdom teachings is the descent of spirit into matter and its subsequent return to source.

Theosophy Esoteric 2 etc
Image from ‘The Inner Journey: Pathways to the Higher Self’ by Gary Kidgell, Llandysul, Claregate 2015

A recent expression of the Ancient Wisdom occurred in the latter part of the 19th, and into the 20th Century. This occurred through the work of H. P. Blavatsky and various offshoots of the Theosophical Society, of which she was a co-founder. These works inform us that, in essence, we are indivisible sparks of a divine flame referred to as monads and that we are engaged upon a lengthy evolutionary journey for the purpose of developing and expressing hitherto latent spiritual qualities. Due to the purity of its vibration the monad is unable to descend downwards into the planes of consciousness below its own level of being. It therefore adopts structures or mechanisms for the purpose of facilitating its long evolutionary sojourn.

Read more: Esoteric Astrology and the Purpose of the Soul

A Few Thoughts: Ideas, Action and Influences

David Grossman – USA

Theosophy David Grossman 2
The author

It has been said that “Philosophies do nothing, only people do”. Yet that may not be quite true if we take into consideration the statement attributed to Plato that “Ideas rule the world.” So putting ideas out there is actually doing something. This was the work of H.P.B. She once said she was plagued to writing. And what a plague it was. Not since Plato had anyone brought forth a comprehensive expression of what we often call “The Ancient Wisdom Tradition” or “The Perennial Philosophy” that takes into consideration the Spiritual, Psychic (or intellectual) and the physical sides of life as well as science, philosophy and religion and shows how they are “interwoven and inter-blended at every point”.Where does this knowledge come from? H. P. B says from an unbroken lineage of great teachers of mankind. They have always been on the scene. She refers to them as the Theosophical Adepts and that she was commissioned, so to speak, to re-present the core principles and teachings into this transitional age.

Read more: A Few Thoughts: Ideas, Action and Influences

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