Got Wisdom?

Tim Boyd – USA

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The author, Photo © Richard Dvořák

Recently while visiting one of our Theosophical groups one of the members asked me a question. Obviously it was someone who was not in the habit of asking the easy ones. The question was, “What is wisdom?” As sometimes happens, when called upon to speak to a question which is unanswerable an odd thought dropped into my mind. It drew me back over thirty years.

In May of 1980 the world’s media had descended on the state of Washington. For almost two months the eyes of the world had been turning to watch the unfolding events at Mount Saint Helens. In March geologists had detected seismic activity around the volcano. For over one hundred years it had lain dormant. They had also been monitoring a rapid swelling on the mountain's north side, as molten magma from deep beneath the earth’s surface pressed its way upward. Among the scientific community there was a certainty that Mt. St. Helens was on the verge of erupting. All of the media attention, along with word of mouth had turned the area into a tourist Mecca. Curiosity seekers hired planes and helicopters to fly over the volcano. Before the National Guard was called in to seal off the area, people were driving their families to hike up the mountainside and to picnic at its base. A nervous expectancy enveloped the entire scene.

Read more: Got Wisdom?

Paul Zwollo – A Tribute

We remember Paul Zwollo, 16 September, 1930 – August 28, 2007

Jan Nicolaas Kind – Brazil

Theosophy PZ 0 B Tribute
An “early” photo taken at St. Michael’s House in Naarden the Netherlands, from the left to the right: Rohit Mehta, Mr. and Mrs. Tijssen, Shridevi Mehta, Ineke Vrolijk, Minouc Heijbroek holding her daughter Nienke and Paul Zwollo with an impressive beard

In previous issues of Theosophy Forward we’ve honored Theosophists such as Dr. Richard Brooks, Ianthe Hoskins, Einar Adalsteinsson and Shirley Nicholson. In this current issue we will remember another remarkable Theosophist and artist: Paul Zwollo from the Netherlands. As stated in earlier issues of this magazine, and although we should live most consciously in the present, it is vital to look backwards once in a while, in order to determine in which direction our future could develop.

Read more: Paul Zwollo – A Tribute

Ethics – Bridging Freedom and Responsibility

Paul Zwollo – the Netherlands

Responsibility can be defined as the state of being responsible or accountable; that for which one is answerable, for example, a duty or trust. It also means the ability to meet obligations or to act without superior authority or guidance. Moreover, it is the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong – having ethical discrimination. And of course, in the first place, it is accepting full res­ponsibility for one's own life and all that it entails.

Applying the above to our daily circumstances, it is the feeling of being responsible for the well-being of our fellowmen, on a voluntary basis and from a state of complete freedom. It goes without saying that the choice to act in such a way arises from insight and discrimination developed from the many experiences we have had in this life and former incarnations. According to Theosophy, our present understanding is the result of all these experiences that have been stored during former lives in the Causal Body, which, together with the Monad or Atma-Buddhi, forms the Higher Self. It is that part of our sevenfold constitution that is born again and again in a sequence of incarnations, every time adding the spiritual insight gained in the former earth life.

The Third Proposition of The Secret Doctrine speaks of ”The obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul, a spark of the Universal Oversoul, through the Cycle of Incarnation, or Necessity, in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic Law, during the whole term'. So the Law of Cyclicity is one of the major factors in making possible our growth in responsibility and spiritual maturity. A comment of Madame Blavatsky on this Third Proposition says that 'the pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric Philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations.”

Read more: Ethics – Bridging Freedom and Responsibility

Together differently

Paul Zwollo – the Netherlands

Together differently was a winged word of George Arundale. He went so far as to say that every Theosophist had to develop certain qualities so as to become an expert in some specific field. Not in order to become proud of them but to contribute in one's own and best possible way to the uplift of the whole world. Differentiation is inherent in the order of life. In Theosophical literature we read about the great differentiations that took place long ago and the subsequent gradual advent of the material world as we experience today. The countless differences in forms, colors, living creatures, etc. give life its charm and fascination.

Variety is not only the main characteristic of life but a “must”, a sine qua non, to prevent inbreeding and offer maximum possibilities for further development. Evolution needs this enormous variety in order not to get stuck and select those forms best suited to experiment with. The Divine Plan may have been laid down in outline, and it would look that the details are subject to experiment if not trial and error.

We are different from each other, absolutely unique, but not separate. Madame Blavatsky is a good example of how a great occultist stands apart from the ordinary man and at the same time works for the good of ordinary humanity at large. The one does not exclude the other. The example of the lives of the great ones, the Adepts, has proved that as one advances on the spiritual path toward the Divine in oneself which is man's true appointed end, the individual characteristics still do not get wiped out. On the contrary, they develop completely. This is not only certified by the Masters of Wisdom in their letters to A.P. Sinnett and others. Reading these letters, by the way, one is impressed by their distinctive handwriting style. Even the layout of the letters is different for each. A good graphologist would be able to give a fair description of the characters of the Masters by analyzing their handwriting. When man becomes what he really is, he is creative, original, even without any conscious attempt.

Read more: Together differently

Inner Journey to Regeneration


Paul Zwollo – the Netherlands

What do we mean by Regeneration? Regeneration of the personality? Or our thinking and our emotions, so as to be no longer subject to the influences of the world? Such a total reversal of our attention may never happen, until we have purified our physical, emotional and mental bodies. There is no mutation and emancipation, no transformation and regeneration, without proper prep­aration. In this sense every serious person is preparing himself for regeneration, simply by doing his work in daily life and fulfilling his responsibilities to the best of his ability. There is no other way. However, side by side we should learn to see beyond these seemingly simple duties and trivialities and look for the reality. In proportion to our earnestness, regeneration is slowed down or quickened.

One sometimes wonders can there be a day in our lives when we are not regenerating ourselves, be it ever so slightly? Don't we learn every day from our deeds and contacts with others? A day without learning anything is a lost day. Time is fleeting. Life is short.

Only by paying full attention to what we do, see and think will we be led to realize our possibilities.

Read more: Inner Journey to Regeneration

Sacrificing the Self

(Symposium Talk, Convention, Adyar, 28 December 2003)

Paul Zwollo – the Netherlands

The word “altruism” is derived from the Latin “alter”, meaning “other”, and in general means recognition of the care we should take for the interests of others; to let one's course of action in word, thought and deed, be determined by the interests of others. Altruism is therefore a synonym for unselfishness. It denotes a certain inclination, a tendency to self-forgetfulness, and a sacrificing of oneself for the good of mankind.

It is evident that altruism, if practiced by us, determines the kind of society we live in, and that its archetype is parental love. In Theosophical literature we come across many synonyms and equivalents for the word “altruism.”

Is not Universal Brotherhood, as mentioned in the First Object of the Theosophical Society, an aspect of altruism? Both are facets of the Oneness of Life. The latter I like to equate with the Diamond Truth, which has numerous facets, all of which we have to pay attention to, in order to come to an all-round development. On a photograph of one of the first International Conventions here at Adyar, in the 1880s, we see a group of delegates seated under a large banner with the words 'The Theosophical Society and Universal Brotherhood'. So from the very start of our Theosophical Society, the concept of Universal Brotherhood was emphasized and regarded as the essence of the work our Society had to carry out.

Read more: Sacrificing the Self

Who Am I?

Paul Zwollo – the Netherlands

Over the entrance to the Temple of Delphi in ancient Greece, was written: “Man Know Thyself.” Inside, were inscribed the words, “And by knowing thyself, thou shalt know the world.” Knowing oneself comes first. Knowing the world is secondary. Is not today's trend just the contrary? Education and science are mainly directed at knowing the outside world down to the minutest detail.

Large sums of money are spent on it, and nations, groups and individuals vie with each other. An old fairy tale verse rings true: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest, the richest and cleverest of us all?” Thus, competition is set as the key to progress. And progress means only bigger cars, more luxuries, and more holidays a year, etc.

True, we cannot ignore the world and turn inside thereby hoping to realize ourselves, while remaining indifferent to mankind's suffering. Our reincarnation into this world is a fact. We cannot ignore our responsibility.

Read more: Who Am I?

Human Regeneration – part eleven

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 2 Radha Burnier
Radha Burnier


Regeneration was described as a movement from self-centeredness to altruism. But Krishnamurti said there is no psycho­logical evolution. How can we understand the difference?

RB: Is there a progression from self-centeredness to altruism? Is there anything to be done about it? Is there no difference between one who is more self-centered, and one who is less? Krishnamurti seemed to say that you are either self-centered or not, which indicates a jump, and not progression.

Read more: Human Regeneration – part eleven

The Voice of the Silence 20 (Conclusion)

John Algeo – USA

Theosophy The Voice 20 2

An Overview Review.

In his spiritual autobiography, St. Augustine, the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers set forth a universal principle in Christian terms: “Our hearts are ever restless until they find their rest in thee.”

Spiritual traditions all over the world have recognized that we human beings have restless hearts. We are not content just to be content. Dogs and whales do not – so far as we know – pine to be something other than what they are. They accept their dogginess or whaleship.

The human animal, on the other hand, is by nature discontent. We want to be somewhere we are not or to become something we are not. In our breasts is a divine discontent that motivates us. We are on a quest. We are pining for salvation, liberation, enlightenment, transformation, regeneration, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Pure Land, Übermenschheit = “superman-hood” – we call it many things. But under whatever name, it is something other and greater than the ordinary everyday round of existence.

Read more: The Voice of the Silence 20 (Conclusion)

The Mission and Aims of The United Lodge of Theosophists

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

Theosophy Vidya 2

A warm welcome to each and all on this evening's consideration and honoring of the United Lodge of Theosophists, its aims, its mission, its purpose, and a thoughtful reflection about how we, as students, can help that movement go forward in the future. Inthe readings considered this evening we covered a vast number of ideas, of teaching, of instruction. Inthe words of Robert Crosbie, we have insights into how to become better students, how to follow both the lines that are laid down by greater minds and broader hearts, as well as how to establish our own continuity of purpose and direction. In the reading from H.P.B. we have an examination of the great law of karma, likened to that invisible deity who knows neither mercy nor wrath, but is fully considered an impersonal force, a law that restores harmony to the universe.

Read more: The Mission and Aims of The United Lodge of Theosophists

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

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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

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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

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