Declaration of Independence

Joy Mills—USA

In July 1776, a group of fifty-six men, of whom at least fifty were members of the Masonic fraternity, signed a document that has come to be considered one of the great landmarks in human history. Largely authored by one of the most illumined and literate men of the eighteenth-century, Thomas Jefferson, that document—the Declaration of Independence—established the separation of the American colonies from England on the basis of certain philosophical premises current in the Age of Enlightenment. The significance of the Declaration has been said to lie in the fact that it translated concepts concerning the inherent rights that every human being was presumed to possess, simply by virtue of being human, from the philosophical sphere to the political arena.

The basis of American independence has focused the attention of nations throughout the world on the radical concept on which a democratic nation was first established. For the Theosophical student, this singular event may provide a useful occasion to examine certain correspondences between what may be called a collective intent to achieve national freedom and the stages required for the individual achievement of personal freedom. Students of the esoteric philosophy are inevitably concerned with the question of freedom, a term which may be taken as synonymous with liberation and even with Self-realization. The question of what constitutes true freedom has always engaged the philosophical mind. Philosophers both East and West have attempted to resolve the question of whether or not humans are essentially free. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence, however, did not debate the philosophical issue. They stated, rather, that all people have an inherent right to enjoy liberty and towards that end may establish their own government, which derives its powers from the governed.

Read more: Declaration of Independence

On Pseudo-Theosophy

H. P. Blavatsky

If the “false prophets of Theosophy” are to be left untouched, the true prophets will be very soon—as they have already been—confused with the false. It is high time to winnow our corn and cast away the chaff. The T.S. is becoming enormous in its numbers, and if the false prophets, the pretenders . . . , or even the weak-minded dupes, are left alone, then the Society threatens to become very soon a fanatical body split into three hundred sects—like Protestantism—each hating the other, and all bent on destroying the truth by monstrous exaggerations and idiotic schemes and shams.

from "On Pseudo-Theosophy"
(Lucifer, March 1889; Collected Writings 11:47-8)


Shadow and Substance

George William Russell (AE) – Ireland

Introduction: S. T. Adelante

George William Russell (10 April 1867 – 17 July 1935), whose nom de plume was AE (from aeon, a Gnostic term for a divine emanation), was a leading figure in the Irish Renaissance, which also included James Joyce, Sean O'Casey, John Synge, and William Butler Yeats. Russell was a mystic, poet, painter, critic, clairvoyant, Irish nationalist, and leading member of the Theosophical Society in Ireland. In the following extract, kindly sent to us by a good friend, Russell is poetically describing a basic Theosophical principle: the contrast between the outer and inner worlds, the personality and the individuality, samsara and nirvana.

From (Irish Theosophist, January 15, 1896) [paragraphing added]:

The dark age is our darkness and not the darkness of life. It is not well for us, who in the beginning came forth with the wonder-light about us, that it should have turned in us to darkness, the song of life be dumb. We close our eyes from the many-coloured mirage of day, and are alone soundless and sightless in the unillumined cell of the brain. But there are thoughts that shine, impulses born of fire.

Read more: Shadow and Substance

Olcott’s last visit

Jean Overton Fuller – UK

Introduction by S. T. Adelante

This particular excerpt is very touching since it demonstrates clearly how deep the bond was between Henry Olcott and Helena Blavatsky. The author, Jean Overton Fuller, a writer, poet and artist, was a lifelong long student of The Secret Doctrine. Jean Overton Fuller is probably best known for her book Madeleine, the story of Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan, GC, MBE, CdG, an Indian heroine of World War II. Last year on 8 April 2009, she passed away at the age of ninety-four. 

After a quick visit to Paris to view the new Eiffel Tower, Madame Blavatsky returned through Granville and Jersey, in 'an old washtub called a steamer'. To enter the tiny Channel Island ports the ships have to be small, and in the choppy seas, around the rocks, pitch about like nutshells. She recovered from her sea-sickness in St Helier, then in St Aubin.

She was back in London to welcome Olcott when he arrived at Lansdowne Road on 4 September 1889. They sat up until 2 a.m., New York style. He had just returned from Japan. The Japanese had told him only he could reunite all the divergent schools of Buddhists and had asked him to be head of the Buddhist religion in Japan. He had asked whether, in order to take up this post, he might resign the Presidency of the Theosophical Society to Madame Blavatsky, but Morya would not allow this.

She had another desk pulled up to hers, so that they could work side by side. She was correcting proofs of A Key to Theosophy.

Read more: Olcott’s last visit

The Mystery Schools of Today

Grace F. Knoche – USA

The Brotherhood of great ones never deserts humanity. Underneath and behind and within there pulsates the eternal heart of compassion. Withdrawal of the Mystery-Schools from public knowledge by no means indicates withdrawal of the perennial support of the Mahatmas. Mystery-centers are to be found today all over the world, writes H. P. Blavatsky, for "the Secret Association is still alive and as active as ever" (Isis Unveiled 2:100). Guarded with jealous care by their protectors, the precise location of these schools is undiscoverable except by the worthy; however, a veil of secrecy is not synonymous with nonexistence.

Does the physical body remain alive and functional if the heart ceases to pump blood into the circulatory system, if the organs do not receive their vital flow from the heart? Thus with the spiritual body of the earth, whose mystic heart is Sambhala, and from whose ventricles flows forth into organic centers the esoteric life-blood of the Brotherhood. Every Mystery-center is an organic focus, every human being is a living cell. All owe spiritual allegiance to the central heart. Is it logical to infer that a heart beats in vain? Is it logical to infer that organs function apart from the heart? Such conclusions are against reason or experience.

Three are the distributions, therefore, of this esoteric life-flow:

(1) Through the exoteric and the esoteric Mysteries. The exoteric or Lesser Mysteries are now "largely replaced by the different activities of the Theosophical Movement, which itself is exoteric as a Movement'' (Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 637). The esoteric or Greater Mysteries, because of the weight of matter blinding the world-consciousness, are at present far more carefully hid. Significantly, just because of the increased need for light and truth, "the esoteric groups of Mystery-Schools are perhaps more numerous today than they have been for thousands of years'' (ibid.).

Read more: The Mystery Schools of Today

Motives and Assumptions

Radha Burnier – India

Those who are really serious about treading the spiritual path must sow the seed of unselfishness at the beginning of the journey itself and foster it with great care and courage. In the well-known twelfth chapter of the Bhagavadgitā, the way to the Supreme is said to lie in restraining and subduing the senses, ‘regarding everything equally, and being intent upon the welfare of all’. This teaching links regarding everything equally with devotion to the good of all. That devotion implies unselfishness, self-abnegation and self-forgetfulness.

Members of the Theosophical Society, idealists, philanthropists and service-minded people in general may believe that their relationships are based on the principle of equality. Intellectually they might be completely convinced of the need to treat all people with respect. But actually, deep in the subconscious mind of all people, except the enlightened sages, lies concealed the assumption of inequality.

Read more: Motives and Assumptions

The Theosophical Society, a Living, Growing Organism

Gottfried de Purucker – USA

Even the most wonderful magician of words leaves his audiences cold unless he have in his mind, and send forth from his heart, something which is intrinsically grand and ever-perduring. Spiritual and intellectual grandeur is what we Theosophists, students of our God-Wisdom, Iong for: we long to imbody in ever greater fullness the Ancient Wisdom which we have received as our holiest possession, so that we may give it, as far as we may and unadulterated  to others who have hungered as we have hungered for it.

Read more: The Theosophical Society, a Living, Growing Organism

The Christmas Story

G. A. Barborka – USA

Introduction by S. T. Adelante

The Theosophist Geoffrey Avery Barborka (1897-1982) was a deep student of H. P. Blavatsky’s life, work, and teachings. Probably his best-known books are The Divine Plan (an in-depth commentary on The Secret Doctrine), H. P. Blavatsky, Tibet and Tulku, and The Mahatmas and Their Letters.

Other books from his hand are The Peopling of the Earth, The Story of Human Evolution, Secret Doctrine Questions and Answers (compiled from the bi-monthly periodical the Canadian Theosophist), and A Glossary of Sanskrit Terms. All of these books are a must for inquirers and students who want to learn more about H.P.B., the Mahatmas, and Theosophy.

Read more: The Christmas Story

Founding of the Brotherhood

Grace F. Knoche - USA
Millions upon millions of years ago in the darkness of prehistory, humanity was an infant, a child of Mother Nature, unawakened, dreamlike, wrapped in the cloak of mental somnolence. Recognition of egoity slept; instinctual consciousness alone was active. Like a stream of brilliance across the horizon of time, divine beings, mānasaputras, sons of mind, descended among the sleeping humans, and with the flame of intellectual solar fire lighted the wick of latent mind, and lo! the thinker stirred. Self-consciousness wakened, and man became a dynamo of intellectual and emotional power: capable of love, of hate, of glory, of defeat. Having knowledge, he acquired power; acquiring power, he chose; choosing, he fashioned the fabric of his future; and the perception of this ran like wine through his veins.

Read more: Founding of the Brotherhood

On with the Work

Boris de Zirkoff – USA

Boris de Zirkoff wrote this inspirational and still relevant piece in 1979. As a relative of H. P. Blavatsky, he deserves a unique place in the esteem of Theosophists. It was appropriate that he should, in the karmic course of events, become the compiler-editor of Blavatsky’s Collected Writings.

As a new decade of our century is about to open, we renew our intention to continue quietly to spread the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom far and wide. Unshaken by the rising tide of world unrest and the inhumanity of man to man manifest in so many ways in this world of illusions, we are determined to hold high the banner of Theosophy and to plant it on new ramparts for all men to see.

Read more: On with the Work

Why Not Laugh At Yourself?

Gottfried de Purucker – USA

Many people talk about the heroism of self-conquest - something with which we all agree; but do you know, I sometimes wonder if our ideas of heroic battling with ourselves are not just a wee bit hysteriac, even foolish! I do not mean the heroism part of it, but this lower self of us, poor little thing! It plays havoc with us all the time, simply because we identify ourselves with it and always try to fight it and make it as big as we are. Is it heroic to fight a ghost of our own making?

Read more: Why Not Laugh At Yourself?

A Remarkable Man, Tribute to Henk Spierenburg

Katinka Hesselink — Holland

Introduction: Jan Nicolaas Kind – Brazil (photo = Henk Spierenburg)

I remember Henk Spierenburg very well. It must have been around November 1996 when I last met him. As sound technician and floor manager I had been occupied recording the morning session in the Besant Hall, during an activity at the International Theosophical Centre in Naarden, Holland.  Henk, who was the main speaker that morning, gave a most unusual but very interesting talk about H.P. Blavatsky and her passion for opera.  After his talk, while most participants rushed off for a coffee break, Henk came up to me with a big grin on his face and asked: “Did you write that article about Karma Yoga for Theosofia?”  (Official magazine of the TS in Holland) When I confirmed he said: “Not bad, not bad at all . . . but next time you must do your homework a little better”. I don’t recall the exact details, but apparently I had made an error somewhere, making a reference to something another author had said on the subject. This approach was typical for Henk; he would not spare you, and go straight to the point, but always respectfully and with the objective to help, to find your way.

Read more: A Remarkable Man, Tribute to Henk Spierenburg

Truth—The Highest Religion

Radha Burnier – India

Throughout the ages, man has struggled to understand natural phenomena around him and also the truth about his own being and position in the universe. The desire to know has expressed itself in very simple ways, such as wanting to understand what is behind a stormy night with thunder and lightning (resulting in myths and legends about the great God Thor or Indra, king of the gods, releasing cows held captive in the clouds by anti-gods); or in more fundamental questions about what is real and lasting, and why there is suffering. Without these probings and reflections, human beings would not be human, but would become like creatures engaged only in physical survival and making the best of the doleful conditions in a world they are unable to understand.

Read more: Truth—The Highest Religion

The Importance Of Questioning

Joy Mills – USA
It has been asked how “repentance of sin” is related to human transformation. In several places in the New Testament the word translated as “sin” carries the meaning of failure to hit the mark or the target. When we miss the target, there follows an effort to train our eye.  And we question ourselves: What are we to concentrate on? Are we to concentrate on the drawing of the bow? On the arrow? Or must we fix our sight on the bull’s-eye itself? If we miss the target, do we say, “Oh dear, I shall never be an archer; I shall never be able to shoot straight”? We can give up in defeat and say, “This is not for me; I can never do it” Or do we say, “Obviously, I was not giving it my full attention. I shall try again.”It seems to me that if we can see “sin” in this manner, “repen¬tance” will be to simply try again. “Re-pent” is to “think again.” It is to act in a new way, with clarity of vision. And this is part of the process of human transformation. Failure in itself is not so very bad; it can, in fact, be good for us. It is better to be a glorious failure than a mediocre success because anybody can be successful at some¬thing he already knows how to do, but we are called upon to move beyond ourselves. As Browning put it, “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”The process of transformation begins with the consciousness that awakening or enlightenment is possible. This is not to be achieved at our first attempt. The Buddha, being a human being like the rest of us, did not achieve Buddhahood at the moment of his awareness of its possibility. The process “takes time.” Time was once seen simply as linear, but today we recognize other modes of time such as biological and psychological time. We know, too, that there is mythic time-the “once upon a time” with which every good fairy story begins. It is not a historical date but a time-ness that is ever present.

Read more: The Importance Of Questioning

First Meeting With H.P.B.

Alice Leighton Cleather – UK

In this fine excerpt, the author and early student of H.P.B., Alice Leighton Cleather very vividly  describes the events leading up to her first meeting, well,  the first meeting was called off, it actually was a ‘second’ meeting, with H.P.B.

Like the way that led up to the Countess’ (Wachtmeister) first meeting with H. P. B., my own path to her was strewn with obstacles. My husband and I, with our two child¬ren, were living at Eastbourne when H. P. B. carne over to England from Ostend in 1887, having been practically driven from India in 1885. I had met Mr. Bertram Keightley shortly after I joined the Theosophical Society, and from him received help and encouragement that was invaluable as from an older to a younger member. He knew my keen desire to meet H. P. R, and kindly undertook to arrange it, if possible, while they were at Maycot, Norwood (a London suburb). But he warned me that it might be a difficult matter as” our old Lady” was apt to be, well, a little uncertain and capricious at times. I did not care the proverbial two pins what she was in those respects, if only she would see me. I had a profound conviction that I was approaching a crisis in my inner life, and that everything depended upon getting into touch with her. See her, therefore, I must and would.

Read more: First Meeting With H.P.B.

What Is the Future of Theosophy? A questioning consideration

John Algeo – USA

On next November 17, the anniversary of its founding, the Theosophical Society will enter its 135th year of existence. Anniversaries are times for remembering the past; but they are also opportunities for anticipating the future. What is the future of the Society and, even more important, of Theosophy—the message our Society brings to the world? Here, the focus is on the message; the Society that conveys it can be considered later.

Read more: What Is the Future of Theosophy? A questioning consideration

The Principle, Not The Person

John Algeo – USA

Theosophy is not just a collection of intellectual abstractions. It is a prescription for living. Every Theosophical idea implies a form of Theosophical action. If we think about even a few of the basic Theosophical concepts, their practical applications are obvious.

For example, if we accept reincarnation, we should have no prejudices about other cultures or nations or the other sex, because in the past we have been born in other cultures and nations and as the other sex, and we will be so born again in the future. Similarly, if we accept karma, we should never consciously harm another, because every action we do returns to us in a similar form. Of course, open-mindedness and harmlessness are prescribed by ethical systems all over the world, but Theosophy provides a reasoned basis for practicing those virtues.

Read more: The Principle, Not The Person

Why Such Moral Weakness?

Radha Burnier - India
(from “On the Watch-Tower”, The Theosophist, December 2005)

One wonders why most human beings are morally so weak. Even well-educated persons with a good family background fall prey to temptations, which may not even appear as temptations to them. For example, when a group of people are gossiping about somebody, how many have the moral strength not to join in, and how many will exert their influence against idle talk? Very few. Most people are dragged along whatever current they find themselves in.

Temptation in the form of desire for power is very common. Well behaved and modest persons are known to succumb to it on attaining a position of authority over others—humans andanimals. Then the desire for power expands, and in a crisis such people might do dreadful things.

Read more: Why Such Moral Weakness?

Butterflies Are Not Free

Betty Bland - USA

[This Viewpoint article was published in the Quest magazine for September-October 2008, pp. 164-5]

The drifting dazzling beauty of a butterfly wafting on the summer breezes, floating from flower to flower, conjures in us an aesthetic appreciation and a certain longing to be carefree like this diaphanous illusion. As the Buddhist teachings affirm, “All beings wish to be happy.” And we human beings add the strength of our highly developed mental and emotional faculties to this search for happiness as a driving factor in our lives.

Read more: Butterflies Are Not Free

Masters and the Path

Dora Van Gelder Kunz - USA

[Dora Kunz (1904-1999) as a girl lived in a Theosophical community in Australia, where she served as an assistant to C. W. Leadbeater. A natural clairvoyant, Dora regarded herself even in her late years as "a veddy prrractical girl." In the following talk, delivered in Philadelphia on White Lotus Day 1955, she examines one of the most characteristic of Theosophical ideas, the existence of those whom her husband, Fritz, called "men beyond mankind," the Masters, that is, those who have mastered the lessons of human life that the rest of us are still striving to learn. A transcription of this talk, supplied by Edward Abdill, has been lightly edited but is unaltered in any substantive way, preserving its oral and Dora-esque qualities.]

I would like to present a few of my own ideas about the Masters and the Path which are somewhat different from what you will find in books. I have been a Theosophist all my life, and the Masters have been real to me as far back as I can remember. I would like to tell you something about my point of view about the Masters and our relationship with them.

Read more: Masters and the Path

The Wisdom of the East, the West, and the World

John Algeo - USA

Theosophists often talk, with considerable justification, about the wisdom of the East. The East—particularly Persia, India, and China—have indeed produced profoundly wise and views of life.

Persian wisdom, although less talked about than the other two, has been very influential. That wisdom, expressed through the revolutionary religious system of Zoroaster, influenced early Judaism, and through it later Christianity and Islam. Persian wisdom may be said to focus centrally on the view that the universe is ruled and guided by wise and beneficent powers. Those powers are personified in the person of Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, and the other Amesha Spentas, Holy Immortals. The personification of that power is specifically Persian, but the existence of a wise and beneficent force in the cosmos is a universal truth. Persian wisdom also recognizes the existence of a contrary power, whose operation appears ignorant and maleficent. But the ultimate triumph of wise beneficence is assured, and human beings are called to act with purpose and dedication in its cause.

Read more: The Wisdom of the East, the West, and the World


Ed Abdill – USA

Clearly all knowledge is useful, but some is more useful. Whatever we learn may be used to benefit others and ourselves. What we choose to study depends on what motivates us to study. If we are driven by personal desire, we may gain a great deal of knowledge, but it will not move us one inch on the spiritual path. If we are driven by a thirst for ultimate truth and a longing to help bring our fellow human beings to that truth, then we are motivated rightly. By using our power of discernment, we will choose the areas of study that will most effectively lead to that noble goal. We may choose to study the spiritual literature from the saints of humanity. We may even put to good use what we learn from studying mechanics, computer programming, science, history, art, and a host of other things.

Read more: Study

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