Theosophy and the Theosophical Society
(A paper read before the Aryan T.S., New York, November 4, 1890.)
The Path, December, 1890
Underlying the Doctrines of Theosophy is one fundamental proposition, namely, “the essential Unity of all life and being.” Manifestation of life is differentiation of this unity, the purpose of differentiation is evolution, and the destiny of evolution is the return of all manifestation into its source and original unity.
Of the manifestation of life there are two phases, poles, or aspects: the descent of Spirit into matter and the ascent of matter into Spirit. The infinite variety of gradation in development between these two poles marks the degree of differentiation from the Unity, in its downward or upward course. This universal truth of the essential unity of all life and being throughout nature was the basis upon which the ideal undertaking was grounded of providing a vehicle for its dissemination; therefore the T. S. was founded for the purpose of establishing a practical working centre for the exposition of these doctrines, but foremost with the object of the amelioration of human affairs, to point out the identity of interest, the common source of origin, the relative position in life to the rest of nature, and the probable destiny of the human being in the grand scheme of evolution. Besides this primary purpose of thus forming the nucleus to a Universal Brotherhood of humanity, its other objects are to promote the study of Aryan and other Eastern Literatures, Religions, and Sciences, and to draw attention to and investigate unexplained laws of nature and the psychic powers of man.
Theosophy is not a new invention but the essential underlying truth of all philosophies; it is a body of doctrine in philosophy, science, and ethics, principally derived from the Eastern archaic sacred Theories, which were worked out by a brotherhood of devotees and initiates who used every method of scientific investigation known to us, as well as their own highly developed practises of observation, experiment, concentration, and meditation to reach the truth. They traced all phenomena by every possible means from their significance to their source, and by comparison of their independent searches and observations recorded their conclusions and accepted such results only as could stand the test of applicability and verification from every point and in every conceivable direction.
This slowly accumulating body of facts furnished the basis for these great universal doctrines, and the psychic development of these devotees and students gave them great power over nature and insight into the mystic side of the universe and man.
These doctrines were handed down from generation to generation since time immemorial, and were guarded by the most sacredly pledged disciples, who had devoted their whole lives to the development of their psychic and spiritual faculties. The reason why these doctrines had been so strenuously guarded from the profane and unripe is because the possession of their knowledge gives great power for use or abuse. It embraces the science of the finer forces in nature, their relation and correspondences in themselves, and the knowledge of their uses and application for the benefit or destruction of humanity.
Although this transcendental knowledge was accessible at all times to those who were ripe and who felt the craving for it strong enough to make the” unremitting sacrifice, it would be acquired only by those whose supreme intensity of excitement and enthusiasm made it possible in those times to incur the self-denial and renunciation of worldly concerns necessary to initiation. Nor is it any different now, and never will be, except that portions of the doctrine are given out from time to time, such as may be safely trusted to an advancing age, because to penetrate into the mystery of nature requires a state of the greatest purity and perfection, and this final perfection is not a gift to be expected from without, but is to be worked for by those who desire it.
It is often queried why this grand philosophy has existed for so long a time and yet so little of it has reached our all-conquering civilization.
This is due to the fact that our civilization has mainly occupied itself with material and intellectual progress, refusing to even recognize the superior faculties of intuition and man’s capability of spiritual culture. These higher faculties have been allowed to remain dormant during the race for material aggrandizement and personal recognition.
Though it was hoped that the mystery of life and the power over nature could be obtained in our time by mere intellectual development, very little indeed has been accomplished, but instead we find ourselves—as a result of misdirected energies—in the abyss of modern materialism.
The abolition alone of these tendencies, and the insight into the inability to find the secret into the mystery of the all-pervading and unerring law of nature by physical means, the abolition and destruction of these tendencies is the bridge over which alone we may arrive at the enlightened shore of transcendental wisdom.
At this present restless stage of discontent and the fruitless search for peace, the T. S. appeared with truly altruistic motives, reminding the perplexed age of the mistaken course it had taken in its illusion of separateness and in its denial of man’s better nature.
It is the aim or the T. S. to bring to the notice of those who are inclined to admit the spiritual nature of man and his progressive evolution, that on another plane of existence, a plane which partakes of a wider field of consciousness and which lies within the capability of development in every individual, that on that higher plane there is a spiritual unity, a universal brotherhood of mankind, and on that plane of being there is no separateness from homogeneous existence; and further that no permanent progress is possible through fostering the illusion of separateness, and that man’s true duty at all times and in all circumstances is the love of his kind and the preservation of harmony around him. It is with the endeavor to learn something concerning our position in life and our spiritual relation to each other that we come together weekly, some of us daily, to exchange our observations and experiences.
It is premised that man is the product of an advanced stage of evolution, which is demonstrated by his possession of the more developed faculties of perception and consciousness compared with other organisms, his capability of analysis of physical nature, his inherent sense of moral duty, and his aspirations to know his relative position in cosmic evolution.
The spiritual unity of mankind is the basis of our moral life. Regard, consideration, love, kindness are qualities which are exhibited and practiced intuitively during the greatest part of daily life; the voice of conscience which meddles in every thought and act is indicative of a brotherhood founded upon the sympathy of man for man, which is a fundamental fact of human nature.
When we observe the great intelligence and justice with which the minutest object in nature is governed, we can draw inference by analogy and apply to the human being. The same conditions prevail; the great universality of government, embracing all and moving all with inexorable certainty in obedience to one law and design, the interdependence of everything, suggest the unity of all.
Unity of life and being means brotherhood of all the units which make up that unity of life and being, and it is the conscious realization of this unity, the universal, all-pervading principle of brotherhood, that lends a basis and meaning to the phenomena of life and existence.
Besides, the degree of relative brotherhood of mankind to itself must be closer than to anything else, because humanity is composed of one kind of units (more or less), and in the same stage or degree of development, at least as compared to other kingdoms in nature.
This essential unity of all being, however, becomes only realizable in the ratio in which consciousness on a higher plane is awakened, and this superior consciousness regards our present conception of all separateness apart from the whole as an illusion, because there it is no separation in reality; it only appears so to us on our present plane of consciousness. Therefore this tenet, although it is a fact in nature, is not so easily demonstrable on physical lines, because the problem itself transcends perception on this lower physical plane; in other words, it cannot be seen or heard, felt, smelt, or tasted, nor sensed with any physical instrument; still it is a fact which is at once plausible by conceding to the human being spiritual life at all, and perfectly realizable to those who have penetrated beyond the veil which surrounds gross matter.
Although the consciousness beyond the veil of matter may be very limited for us at present, cultivation of the mystic side of our nature will open vistas undreamed of, and widen our consciousness.
For instance, the investigation of the significance of our consciousness during the dream state and that in dreamless sleep. Our ideal life is derived from the state of dreamless sleep.
During that time of the entire oblivion of our self-consciousness we are quite on another plane.
Intelligent and persistent scrutiny and searching into the dreamless sleep will soon reveal, first, the fact that it is a state of great purity, entirely uninfluenced by good or bad actions which we may have performed during the day; and second, that we receive ideal impulses during our daily life which come to our perception quite unawares and are, as we think, perfectly natural, but which are in reality reflections in the physical brain from the dreamless sleep.
Man leads a dual life even in the waking state. In every thought and deed is a dual aspect. The first and most pressing one in our day is that which concerns our personality, the second how it affects our relations with the world at large.
The process itself is so automaton-like that it eludes notice, but to these two aspects all our activities are subjected.
If the predilections of the personality predominate, the result will be correspondingly selfish; if, on the other hand, the ideal aspect is duly regarded, the act will be corresponding to and means better intuition. This latter is the ideal side of man’s dual life, a state of higher consciousness, the exploration of which will greatly expand the conception of the part man is playing in the drama of life, and that “Ideal Unity” or “Universal brotherhood of mankind” is a “fact” and the notion of separateness of humanity is an illusion.