Theosophical literature often contains terminology the average reader will not be familiar with, as the writings reaches through many ancient traditions, religions, philosophies and sciences and uses terms drawn from each. This can make theosophical writings seem a little intimidating or give us the idea that because we don’t understand the terms we’re not ready or capable of studying such things.
However, if we reflect on a few main points, we may come to see this vast array of mysterious terminology in another way.
1. Theosophical writings tend to explore ideas that go beyond the regular day-to-day use of the English speaking world, and so many theosophical authors found that there was and is a lack of adequate terms in the English language to express the subtle ideas they wished to discuss. The many religious and philosophical traditions of the world, however, had and have words that appropriately describe these subtle ideas. So these terms are naturally mysterious to all theosophical students, but slowly over time we begin to gain some understanding of what they mean.
2. One of the core purposes of the modern theosophical movement is to promote the comparative study of the world’s religions, philosophies and sciences, and so many theosophical authors purposely used language drawn from several of these even to describe the very same ideas, as this is a way of demonstrating that these systems have major similarities. A Theosophical author might use a term from Buddhism, one from Brahmanism, another from Plato, another from Egypt, one from the Norse tradition, and another from the Chaldeans, for example, all to describe one and the same idea. Thus, on the surface, the terminology may be much more intimidating than it actually is.
3. In the Secret Doctrine it is said that certain ancient writings used “purposely obscure phraseology” to describe certain ideas. One central reason for this is that theosophical writings aren’t interested in providing the reader with complete and logically described ideas that the reader is then left to either accept as truth or reject as fiction; instead, theosophical writings often use this purposely obscure phraseology in order to encourage the readers to think for themselves and to really work out the ideas in their own mind. An individual who works out an idea themselves has learned much more than an individual who merely memorized another person’s idea and either accepted it or not. So we can see that, in a sense, there is design in using terms and phrases that may seem confusing at first.
With all of this said, several theosophical writers, and teams of theosophical students, have endeavored to help us understand what some of these obscure terms mean by composing glossaries. We’ve assembled some of the finest theosophical glossaries here for students to use as a resource as their study. Not only with these glossaries help when studying theosophical literature, they will help when studying any one of the several major religious and philosophic traditions of the world.
Here, then, are some resources for the aid of students: