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A FREE INTRO TO THEOSOPHY
Let’s Start With What Theosophy Is
The actual word Theosophy is a Greek derivative meaning Divine Wisdom but that doesn’t mean much to the enquirer.
In the Theosophical Society the word has a more specific meaning in relation to the work of Society co-founder Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and later writers. H P Blavatsky’s mission was to interpret Eastern Esoteric ideas for Western Society.
H P Blavatsky’s remit was to describe a scheme for the existence of the Universe and to define man’s place within that scheme. Her remit also encompassed study of the hidden dimensions of man and his potential and also the Laws of Nature.
But It’s Not a Religion
H P Blavatsky presented her work as ideas for consideration and not as dogma. This format has been upheld by the Theosophical Society and everything is negotiable.
Members of the Theosophical Society are simply required to agree with its 3 objects (outlined below)
How The Theosophical Society Began
It all began in
The Theosophical Society was founded by
The headquarters were subsequently moved to their present location in Adyar, India.
The Secret Doctrine
H P Blavatsky wrote a voluminous amount of Theosophical Literature but The Secret Doctrine, published 1888, is the big one she is remembered for, and the major reference work for Theosophists. The book is divided into two sections, Cosmogenesis (the coming into being of the Universe) and Anthropogenesis (the coming into being of Mankind).
The Secret Doctrine is usually a rather difficult work for beginners to tackle and we have provided some material on this site which should make the way in to Theosophy much easier. But please don’t give on the idea of reading The Secret Doctrine, you will probably move on to it when you feel you are finding your feet with Theosophy.
A Quick Tour of Theosophical Ideas
The overview of Theosophical ideas offered her was written by mainstream Theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater. The work is divided into short soundbites and Leadbeater has an accessible journalistic style.
An Outline of Theosophy
Charles Webster Leadbeater
The Rationale for Theosophy
A Rough Outline of Theosophy by Annie Besant is a concise round up of Theosophical principles which also examines the claims made by Theosophy. In addition, Annie Besant summarizes the Theosophical position and approach;
“We, who are Theosophists, allege that there exists a great body of doctrine philosophical, scientific and ethical, which forms the basis of, and includes
all that is accurate in, the philosophies, sciences, and religions of the ancient and modern worlds.”
Karma and Reincarnation
Theosophy postulates that Reincarnation or the cycle of Death and Rebirth is an integral part of our evolution and that we will all ultimately evolve beyond the need for further lives. For most of us this is rather a long way off but in the meantime we can help ourselves along and make the process a whole lot easier by studying the subject and striving to exercise some personal control over our destiny. We have more control than we might at first think.
In each life we have something to learn and our teacher is the law of cause and effect or Karma. Karma is a correcting process that pervades every level of existence without which the Universe would simply be unworkable.
In Life and Life After Death, Annie Besant covers the mechanics of the cycle of death and rebirth and what it means to the end user. She outlines how the period between physical lives is a full programme of events which can be difficult or easy depending on the life previously lived and gives encouragement and warnings regarding the Karmic consequences of our actions.
Man’s Seven Principles
If you are reading this then you will probably at least accept the possibility that there is more to us than our physical bodies.
Theosophy postulates that we have seven
principles, sometime referred to as bodies.
Here is an outline of them with their Sanskrit names and a brief description of their function.
Atma – The piece of the divine in everybody sometime referred to as the Divine Spark.
Buddhi – Our individual spiritual identity. This acts as a vehicle for the Atma
Manas – The Mind principle divided into
Higher Manas – spiritual ideals
Lower Manas – concrete and rational thought.
There is a bridge between the two called the Antahkarana. This is represented as Jacob’s Ladder in the Christian Bible.
The Mortal & Immortal Principles
Atma, Buddhi and higher Manas form the immortal part of man. The four principles below are dumped at the end of your physical life and you get new ones for your next life.
Kama – The desire principle
Prana – The life energy principle
Linga Sharira – The model body or template for your physical body.
Sthula Sharira – Physical body – we are all familiar with this one.
The sevenfold constitution of man is covered in depth by the following articles;
The Theosophical concept of evolution is very different from that of Charles Darwin who focused principally on the physical and mental development of ourselves and the animal kingdom and the physical development plant kingdom.
The Theosophical model of evolution is very complex and far reaching and a basic description is given here to give new enquirers a handle on the subject.
Theosophy postulates that everything in the universe is evolving but to simplify the explanation, the description here is limited to the evolution of humanity and our planet.
The Earth is evolving just as we are and as we are part of our planet, our evolution and the Earth’s evolution are inseparable and interdependent. Theosophists refer to this interdependence of Earth and human evolution as “Rounds and Races”
The Earth evolves through cosmic eras known as Rounds made up of smaller cosmic eras known as Globes.
The term globe refers both to the Earth that we recognize and six currently dormant companion Globes which function on other planes of nature. These Globes are known as the Planetary Chain or Chain of Globes.
A driving force composed of spiritual entities known as the Lifewave passes through each Globe of the Chain one at a time. This tour of the Globes is known as a Planetary Round. Our spiritual entities are part of the Lifewave and we are on the fourth Globe of the Fourth Round.
Seven Rounds or Tours of the Globes complete the cycle known as a Planetary Manvantara. The Earth Chain and the Lifewave then go into a period of rest known as the Planetary Pralaya.
(There are smaller Pralayas between each Globe and each Round)
Humanity evolves through mass reincarnations known as Root Races. There are seven Root Races per Globe and we are the fifth on the current Globe.
In each phase of evolution there is something to learn or develop.
This is a very basic outline and to move forward with this topic here are W Q Judge’s article “Rounds and Races” and “The Planetary Chains” by C W Leadbeater in which the subject is covered in much more depth.
For more information on the Theosophical model of Evolution here is a link to a website dedicated to the subject.
Involution and Evolution
(The Descent into Matter)
This explanation is applied to Human Evolution but please note that everything in the Universe is evolving on the same principle.
Theosophy postulates that evolution is spiritual as well as physical whereas Darwin just dealt with the physical.
We start out as Spiritual Entities but you don’t get any experience for your evolution if you remain spirit. Spirit can’t get its hands dirty so you need a vehicle and in our case this is a physical body.
Spirit effectively descends into matter in the form of the human body it enters and then having gained experience (hopefully) will then rise out of it. The general idea is for us to evolve by continually dropping down into matter (taking physical form) and then coming back up again. This process is known as Involution and in Theosophy this is an integral part of evolution.
Of course progress will be made and this is on an upward spiral in which although we descend into matter, both our Spiritual Entities and even the physical bodies we inhabit will slowly evolve.
Involution and Planetary Rounds
The progress of the Lifewave through the Chain of Globes begins with passage through three increasingly more physical Globes to our own, which is the most physical of all the Globes, operating on the most physical cosmic plane. The Lifewave will then move up through three less physical Globes to complete the Round.
In “The Earth Chain”, W Q Judge explains the descent into matter of both the Earth and Humanity as an integral component of the evolutionary process.
The Moon is our Parent
Theosophy maintains that prior to engaging in its journey through the Earth Chain of Globes, the Lifewave completed the process with the Moon. The Moon like our Earth has a Chain of Globes and the passage of the Lifewave has now completed its cycle. The Moon we can now see is the moribund shell of the equivalent Globe to our own which operated on the same plane of nature.
W Q Judge covers the subject of the Lifewave’s passage from the Moon in “The Earth Chain” (link above) and also gives an excellent explanation in
“On Evolution” in response to a question from an enquirer.
A Word About Sanskrit
A brief look at Theosophical writings will reveal that Theosophy uses Sanskrit terms to describe many of its concepts
Theosophists have good business and esoteric reasons for using Sanskrit terms. Sanskrit is not just a language in the sense of verbal communication, it has other dimensions and attributes that go far beyond practical everyday language.
Sanskrit is the ancient religious, philosophical and scientific language of India through which learning has been handed down in written form since at least 1000 BCE. Before the written form arrived, Sanskrit must have been the basis of a phenomenal oral tradition. Despite being the most successful world language, English as we can understand it only goes back about as far as the works of John Skelton 1525ish.
By its esoteric nature and rarified use, Sanskrit has also been protected from distortion and pollution by other languages. English has the problem that some words vary in meaning around the world.
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