Point Loma edition 1993
Blavatsky Trust edition 2010
There is a tradition throughout the world of a Golden Age, a time when there were Divine Teachers instructing a young humanity in the skills and knowledge necessary for its survival and development. It was a time when the Gods moved among men, when there were heroes who performed mighty deeds of daring and endurance, when there were saints and prophets, magicians and wise men. Much of this tradition is preserved in folk-lore, in legends and fairy-stories which fire the imagination. While we know that the tales are merely tales, we recognize an underlying truth beneath the fiction of the story. We instinctively admire the virtues and the heroic qualities of the principal characters, adopting them as ideals and seeking to imitate them, in imagination if not in act. Yet the question may suggest itself: is there indeed the possibility, for the ordinary individual, of becoming other than ordinary? - of developing qualities and powers similar to those of the heroes and saints? - of acquiring the secret knowledge possessed by the magicians and wise men of the tales of our childhood?
The universality of the traditions of folk-lore suggest that the popular stories are the cloak of a profound science, a genuine knowledge of Nature and her laws. The hero attains his goal by obedience to the conditions imposed upon him, persevering in his quest through the utmost trials and temptations. Similarly, the one who would penetrate the secrets of Nature has to conform himself to Nature's own laws, developing in understanding and moral strength as he commits himself to the one-pointed pursuit of his goal.
This book is written for those in whom the desire to know has awakened and who are prepared to make the necessary effort, intellectual and moral, required for the treading of the ancient but ever-present way. The Wise Ones who have trodden that way have left us all the information we need for the undertaking. Their instructions include rules of conduct for everyday living, warnings about the dangers and difficulties that will surely be
encountered, and detailed information about the nature of man - our nature - and his potentialities.
While much of the teaching has necessarily remained secret, in order to preserve its purity and to prevent its abuse, enough has always been available in the Scriptures of the great religions and in the writings of mystics and enlightened philosophers for those who have earnestly sought to respond to the call of the inner life. In the 19th century, however, because of the threat posed by materialistic science to the spiritual evolution of humanity, some parts of the secret teaching were for the first time made public through the theosophical movement and in particular through the writings of H.P.Blavatsky.
On the title-page of her encyclopaedic work, The Secret Doctrine, Mme Blavatsky describes it as "the synthesis of science, religion and philosophy", a description that indicates the all-embracing nature of Theosophy, which is Occult Science. "The Secret Doctrine", she writes (referring here to the archaic tradition), "was the universally diffused religion of the ancient and prehistoric world". Secret Doctrine (I xxxiv, I 18, I 56) Yet Theosophy is not a religion in any sectarian sense, for it is not a belief-system, nor can its origins be traced to any particular teacher. Founders of religion, she states further, "were all transmitters, not original teachers. They were the authors of new forms and interpretations, while the truths upon which the latter were based were as old as mankind".Secret Doctrine (I xxxvi, I 20, I 58) For Theosophy is knowledge (sophia) - "the last word of possible human knowledge" The Key to Theosophy -1,7 - embracing the universe in its totality, that is, Nature visible and invisible.
Just as the physical sciences learn more and more about external nature by the development of new instruments and techniques of observation and experiment, so Occult Science has arrived at the knowledge of the facts of existence by the development, in the investigators themselves, of the requisite faculties. These investigators, the great Adepts recognized in every tradition, had
developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic and spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions - so obtained as to stand as independent evidence - of other adepts, and by centuries of experience. Secret Doctrine (I 273, I 294, I 316)
In insisting that Occult Science is not a body of hypothesis but "knowledge based on observation and experience", Mme Blavatsky writes further:
The methods used by our scholars and the students of psycho-spiritual sciences do not differ from those of students of the natural and physical sciences ... Only our fields of research are on two different planes, and our instruments are made by no human hands, for which reason perchance they are only the more reliable. The retorts, accumulators, and microscopes of the chemist and naturalist may get out of order; the telescope and the astronomer's horological instruments may get spoiled; our recording instruments are beyond the influence of weather or the elements. Key to Theosophy, 87
The path to enlightenment, which is the path to direct knowledge, is a common feature of the great Scriptures and mystical writings of all cultures. Under various disguises, it is the subject of myths and legends and is transmitted in the simplest of fairy-tales. It is the way of self transformation, beginning with the conscious determination to set out, imperfect as one knows oneself to be, towards the goal of human perfection and the realization of "the deific powers in man and the possibilities contained in nature" Mahatma Letters (2,2)
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