WHAT IS THEOSOPHY?
The beginner, or even one who has spent some years studying it, will sooner or later be asked what Theosophy is, and have difficulty in giving a meaningful succinct answer. This difficulty arises because Theosophy covers an enormously wide field of knowledge. Without much explanation it is virtually impossible to see what Theosophy is.
The older student will have a fairly clear idea of what Theosophy means to him. This, coupled with a strong feeling, makes the subject he is studying of extraordinary significance: 'I could not now imagine my life without Theosophy. It would be meaningless'. 'Meaningless would of course be relative as his life in terms of all ordinary things and experience. His Theosophy relates it to a different order of existence, a grander, bigger, deeper, potent inner world to which his consciousness gradually awakens. To the layman with no knowledge of H.P. Blavatsky's unique achievement in making Theosophy available she would just be another author. What she propounded would have been her personal view of things. She is just one amongst an army of religio-philosophical writers.
The great story is set against a background of myths, fairy-tales and stories of great Beings, some of whom have become legendary in folklore, etc., seemingly purely fictional figures, albeit maybe with some remarkable qualities peculiar to these mythical folk. They exhibit courage, unbelievable endurance, faithfulness, righteousness, single-minded perseverance, superior wisdom, and often great powers to work miracles, perform magic.
There are also communities of people who made a study of the inner worlds, the hinterland behind the realm of physical existence. These societies were secret, i.e. membership of them was obtainable only after certain tests had been passed. Literature containing at least the theory of what went on in these secret institutions grew up. It told of the origins of the universe, its present inner nature, what forces worked it, how Nature manifests in her kingdoms all the varieties of life and so on. These subjects comprised the so-called Esoteric Sciences. The principal object of their studies was man. Whence came he with all his characteristics, his qualities, his powers, and so on? Everything, including man, is on an evolutionary journey towards a goal which included the development of his mental principle, his cognitive faculties generally and his 'spiritual' powers leading to an ultimate perfect state.
All these avenues of knowledge comprised a vast comprehensive whole with many branches. In the East these subjects had been studied in depth for many generations. In the West the various systems had become as the branches of a great tree of knowledge, each with its own nomenclature, literature, practices and so on. As with so many things, the pure stream of knowledge in each had become overlaid by speculations, superstitions, incorrect teachings and so on. Often they were practised for selfish reasons. In this way they became polluted: they lost their purity.
Another tradition is that of a Brotherhood of Beings who, by many lifetimes of strenuous effort, self-training and sacrifice, have discovered the secrets of Nature's inner workings, and have become as co-workers possessed of her powers. Latterly they have become known as Masters of the Wisdom, High Initiates in the true Mysteries, Adepts of the Great Magical Arts, the Compassionate ones, and so on. They are in effect men who have completed their earthly development but who remain as men in physical bodies on this earth to do what they can in accordance with natural law to aid human progress on its long journey to perfection.
These beings are the fruit of a mainstream of knowledge embracing all the several branches - this knowledge in its fullness is Theosophy. Two of these Great Beings, two Masters, decided that humanity might have advanced far enough at the end of the nineteenth century to be able to apprehend something of their great Science. They decided to try to make some of this knowledge publicly available, much of it for the very first time in history.
In 1874 these Masters contrived a meeting between Mme H.P. Blavatsky and Col. H.S. Olcott who had been in the military services in the U.S.A. At that time he was investigating some extraordinary spiritualistic happenings at the homestead of the Eddy family in Vermont, New England. The consequence of this meeting was the founding of the Theosophical Society.
In 1874 Mme Blavatsky (H.P.B. as she is commonly called had started to write a great work, published a year or two later as Isis Unveiled. This was an attempt to tell the world at large that there was this inner hinterland to all physical existence and that it had very many ramifications into normal existence. It explained much of the obscure writings from members of the Mystery Schools. It was a very wide survey but in some depth. Several Masters of the Wisdom had a hand in the writing of it. A description of the remarkable happenings during its writing is written up in Olcott's Old Diary Leaves. Isis Unveiled was the first outpouring from H.P.B. of a tremendous number of articles and so on during the years up to 1888 when her magnum opus The Secret Doctrine was published. The writing of this took three or four years during which H.P.B. was sometimes very ill indeed with great suffering. On two or three occasions the Masters patched up her body to enable her to complete this great work.
In The Secret Doctrine much of the knowledge which had been given out piecemeal in Isis and later articles was to a large extent systematized with much fuller explanations. It was also illustrated by an immense amount of material from world religions, the great philosophers, scientists and so on. In this way elements of the Ancient Wisdom as esoteric knowledge was directly related to corresponding aspects of traditional knowledge available through extant literature. It was a massive exposition of Esoteric Science itself - Theosophy.
It is the science of life, the science of ever-becoming which relates man individually
to the whole cosmic scene at all levels of his being. Theosophy is in this sense
a knowledge of the nature and processes of Cosmos (Nature) itself. In this definition,
however, it must never be forgotten that man plays a critical part in this process
of Life's ever-becoming. It is this realization in consciousness of the immediacy
of relationship between man and the whole field of being that in personal terms
enables an individual human being to feel part of the whole process. For everyone
who achieves that realization it becomes for him Theosophy.