THEOSOPHY - Modern Presentations
|| What Theosophy Is ||
We began with some very general statements about Theosophy and we asked some basic questions. We set out, and expanded a little on some basic propositions. We have had a look at the complex nature of man, universal law , the after death states and reincarnation, and at Theosophy in relation to some current religious ideas.
We hope we have presented some new thoughts and a fresh point of view. An attempt has been made to present Theosophy as knowledge, not as any matter of belief and certainly not of obligatory belief.
We may have succeeded in opening some doors of the mind which previously were shut tight or, at least, barely ajar. Some sense of freedom may have been conveyed; freedom from set ways of thinking and action, freedom to shift a viewpoint, to change even a cherished opinion, to sense that there is a vista of knowledge beyond anything we had imagined possible. Most significantly of all, we may now have a view, however indefinite and remote, of us, ourselves, as beings of such a stature as we never dreamed before - divine beings with divine powers, obscured only by the limitations of our present personal selves. We may perhaps see that these limitations are not for ever; that they can be transcended and that we can be free. We all have an unlimited, glorious future ahead of us, of a magnificence that we can now barely contemplate. In our present personalities we may be miserable sinners but in our real and true Selves no sin or its effects could ever be. The efforts of life eventually transmute the ignoble into illustrious nobility. This is the destiny for all of us if we accept the challenges of life and invoke our own indomitable wills and power. Nothing and no circumstance can withstand us in the long run. In the short term we may have to learn patience but we come to learn that our present predicament, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, is of our own making and it is not permanent. However uncomfortable, bitter, seemingly unendurable, it may be we can endure and learn from it, so that it does not have to be repeated.
But what of the questions we posed at the beginning? What of origins? Have we not seen that truly there are not any? Everything from worlds to weeds, from mosquitoes to men, are, and are as they are, as a result of what went before. They come and go according to ceaseless law. The pattern of what is to be is in Universal Mind and it was put there by what was, by what has been as the sum of all the pasts. Multitudes of lives bring it forth again and give it expression. They are the present creators, but they, in their turn, are creatures too. Creation is the coming and going of things according to eternal law and perpetual Motion. It is a process whereby things, substances and creatures are modified, changed. It is, as we have seen, an endless transformation process. What was has been transformed into what is. The original homogeneous Substance, the root of all substances, has become matter in all the kinds of it we know.
Where does our world come from? Its substances, its overall life consisting of the multitudinous hierarchies of lives - comprising its visible and invisible principles - come from Cosmos, having been used in, and on, previous similar globes. Its substances condense round a pre-existing force centre which, so to speak, puts it in its place in space. Its total nature and that of the life forms to inhabit it pre-exists as ideas, in Cosmic Mind, determined by previous aeons of life experience. At the end of every major cycle of activity of unimaginable duration, all is reabsorbed into, and becomes one again.
What is Life? It is postulated that the primordial Unity has two aspects symbolised, for the purpose of thought only, as abstract Space and abstract Motion. In the chain of causation these are said to reflect into primeval Substance and Spirit - still two aspects only of the ONE but this time the ONE in manifestation. Their progeny, however, is form imbued with energy or in human terms a body imbued with spirit, and the activity, arising from the informing by spirit of matter or form, is life. Further, it is this activity which gives rise to consciousness. Consciousness, the word being used in a very wide sense, is inseparable from living activity. In man all the internal activity of his body may not register in his brain consciousness but all the cells of his body are about their business, responding to stimuli of some sort all the time, until they die.
What is the nature of matter? We have seen how all substance derives from the one primeval Substance. When the processes of manifestation start, this homogenous, original, eternally self-existent stuff becomes atomic, differentiated. Each differentiation is stamped with characteristics brought over from previous aeons of being. There is an almost infinite variety of such characteristics - so the living constituents of living forms are born. The living forms are subject to the same processes of becoming; their patterns pre-existing in the memory of nature. We must also remember that all the substances comprising the constituents of living things are themselves lives: there is nothing that is not.
Whence the power that sustains universal activity? All power, and the various powers of nature, ultimately derive from the everlasting perpetual MOTION. It becomes forces and energies, again with different characteristics, as it descends through the realms of being, much as does substance. In fact it is said all force must have a 'substantial' base to be effective, even in the inner worlds.
Whence all natural law? It is inherent in everything, substance, force and form in nature. Everything, because of its elemental life, its living nature, is in its degree intelligent, responding to the pressures, the rhythms and forces of nature. The Law, embracing all laws, is the great process of Nature. We have seen some of its aspects. The Law, latently or actively, underlies all Creation and is inherent in it.
Is there a Cosmic purpose? No one has sensed or knows of an ultimate purpose but in observing the processes of nature it might seem to us that they are fulfilling some specific long or short term objective. This objective is part of the process of the unfoldment of the potentialities of the subjective, of Spirit; each thing manifesting something of Spirit, in its way and to a degree, at any given time. In big terms, as we have seen, the life now informing the mineral kingdom will move up, in some remote ages hence, to animate the vegetable kingdom. It is said that similarly, as a hierarchy, present mankind will become a superhuman hierarchy after a vast period of evolutionary time. And so the process goes on. It seems that apart from achieving graded stages of perfection, life is becoming more manifold by multiplication and that each unit on becoming self-conscious (achieved first in the man stage) then proceeds on a journey of expansion of consciousness. It then shares more and more of the larger consciousnesses above it. Man, for example, still retaining his individuality as a unit of consciousness (not as a being characterised by any limited personal qualities), merges by degrees into the Universal, until he is totally re-absorbed. We are told this is Nirvana; not, as some would have it total loss but total gain.
As to nature's plan, and whether we can help or hinder it? Enough has been said now for us to answer this ourselves. It is not our inevitable destiny to help it. We can temporarily hinder it, but the grand process is too vast for any man to stay it on its majestic way. His transgressions must only bring suffering but it is by this that he learns to co-operate eventually.
What is consciousness? We have seen this is a concomitant of life itself. We cannot say more.
Of man 's beginnings and endings we have seen that the successive personalities, the actors temporarily playing a part on the stage of life, come and go. They are incidents merely like days, eventful or otherwise, in the long, long life of the Ego, the real Self, the incarnating entity who must suffer for or enjoy all the characters he assumes in his long life. Of the nature of this Ego we, from our point of view of actor in our present part, be it a big or a little one, know virtually nothing but we have been told Egoic consciousness is 'a million fold more than that of the personality'. We also see that even this magnificent Ego is itself a unit in a vastly larger unit of Life about its mysterious activities on levels of being quite unimaginable to us. The vistas opened up to us are, to all intents and purposes, limitless in scope and endless time .
What is Divinity? Are we not seeing that the vast all-embracing WHOLE is Divine Being? It is literally that in which, and by reason of which, we live, and move, and have our being. We, individually, are totally of it and always, for ever and ever, inseparable from it. The Wisdom-Religion is the process by which we realise more and more our unity with It.
What happens when I die? Is there a God? We now at least have some ideas, if not knowledge, that are a far remove from the usual, common speculations or beliefs.
What is the point of suffering? It is nature's way of teaching. It not only teaches us of the law, and how incumbent it is upon us to abide by it, but it humanises us, softens our nature; through it we learn to sympathise, perhaps even to love.
Are scriptures significant? If now we can read them with new eyes and perhaps see, and hear with new ears what they are trying to tell us, they are. We must remember they were written by men. Many of them have been translated many times by those without new eyes and ears. They have certainly made mistakes, worse they have altered, omitted from, interpolated into, the text to suit current dogma, personal belief or opinion. But most are on an inspired base, reflecting by story or allegory maybe, something of the Great Teaching which sooner or later all men must learn and heed.
Are we passive passengers? We now know that man has free choice and the power to act within the limits of Nature and of the limitations he has imposed upon himself. These latter he can alter as he alters himself. Further, it is said that as mankind as a whole alters, so does and will Nature alter herself - his natural environment will change as he changes, and this brings us to our ultimate responsibility. Is it not clear now what it is? We have made ourselves what we are. Humankind is a creative hierarchy creating its own immediate and long term circumstances and environment. But humankind is the aggregate of all units comprising it, you and I; a living brotherhood, in fact. As we live to unfold our Divine Egoic natures, each of us singly, so the lot of all humanity changes. Each of us is the saviour, not only of ourselves, but of our race. We cannot be more responsible than to accept that that is so, and strive to live accordingly.
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THE SECRET DOCTRINE : 1888; The Theosophical Publishing Company, London; subtitle: The Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy; two volumes of some 1500 pages altogether.
A massive work of great erudition, some 1100 other works being referred to in the text. It outlines the vast scheme of knowledge of the nature and function of Cosmos available to mankind in the extensive world literature on the subject and adds some items of great significance, not previously given out. In spite of the work's extent and depth, H.P.B. says that in it only "a corner of the veil" was lifted. In her preface H.P.B. says, "The aim of this work may thus be stated: to show that Nature is not 'a fortuitous concurrence of atoms' and to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the Universe, etc. etc.", and that it, The Secret Doctrine, is as much as 20th century man can apprehend.
THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY : 1889; numerous editions about 250 pages; "Dedicated by H.P.B. to all her pupils that they may Learn and Teach in their turn".
This book covers the main aspects of the teaching as they affect mankind. She discusses among others the Wisdom-Religion, Occultism, Spiritualism, God and Prayer, the septenary Nature of Man, the After-death states, Reincarnation, the Complex Nature of Mind, Karma, etc. etc.; all this by way of question and answer.