Theosophy as the Wisdom Religion, is the primeval source of all that is true in both the scientific and the religious realms of knowledge. It is not, as some have it, a synthetic medley of pre-existent divers religious ideas and practices. It is claimed for it, however, that it is the synthesis of philosophy, religion and science; that it is knowledge and therefore completely non-denominational and non-sectarian. Theosophy is in no sense dogmatic nor is it any kind of cult; it is concerned with Truth itself.
We must be clear about what is meant by religion in these foregoing contexts. We have suggested that a traditional knowledge of the laws and principles of Cosmos and man's place in it, has always been possessed by a few initiates into Nature's mysteries. An outline of much of this knowledge was made public, for the first time, in the early literature of the Theosophical Society.
This knowledge deals with the inner aspects of life and consciousness and treats of the very essence of being, of existence. These are the realms commonly held to be religious. They have to do with origins and absolutes, as well as with codes of ethics and morality.
To help make clear the difference between Theosophy - as esoteric philosophy - and popular religion, particularly the theology of the Christian Churches, a comparative table of a few salient points might be helpful.
1. God. The Supreme Being.
|1. Not a Being of any kind but the Absolute, the unknowable Is-ness or Be-ness, which itself never manifests nor suffers limitation in any way. Beyond the reach of thought, with no attributes of any kind.|
|2. God, Three in One,
Maker of Heaven and Earth.
2. The Deity of Manifest Existence, with inherent Duality of Positive and Negative. The idea of this duality together with its product or progeny, i.e. Father, Mother and Son, underlies the Trinities of all religions. Creation as we have seen is a transformation process according to Law.
3. God. The Creator.
|3. That from which metaphysics can derive existence at all levels, i.e. the spiritual, super-mental, mental, psychic and physical. The creative hierarchies of intelligent beings collectively.|
|4. God. The Lawgiver.||
4. The Law, inherent in all Nature, itself self-existent and self-regulating. nonymous with Deity. The Law of causation, cause and effect, balance, harmony, periodicity and progression.
|5. Man. The Sinner; Original Sin.||
5. The crown of Nature, the only Being in Cosmos with a constitution ranging through all the realms of being, from highest Spirit to lowest Matter who, as a potentially Divine Consciousness, Ego, suffers for long ages and in many bodies, the limitations of physical, psychic and mental existence.
|6. God. The Son, Saviour.||
6. The Divine Man. The Christos, (a Greek word used before the Christian era) the immortal reincarnating entity in man, itself 'omniscient, omnipotent and ubiquitous'. As man's personal lower self becomes purified and regenerate his consciousness can rise to these lofty levels, first very rarely, then intermittently, then permanently.
7. Man when regenerate becomes Christos, the fully enlightened One, one with his 'Father in Heaven'.
|8. After Death.||
8. No punishment; the period of ingestion of the 'spiritual' content of life's experience.
|9. Heaven.||9. Consciousness in the heavenly, compensative, subjective state of Devachan.|
|10. Hell.||10. Is on Earth, where all our karmic debts are paid, where in fact they were incurred by our misdeeds, unkind thoughts etc.|
|11. Prayer, Supplication and Praise.||11. Personal communication in secret with our Higher Self, our 'Father in Heaven'. This Self can grant no favours other than those earned by righteous living. Proper praise is a proper appreciation of life and our place in it; the joy of wholeness and simplicity.|
|12. Purgatory.||12. The state of consciousness of one dying, possibly prematurely, full of animal appetites, strong earthly ties, interests etc. which can no longer be satisfied. These desires sooner or later abate and unconsciousness supervenes.|
|13. Resurrection.||13. The opportunity for the Ego to live over and over again, in one personality after another, until human perfection is reached and there is no further need for immersion in physical existence, which is virtual death for the Ego.|
|14. Life Everlasting.||14. When the personal elements of man's nature are fully developed and purified, a fully conscious link with the Ego is permanently established. This is final redemption and virtually everlasting life.|
This comparative list could be extended but enough has been given to show how the esoteric philosophy explains in its terms the meaning of some of the more common religious ideas which have become distorted and debased by ages of theological dogmatism and argument. It is appreciated that the examples used are from Christian theology but similar explanations can be applied to other popular religious teachings.
Religion, to be real, must in some way include knowledge of Deity or God. In what way is it feasible to talk of such knowledge in the light of what has been said here? According to it man can only know Divinity in his own consciousness, by identification, inwardly sensed. To this extent then God is personal, private to him who has the experience. Personalization of God, as an entity, used as descriptions, with names and qualities, can only be figments of man's imagination, a projection of himself. It is in such human imaginings that Divinity becomes profaned and the subject of endless speculation, in which so often ordinary commonsense is violated. These speculations are the source of the ignorant superstitions concerning Deity giving rise to the many beliefs which have wrought such havoc in human affairs.
In Theosophy, as we have seen, there is nothing super-natural. Everything falls within the bounds of the One and the one Law. There can be nothing outside or above either of them. There is no such thing as super nature nor as a miracle. If a seeming miracle is performed it means that someone has learned the secrets of the sources and forces of nature and can manipulate them.
We have seen that man is complex and that his inner being is of great depth but so far for most of us this is virtually unknown. It is the realm of faculty and power. The higher faculties are the attributes of the spiritually developed man.
This development, this unfolding of the riches of his own higher nature only takes place at the instigation, and by the efforts of the personal man. The way to growth is through the efforts and lessons of life. That is what life is for. Some of us aspire to hasten our progress towards our fuller development. There are recognised methods for doing this. They all begin with the observance of the universally accepted ethical code. This is basically the same in all religions.
Men aspiring to spiritual advancement have found that the bringing of their minds and emotions under control is essential. When a degree of control has been established, the necessary quiet, inner conditions for consciousness to rise to Egoic levels begin to be attained. The Ego may then become awake to our waking consciousness, and a union, in its own time, can take place. This union is realised in the state of ecstasy of the yogi or the mystic. Not all of us can attain this high state in our present lives, but the feasibility of it can be recognised and we can live accordingly. We can accept responsibility for our present state of development and determine to do what we can to improve it.
This quiet inner state, of inner awareness, can be achieved by meditational exercises, or by prolonged devoted self-forgetful service. There is a way to suit all kinds of natures.
We are, in our inner being, gods. The realization of this elevates our thinking. We need to look no farther than our highest Ego, our own divine Self - one in essence with all other such Selves and the ONE SELF itself - for all the strength and power we need to support our efforts in this self-regenerative process. One of the lessons we must learn is that, whatever are the ideas in which we have been brought up, we cannot be saved by any agency outside of ourselves. Any such outside salvation by another, even if it were possible, would be a violation of the Law and of justice.
We have already said something on prayer but let us look more.
Does prayer work? Is it answered? Yes and no. First, prayer conditions him who prays. In so far as it produces the internal conditions necessary for the higher Self to speak to him, to affect his consciousness and behaviour, it does work.
The common kind of prayer is where we seek some benefit for ourselves or others. We may want to be relieved of suffering, we may want a loved one to recover from an illness, or to survive a battle, or for it to rain. Many will claim that such prayers are answered, and they may well seem to be. There is the possibility of the prayer being so intense and projected so powerfully that it affects the inner forces of nature responsive to human thought and will. Prayers of this kind seem to work the most often when they are motivated by strong feeling or powerful love. God did not answer them but the 'God' in man did. The supplicant with his or her own inherent ability, worked a 'miracle' by his own innate power.
Theosophy helps man to realise his full, truly divine human stature. It says he is not merely animalistic, with just a higher degree of intelligence. He is an essentially spiritual being, virtually immortal, of enormous potentiality but operating in physical life periodically, through a series of limiting vestures. But their limitations can be reduced by his living according to the Law, making the necessary efforts and slowly, life after life, conditioning them to be able to respond to the higher and finer forces of his spiritual being: redeeming them, in other words. Evolution, in this sense, is the purpose of life.
If mankind as a whole could realise this fact, all human personal and social problems would be on the way to solution. The political or governmental systems, in which we now place so much faith, would be shown to be quite secondary. When men have established truly human values and relationships within and between one another, and within and between their social and national groups, happiness and confidence will arise of themselves on the basis of understanding, unselfishness, love and wisdom - the attributes of Spirit manifesting in and through Man. This may sound Utopian but there is no other really satisfactory solution to the problems which arise from men trying to live together in the conditions pertaining on this planet at this time.
The signs of spiritual growth in man are responsibility and altruism, born of a realization of his place in the scheme of things and the part he must play. With these, gradually there comes a sense of freedom and self-forgetfulness in action - both bringing inner happiness. Altruism is born from a willingness to do what comes to hand to make ones contribution to the total well-being. As we grow, love becomes the motive for our actions, becomes our supreme guide and impulse. Compassion, it has been said, is the law of laws. Such is real religion - in practice.
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