The Teachings of Theosophy on the Nature of the Divine Absolute Reality
There are a number of technical Sanskrit terms used in Theosophy which have at times been a source of confusion for some, as regards their actual meaning and relation to one another. Some of these terms are Parabrahm, Brahman, Mulaprakriti, Akasha, and Svabhavat. It is hoped that this article will help to make things clearer and simplify some of the high metaphysics and philosophy, as well as providing an overview and explanation of how Theosophy views, understands, and talks about the Divine.
In the “Theosophical Glossary” H.P. Blavatsky tells us that—
* SVABHAVAT is “the world-substance and stuff, or rather that which is behind it – the spirit and essence of substance … From it all nature proceeds and into it all returns at the end of the life-cycles. … it is the plastic essence of matter.”
* MULAPRAKRITI is (literally) “‘the root of Nature’ (Prakriti) or [root of] Matter … undifferentiated substance … The Parabrahmic Root … Akasha.”
* PARABRAHM is “The Supreme Infinite Brahman. ‘Absolute’ – the attributeless, the secondless reality. The impersonal and nameless universal PRINCIPLE.”
* AKASHA is “the subtle supersensuous spiritual essence which pervades all space; the primordial substance … the Universal Space in which lies inherent the eternal Ideation of the Universe … and from which radiates the First Logos.”
* BRAHMAN is “the impersonal, supreme and uncognisable Principle of the Universe from the essence of which all emanates, and into which all returns … is incorporeal, immaterial, unborn, eternal, beginningless and endless. It is all-pervading, animating the highest god as well as the smallest mineral atom.”
Add to this the words of the Master Koot Hoomi in “The Mahatma Letters” that “The One reality is Mulaprakriti (undifferentiated Substance) – the ‘Rootless root’,” and HPB’s own emphatic spoken words transcribed in “The Secret Doctrine Commentaries” that “Akasha is a perfectly homogeneous thing. It is the rootless root of all, it is Mulaprakriti, it is the rootless root of Nature, that which is perfectly unknown to us,” and the matter is solved, it becoming perfectly clear that according to the Esoteric Doctrine of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, Akasha, Mulaprakriti, Svabhavat, Parabrahm, and Brahman are all one and the same “Thing.”
Regardless of whatever particular name or term is being used at any given time, it is all referring to the Absolute, the Infinite, the ONE Supreme Ultimate Reality.
Adi Shankaracharya, the formulator and codifier of the Advaita Vedanta branch of non-dualistic Hindu philosophy, wrote in his commentary on the Brahmasutras, “Brahman is the spiritual cause since there is no other spirit, and It is also the material cause since there is no other material.” In “The Secret Doctrine,” HPB explains, “The root philosophy of both Advaita and Buddhist scholars is identical, and both have the same respect for animal life, for both believe that every creature on earth, however small and humble, ‘is an immortal portion of the immortal matter’ – for matter with them has quite another significance than it has with either Christian or materialist – and that every creature is subject to Karma.”
Thus everything that we see around us is – in its essence – an “immortal portion of the Immortal Matter.” HPB first uses this phrase in “Isis Unveiled,” when quoting from the French writer Louis Jacolliot who had described a conversation he had had in India with a certain Hindu priest. Jacolliot asked him what his views were on God, whereupon “He answered us, smiling: ‘Aham eva param Brahma’ – I am myself a god. ‘What do you mean by that?’ ‘I mean that every being on earth, however humble, is an immortal portion of the immortal matter’.”
The exact same concept is expressed by the Master K.H., who describes every objectively manifested being and thing as “Children of the Akasha.” To quote again from a particularly beautiful passage in “The Mahatma Letters” – “Look around you and see the myriad manifestations of life, so infinitely multiform; of life, of motion, of change. What caused these? From what inexhaustible source came they, by what agency? Out of the invisible and subjective they have entered our little area of the visible and objective. Children of Akasha, concrete evolutions from the ether, it was force which brought them into perceptibility and Force will in time remove them from the sight of man.”
Over the years, ignorant critics and careless readers have taken certain statements of the Master K.H. and used them to accuse the Masters (and the teachings of Theosophy) of being materialistic and atheistic. For example, the Master made such statements in his letters as, “Matter we know to be eternal,” “We believe in MATTER alone,” “boundless eternal matter,” and “When we speak of our One Life we also say that it penetrates, nay is the essence of every atom of matter; and that therefore it not only has correspondence with matter but has all its properties likewise, etc. – hence is material, is matter itself.”
The “matter” he is talking about is not physical objective matter but rather the unseen subjective Root-Matter. And this is exactly what is meant in Eastern esoteric philosophy by Akasha/Mulaprakriti/Svabhavat. The Sanskrit word “Mulaprakriti” literally means “root matter.” This is the “immortal matter” mentioned above. As HPB says in “The Secret Doctrine,” “The matter of the Eastern philosophers is not the ‘matter’ and Nature of the Western metaphysicians.”
The oldest of the six schools of Hindu philosophy is the Samkhya philosophy of Kapila, the central teaching of which is the eternal and ultimate nature of Matter, as in Mulaprakriti (the unconditioned, unmanifested Root-Matter) rather than Prakriti (conditioned, manifested, objective matter). On the surface it might seem that the views of the Mahatmas in this regard are identical to the Samkhya teachings but actually they are not, as there are some important differences between the two, despite some obvious similarities. Swami Sivananda explains in his excellent commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita that the Samkhya maintains that Matter and Spirit are eternally distinct and separate from one another, whereas the Vedanta philosophy asserts that they are actually ultimately ONE in their eternal essence because ALL IS ONE and the Eternal Reality is Non-Duality, which is what “Advaita” literally means.
In contrast with the Samkhya philosophy, Theosophy teaches that Spirit and Matter are not two different essences but are the two different states of the ONE Essence. And although that “One Divine Essence” is really both indescribable and undefinable, It can be thought of and best summed up under the terms of:
* Abstract SPACE
* Abstract DURATION (i.e. Eternity)
* Abstract MATTER
* Abstract MOTION
This is how the Mahatmas and Madame Blavatsky express it. In their “Cosmological Notes,” the Master Morya and Master Koot Hoomi list these terms of Space, Duration, Matter, and Motion and write, “It is all these and yet one, this the Universe manifested and unmanifested and there is nothing else in the Universe.” Using the Tibetan terms they say again, “Zhi gyu (cosmic matter,) Thog (space), Nyug (duration), Khor wa (motion), all one.”
In “The Secret Doctrine” – which the Master K.H. stated was the “triple production” of both himself and the Master Morya with their “direct agent” and “brother” HPB (see the article Who wrote The Secret Doctrine?) – we read, “The One Eternal Element, or element-containing Vehicle, is Space, dimensionless in every sense; co-existent with which are – endless duration, primordial (hence indestructible) matter, and motion – absolute “perpetual motion” which is the “breath” of the “One” Element. This breath, as seen, can never cease, not even during the Pralayic eternities.”
The Proem to “The Secret Doctrine” includes the statement that, “It is the ONE LIFE, eternal, invisible, yet Omnipresent, without beginning or end, yet periodical in its regular manifestations, between which periods reigns the dark mystery of non-Being; unconscious, yet absolute Consciousness; unrealisable, yet the one self-existing reality; truly, “a chaos to the sense, a Kosmos to the reason.” Its one absolute attribute, which is ITSELF, eternal, ceaseless Motion, is called in esoteric parlance the “Great Breath,” which is the perpetual motion of the universe, in the sense of limitless, ever-present SPACE. That which is motionless cannot be Divine.”
A few pages later it is revealed that Parabrahm is this Infinite Abstract Space and that Mulaprakriti is one and the same as – inseparable from – Parabrahm. Mulaprakriti is “undifferentiated and eternal,” it is the “unmanifested primordial matter,” it is “the eternal Root of THAT.” Later, in answering questions from Theosophists about the teachings in “The Secret Doctrine,” HPB told them, “In the occult catechism it is asked: “what is the thing which always is, which you cannot imagine as not ‘being,’ do what you may?” The answer is – Space. For, there may not be a single man in the universe to think of it, not a single eye to perceive it, not a single brain to sense it, but still space is – and you cannot make away with it.” Yes, even when the universe reaches the end of its life cycle and ceases to exist, Space will still exist, as infinite abstract Space, for Space is not only eternal but is eternity itself. “Space as an abstraction is endless … Space exists there where there is nothing and must exist in full vacuum as elsewhere.”
If you can form at least some small conception in your consciousness of a perfect eternal unity of abstract Space, abstract Duration, abstract Matter, and abstract Motion, then you will have begun to grasp the Theosophical conception of the Divine, the Ultimate Reality. It is to be admitted, however, that it is almost entirely beyond our present limited human consciousness. The Masters speak of IT as “the One Life, the One Law, the One Element.” It is absolute, infinite EXISTENCE Itself. There is nothing but That. All is That and That is all. It is pure eternal Spirit and pure eternal Matter; one and the same. The matter we can see, sense, and touch around us is not pure eternal Matter but is the objective, physical, temporary matter of the manifested universe. Yet underlying all of that matter is the pure eternal Matter (or Mulaprakriti, Akasha, etc.) and underlying all consciousness and everything subjective in the manifested universe is pure eternal Spirit (or Parabrahm, Brahman, etc.).
It makes no difference whether we prefer to speak of the Ultimate as Parabrahm, Brahman, Mulaprakriti, Akasha, Svabhavat, Adi-Buddha, Ein Soph, or whatever…all these terms refer to one and the same “Thing,” the one and only “Thing,” the Causeless Cause and Rootless Root, poetically described in the Rig Veda as “the Only One, other than which there nothing ever has been.”
It is, in the words of “The Secret Doctrine,” “the One homogeneous divine SUBSTANCE-PRINCIPLE, the one radical cause. … It is called “Substance-Principle,” for it becomes “substance” on the plane of the manifested Universe, an illusion, while it remains a “principle” in the beginningless and endless abstract, visible and invisible SPACE. It is the omnipresent Reality: impersonal, because it contains all and everything. Its impersonality is the fundamental conception of the System. It is latent in every atom in the Universe, and is the Universe itself.”
But is this God?
HPB says in “Isis Unveiled” that it would be both childish and absurd to describe or refer to the One Essence as “God.” In all the thousands of pages of her writings, over a period of just over 15 years, the word “God” hardly ever appears at all. She does at times use the term “Deity,” which to the minds of most of us is a synonym for “God,” but she stresses that she uses that term simply to refer to the One Infinite Divine Life, which has been the subject of this article: “Deity is not God. It is NOTHING, and DARKNESS. It is nameless, and therefore called Ain-Soph – ‘the word Ayin meaning nothing’.” Plus, “all those who sought to give a name to the incognizable Principle have simply degraded it. Even to speak of Cosmic Ideation – save in its phenomenal aspect – is like trying to bottle up primordial Chaos, or to put a printed label on ETERNITY.”
When she says that the Divine is “nothing” and “darkness” or speaks of it as “the Unknown Darkness,” she is not saying that It does not exist, nor that It is “Darkness” in the sense of something evil. By “nothing” she means that It is “No Thing,” not a thing of any kind, not a Being or Entity of any kind (she calls it “the absolute Non-Entity”), and not anything that we can adequately or accurately conceive of or comprehend in any way. In the highermost part of our being, in our essential nature, we are That but until we re-become That in consciousness It cannot help but remain as “darkness” (i.e. unfathomable) to our finite perceptions, although really it is Absolute LIGHT, as HPB also says many times.
Her use of the term “Darkness” when speaking of the Absolute is therefore perfectly philosophical and reasonable. It is only Christian critics who – being so filled with fear of “the devil,” the “Prince of Darkness” they insist upon believing in and having no comprehension whatsoever of spiritual philosophy or allegorical symbolism – have ignorantly condemned Madame Blavatsky for speaking of “Infinite Deity” as “Darkness.” Perhaps they forget that their own Bible clearly declares that “darkness surrounds the pavilion” of God, “who has His hiding place in darkness.”
This same symbolic phraseology is also found in the Upanishads, such as in the Chandogya Upanishad where the individual liberated from Samsara, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, jubilantly proclaims, “From the Divine Dark to the manifest to the Divine Dark I pass again. As a horse shakes free its mane, I have shaken off all evil. Freeing myself from the bonds of birth and death as the moon escapes from Rahu’s mouth, I have attained the pure realm of Brahman; I have attained the pure realm of Brahman. Brahman is my home. I shall not lose it. Truly I shall not be lost again.”
So HPB and the Masters are obviously not atheistic but they are thoroughly nontheistic, the subtle and important difference between the two being that the atheistic view is that nothing divine or spiritual exists at all, whereas the nontheistic view is that the divine and spiritual most definitely and undoubtedly exists but that there is nothing in existence which can be described or thought of as “God.”
Buddhism and Jainism are thoroughly nontheistic religions and the esoteric teachings of Hinduism are also nontheistic, although the exoteric and popular Hinduism certainly isn’t.
The Master Koot Hoomi writes in the famous Letter #10 of “The Mahatma Letters” – “Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God. … Our doctrine knows no compromises. It either affirms or denies, for it never teaches but that which it knows to be the truth. Therefore, we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists. We know there are planetary and other spiritual lives, and we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal. Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law … The word “God” was invented to designate the unknown cause of those effects which man has either admired or dreaded without understanding them, and since we claim and that we are able to prove what we claim – i.e. the knowledge of that cause and causes we are in a position to maintain there is no God or Gods behind them. The idea of God is not an innate but an acquired notion, and we have but one thing in common with theologies – we reveal the infinite.”
There are many people who would like to cling on to the word “God” and to keep using it whenever they can, even if they don’t believe in any type of personal or anthropomorphic God. But That which we have been talking about throughout this article cannot be correctly thought of or referred to even as an “impersonal God.”
“There is…no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal,” says the Adept Teacher, also adding amongst many other things that “If people are willing to accept and regard as ‘God’ our ONE LIFE immutable and unconscious in its eternity they may do so and thus keep to one more gigantic misnomer. … We are not Adwaitees [adherents of the Advaita Vedanta], but our teaching respecting the one life is identical with that of the Adwaitee with regard to Parabrahm. And no true philosophically brained Adwaitee will ever call himself an agnostic, for he knows that he is Parabrahm and identical in every respect with the universal life and soul – the macrocosm is the microcosm and he knows that there is no God apart from himself, no creator as no being. Having found Gnosis we cannot turn our backs on it and become agnostics.”
In that letter, the Master K.H. even goes as far as to say that it is the Brotherhood’s “CHIEF aim” to deliver humanity from the belief in God and then “to teach man virtue for its own sake, and to walk in life relying on himself instead of leaning on a theological crutch, that for countless ages was the direct cause of nearly all human misery.” It shouldn’t be surprising for us that these things just mentioned and quoted are the viewpoint and teaching of the Masters, seeing as they make it quite clear that they are strictly Buddhist and this thoroughly non-theistic perspective is exactly what Buddhism has always held to. H.P. Blavatsky, too, described herself as “a Buddhist by profession of faith” and “a professed admirer and student of Hindu philosophy, and as professed a follower of Buddhism years before Isis [i.e. “Isis Unveiled,” her first book, published in 1877] was written,” having been initiated into the secret esoteric teachings of Buddhism whilst in Tibet (see the section titled “Blavatsky and Buddhism” in the article Basics of Buddhism).
But does it really matter whether we use the term “God” when speaking of the Eternal Essence? In response to such a query, the Master K.H. wrote along the lines of, “You say it matters nothing if you use the word ‘God’; I say it matters everything.”
The dictionary definition of “God” is “supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.” Let us drop the word “God” from our vocabulary if we do not believe in such a personal, anthropomorphic Entity. To insist – as many well-intentioned spiritual people do – on using the term “God” in a completely different sense from what 99.9% of the world’s population understand by that term, invariably leads to misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and confusion. Not only that but “God” has truly become a dirty word because of its association with all sorts of atrocities, enforcements and perpetuations of ignorance and closed-mindedness, and so many other things carried out “in God’s name” and purportedly under the auspices of this non-existent big man up in the sky. There is no God but there is the One Absolute Infinite Omnipresent Divine LIFE or ENERGY.
In another Mahatma Letter, this time coming from the Master Morya, we learn that there is “magnetism and invisible results proceeding from erroneous and sincere beliefs.” He goes on to say that “Faith in the Gods and God, and other superstitions attracts millions of foreign influences, living entities and powerful agents” (italics mine) around those people who have such beliefs but those influences, entities, and agents are far from good, pure, divine, or holy. They are “unprogressed Planetaries who delight in personating gods.” They are the Ma-Mo Chohans, which are Dark Chohans or Chohans of Darkness, and have been described as “black magicians on a COSMIC scale” who spread ignorance and destruction. The Master Morya says that “these are the gods the Hindus and Christians and Mahomed and all others of bigoted religions and sects worship” and HPB adds, “The Dhyan Chohans answer to Buddh, Divine Wisdom and Life in blissful knowledge, and the Ma-mos are the personification in nature of Shiva, Jehovah and other invented monsters with Ignorance at their tail.”
“The Absolute knows Itself not”
Earlier we saw where the Master K.H. spoke of “the One Life, immutable and unconscious in its eternity.” On the surface of it, it may sound peculiar and even offensive to speak of the Divine as being unconscious but let us briefly consider the matter more closely and intuitively.
There is nothing but the One Absolute Infinite Omnipresent Divine Life…it is the Divine Allness itself…it is the One and Only. The Upanishads speak of Brahman as being “ONE without a second.” HPB speaks of It as the secondless, attributeless Reality, the Source and Basis of all. If there is only the One, then what is there for the One to be conscious of? If only ONE exists, then how can this One Existence perceive or conceive of anything whatsoever? It cannot perceive or conceive of anything other than Itself because the fact is that there is nothing other than Itself. But It also cannot be conscious of Its own Oneness because Absolute Oneness cannot be conscious. There is nothing for It to be conscious of, seeing as It is the One Infinite All. What would It need to be conscious of? How could It be conscious of anything? There is nothing but Itself.
In the Proem of “The Secret Doctrine,” it is said that the Only One can know nothing, for It is the ALL, i.e. there is nothing for It to know because there is nothing separate or distinct from It in any way. In this vein, Adi Shankaracharya wrote that “Spirit is the unconscious Cause.”
HPB told a group of Theosophists, as transcribed in “The Secret Doctrine Commentaries” – “We say that Parabrahman is perfect, absolute unconsciousness. By saying that it is absolute unconsciousness, we say it is absolute consciousness. Now, can you imagine absolute consciousness? The Vedantins will. If it is absolute unconsciousness, it must be absolute consciousness; but, as it is absolute, it can have no relation to the finite consciousness or to finite unconsciousness. Do try and understand that difference. You see those enormously difficult and abstruse ideas in the Occult philosophy.”
So the Unconsciousness we are talking about is an entirely different kind of unconsciousness than that which is automatically suggested to our human brains by the everyday word “unconscious.” Absolute Unconsciousness IS Absolute Consciousness.
This may seem paradoxical and grossly contradictory but it only seems that way if we are unfamiliar with philosophy and unacquainted with the sense in which certain terms – such as “absolute” and “relative” for example – are used in philosophy. Theosophy is described as the synthesis of religion, philosophy, and science and it is intended to sow the seeds for the religion, philosophy, and science of the future. “Philosophy” literally means “Love of Wisdom” and I would even go so far as to say that spirituality divorced from philosophy is often little more than idiocy.
~ ~ ~
“Space is the one eternal thing that we can most easily imagine, immovable in its abstraction and uninfluenced by either the presence or absence in it of an objective Universe. It is without dimension, in every sense, and self-existent. Spirit is the first differentiation from THAT, the causeless cause of both Spirit and Matter. It is, as taught in the esoteric catechism, neither limitless void, nor conditioned fulness, but both. It was and ever will be.” – H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine
“We say and affirm that that motion – the universal perpetual motion which never ceases, never slackens nor increases its speed not even during the interludes between the pralayas, or “nights of Brahma” but goes on like a mill set in motion, whether it has anything to grind or not (for the pralaya means the temporary loss of every form, but by no means the destruction of cosmic matter which is eternal) – we say this perpetual motion is the only eternal and uncreated Deity we are able to recognise.” – Master K.H., The Mahatma Letters
“Esoteric Theosophists are gnostics, not agnostics. They affirm that they can know by spiritual perception Parabrahman or Adi Buddha, which is the universal spiritual principle, the origin and the basis of all Cosmic Evolution. It is the one element and the one energy of which every form of existence is but an expression and a manifestation. And there is no personality or God beyond this principle.” – T. Subba Row, T. Subba Row Collected Writings Volume II
“Space is the ever Unseen and Unknowable Deity in our philosophy. … Absolute, Divine Spirit is one with absolute Divine Substance: Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are one in essence. Therefore, Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance in their primal character are one also.” – H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine
~ ~ ~
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q. Madame Blavatsky frequently said that the universe and everything in it is just illusion. Did she mean this in the same sense in which it is meant by the modern day illusionists such as the followers of “A Course in Miracles” who are always saying that “it’s all illusion”?
A. No, she meant it in a very different sense to what many of the ACIM and other similar people mean by it. The reason the teachings of Theosophy describe the universe and everything in it as being “maya” – illusion – is because of the impermanence, the finite nature, the changeability and ultimate temporariness of the universe and everything in it. It is undeniable that everything around us currently objectively exists but it is equally undeniable that everything around us, everything manifested, is but finite and impermanent. Theosophy says that it is only that which is infinite, permanent, changeless, unchangeable, and eternal, which can be considered as being TRULY Real. And that is the Brahman which the Hindu scriptures speak of. The manifested universe has a definite life cycle…it had a beginning and it will have an ending…the dawn of Time and the end of Time. Then later it will appear again, exist again, and disappear again. The cyclic appearance and disappearance of the universe is an ever-ongoing process. But although the universe and the physical, material world does currently exist, we must always remember its utterly transient and evanescent nature and keep in mind the true Reality (with a capital “R”), the Infinite Brahman, and know that this is Who and What we are in the essential nature of our own Real Self.
So this is what HPB means when she talks of everything being illusion and maya. It makes perfect sense and is both logical and reasonable. Yet, from what I can gather from conversations with ACIM students, they insist that the universe does not even currently objectively exist and that it is all an illusion created by our ignorant minds! They say that as soon as one person will fully grasp and understand the illusory nature of everything then the universe will instantly disappear because it is just the illusory projection of our own ignorance. “When one understands it, all will understand it,” they claim. The ACIM teachings are hyperidealistic, unphilosophical, and utterly contrary to Theosophy and all Ancient Wisdom in almost every sense.
Q. In New Thought spirituality, such as Unity and Science of Mind, they often make statements such as “Only God exists and therefore only love and good exists.” I agree that only God exists but I can’t understand how it can be claimed that “only love and only good exists” when it is plainly obvious that both hate and evil are definite objective realities in this world.
A. The New Thought movement, although well intentioned, are also proponents of hyperidealistic and unphilosophical teachings and this is one of them. They use the phrase “New Thought, Ancient Wisdom” to imply that their teachings are firmly based on the Divine Wisdom of the Ages but the fact is that they are not. Read and study the Ancient Wisdom contained in all the world’s religions and great philosophies and I guarantee you will never find anything in any of them that resembles such central New Thought ideologies as the thing you’re talking about. Theosophy too holds firmly to the notion of non-duality and universal oneness but it has enough common sense as to make the necessary distinction between absolute existence and manifested existence.
As you say, it’s obvious that hate and evil are definite objective realities, along with many other unpleasant and awful things, and the fact is that they will always objectively exist to some extent as long as the objective universe, the manifested universe, exists. The New Thought people may try to fervently deny the existence of such things, through their “affirmations and denials,” but it is futile to do so. Evil and all its aspects are the automatic natural byproduct and result of the existence of MATTER. Evil is really “imperfection” because perfection belongs only to pure Spirit.
The manifested universe is pervaded by duality; the duality of spirit and matter, subjective and objective, etc. The universe cannot become manifest or remain manifest without the existence, interplay, and contrast of these two opposite poles. “Manifestation” itself implies and involves duality and naturally this gives rise to all the “dvandvas” or “pairs of opposites” such as those things which we call good and evil, love and hate, joy and sorrow, male and female, young and old, health and sickness, life and apparent death, and so on ad infinitum. But this duality applies solely to the manifested universe and there is no ULTIMATE duality. Why? Because the manifested universe is not the Ultimate Reality. The One Absolute Ultimate Reality is neither manifested nor manifestable and IT alone is eternal, while the universe, as we said, is only a temporary and impermanent phenomenon and thus little more than an illusion, a passing appearance. But it is always the case that where there is matter there is “evil” or “imperfection.” A slightly crude but memorable way of putting it would be, “Spirit = Good, Matter = Evil, Good = Spirit, Evil = Matter.” This is not saying that matter itself is inherently evil or devilish – since ultimately it comes from the same Source as spirit – but that the manifested existence of matter inevitably gives rise to imperfection.
More than one New Thought person has previously admitted to me that all this seems far more reasonable and sensible than the accepted New Thought stance on the matter.
Q. There seem to be strong traces of both Hindu and Buddhist philosophy in the teachings of Madame Blavatsky and the Mahatmas. I know that both she and the Masters of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood described themselves as Buddhists but what actually is the Theosophical teaching? Is it a form of Buddhism or a form or Hinduism or a blend of the two or what?
A. Speaking on the superficial level it would be reasonably correct to describe the teachings of Theosophy as the perfect blend of Hinduism and Buddhism. Gandhi met HPB in London and later said that it was her book “The Key to Theosophy” which helped him to realise the greatness of his own Hindu religion and which saved him from being converted by the Christian missionaries in India. It is also a little known fact that his first introduction to the Bhagavad Gita, which became his most beloved scripture, was through Blavatsky’s associates and colleagues in London. He wrote that “Theosophy is Hinduism at its best.” On the other hand, the famous Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki described the teachings of Blavatsky as “the real Mahayana Buddhism.” So which is it? It is certainly true that none of the hundreds or thousands of popular books about Buddhism and Hinduism which flood the market today contain anywhere near the deep perfection and explanation of the living philosophies of those religions as is found in Theosophy. Of course I’m referring to the original and genuine Theosophy and not the westernised Christianised pseudo-Theosophy which came about in some quarters following Madame Blavatsky’s death.
Theosophy distinctly states that Hinduism and Buddhism are the two “truest” religions in the world, yet the motto of the Theosophical Movement is “There is no religion higher than Truth.” Truth transcends all religions and cannot be contained or put in a box. The word “Theosophy” comes from “Theo-sophia,” literally meaning “Divine Wisdom.” It is asserted that there is a primeval, archaic philosophy or doctrine or body of Knowledge – for want of a better word – which is not just a truth but which is the Truth itself. All the different religions have contained and presented some portion of the Truth, some to a greater extent or degree than others.
Theosophy maintains that TRUTH exists and it uses aspects of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy to help it present some of this Truth to the world, since in many aspects those teachings express Truth perfectly as well as exquisitely.
“The Secret Doctrine” says that “the Esoteric philosophy is alone calculated to withstand, in this age of crass and illogical materialism, the repeated attacks on all and everything man holds most dear and sacred, in his inner spiritual life. The true philosopher, the student of the Esoteric Wisdom, entirely loses sight of personalities, dogmatic beliefs and special religions. Moreover, Esoteric philosophy reconciles all religions, strips every one of its outward, human garments, and shows the root of each to be identical with that of every other great religion. It proves the necessity of an absolute Divine Principle in nature. It denies Deity no more than it does the Sun. Esoteric philosophy has never rejected God in Nature, nor Deity as the absolute and abstract Ens. It only refuses to accept any of the gods of the so-called monotheistic religions, gods created by man in his own image and likeness, a blasphemous and sorry caricature of the Ever Unknowable.”
The teachings of Theosophy go further than the known teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism though and alongside such fundamentals as Karma, Reincarnation, and the Oneness of All Life, they also present certain esoteric spiritual teachings which had never been given out to the public before, such as those about the origin, nature, and future of Earth and humanity (including planetary chains, globes, rounds, root races etc.), Atlantis and Lemuria, the true details of the afterlife state and what happens between death and rebirth, the sevenfold nature of man, the true nature and system of evolution, and the birth, origins, and structure of the Universe.
So Theosophy is said to not only be the perfect synthesis of religion, philosophy, and science and the esoteric teaching which underlies all the world’s religions but it is further said to be the SOURCE of all the Truth in all the religions, philosophies, and sciences of the world. So we have Theosophy as the Theosophia – the Ageless Divine Wisdom and Timeless Truth – and then we have Theosophy in the sense of the particular teachings that were permitted by the Masters of the Wisdom (the guardians of Truth) to be given to the world through the Theosophical Movement. If you can understand my meaning, Theosophy is a presented portion of THEOSOPHY. Although it has not been widely recognised or properly appreciated as such, the making available to the public of previously secret and carefully guarded aspects of the Esoteric Teaching – by the Masters and through their direct agent Helena Blavatsky – was a unique and monumental world event.
By MW, March 2013
“The God of theology, we say – and prove it – is a bundle of contradictions and a logical impossibility. Therefore, we will have nothing to do with him. We believe in a Universal Divine Principle, the root of ALL, from which all proceeds, and within which all shall be absorbed at the end of the great cycle of Being.”
- H.P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy -