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Theosophy

society, theosophical, nature, religion, study, truth, powers, modern, time and laws

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THEOSOPHY, as its Greek deriv;tives signify, means Divine Wisdom — wisdom con cerning God. It is that general system of thought which has appeared in all ages shaping • itself in one form and another and which has attempted to explain the nature of God, the uni verse and man's relation thereto. Among the Orientals it is conspicuous in the philosophic systems of China, India and Egypt. It is seen in the works of the Gnostics, the Neo-Platon ists and the Cabalists, and in the speculations of Bohme, Schelling, Eckhart and in the teach ing of Kapila and Shankaracharya, Pythagoras and Plato, Valentinus and Plotinus, Simon Magus and Apollonius of Tyana, Paracelsus and Bruno. It represents a body of tradition which has been preserved from earliest times and is not only found in the philosophic and speculative writings of those above mentioned and many others, but has been taught from time to time by sundry religious and mystical orders, —in the Far East by the Gurus and Initiates, and in Greece by the various schools of the mysteries. During the Middle Ages traces of the teaching are to be found in Masonry and Mediaeval Mysticism, and later in the Order of Rosicrucians, and it has at all times comprised the esoteric side of the great religions of the world.

The Theosophical Society.— In modern times this name is given to an amalgam of occult, Indian and modern spiritualism made by a Russian named Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (q.v.) who, on 17 Nov. 1875, aided by Co. Henry Steel Olcott of New York, founded in that city the Theosophical Society, and modern theosophical thought owes its origin and propa ganda to the writings and efforts of herself and her colleagues in this society. The objects of the society as originally declared were to collect a library and diffuse information con cerning secret laws of nature. Later these objects were remodeled, and as now framed are: 1. To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.

2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science; and 3. To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.

°Assent to or sympathy with the first of these objects required for membership, the re maining two being optional and intended to subserve the first. The society has no dogmas or creed, is entirely non-sectarian, and includes in its membership adherents of all faiths and of none, exacting only from each member the tolerance for the beliefs of others that he would wish them to exhibit toward his own. Their of union is not the profession of a com mon belief, but a common search and aspiration for truth. They hold that truth should be sought by study, by reflection, by purity of life, by devotion to high ideals, and they regard it as a prize to be striven tor, not as a dogma to be imposed by authority. They consider that belief should be the result of individual study or intution, and not its antecedent, and should rest on knowledge, not on assertion. They extend tolerance to all, even to the intolerant, not as a privilege they bestow, but as a duty they perform, and they seek to remove ignorance, not to punish it. They see every religion as an expression of the Divine Wisdom, and prefer its study to its condemnation, and its practice to proselytism. Peace is their watchword as truth is their aim." "There is no religion higher than Truth" is the motto of the society. The general headquarters of the

society are at Adyar, Madras, India, the resi dence of Colonel Olcott, its president-founder.

Its Aims.— It is stated that in the founda tion of the Theosophical Society and in the writing of her various works, Madame Blavatsky was directed and aided by certain Eastern adepts or sages, whose pupil she had been for many years, and that the purpose of the movement was to stem the tide of material ism and agnosticism, which then threatened to engulf the thought of the age, and to stimulate transcendental research. Doubtless the fullest and the most authoritative statement of the ends which the modern theosophical movement were intended to accomplish is to be found in the following letter written by one of those adepts to one of his Western pupils: "You can do immense good by helping to give the Western nations a secure basis upon which to reconstruct their crumbling faith. And what they need is the evidence that Asiatic psychology alone supplies. Give this and you will confer happiness of mind on thousands. . . . This is the moment to guide the re current impulse which must soon come, and which will push the age toward extreme atheism, or drag it back to extreme sacerdotal ism, if it is not lead to the primitive soul satisfying philosophy of the Aryans. . . . You and your colleagues may help to furnish the materials for a needed universal religious philosophy; one impregnable to scientific as sault, because itself the finality of absolute science; and a religion that is indeed worthy of the name since it includes the relations of man physical to man psychical, and of the two to all that is above and below them. . . . Its (the society's) chief aim is to extirpate current superstitions and skepticism, and from long sealed ancient fountains to draw the proof that man may shape his own future destiny, and know for a certainty that he can live hereafter?) Since then a considerable literature has sprung up within the society .which, it is believed, has to no slight extent influenced the thought of the closing decades of the 19th century and made possible the almost popular interest in the unseen world. Among the leaders of theo sophical thought after the death of Madame Blavatsky. were Mrs. Annie Besant, C. W. Leadbeater, A. P. Sinnett and G. R. S. Mead, — Mrs. Besant being Madame Blavatsky's suc cessor in the esoteric as well as in the exoteric work of the society. Through the writings of these theosophists the so-called theosophical theories, which for centuries have seemed vague and speculative, besides being greatly amplified, have been presented in a form more definite than at any other time in the history of such thought, the teachings now no longer resting upon tradition and intuition, if indeed they ever did wholly so, but largely upon investigations made into the supra-physical realms of nature by highly developed men whose trained powers enable them to respond sympathetically to vibrations of a finer order than those which the normal man is able to sense, and to come thus into conscious relations with subtler regions of nature within and extending vastly beyond the physical world. The training whereby these powers are gained is begun in the esoteric de partment of the Theosophical Society and falls more especially under, its third object, which deals with the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.

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