What is the major priority in the work of our Theosophical Society today? Our Leader, Randell C. Grubb, has indicated that it is putting theosophical teachings into action in our daily lives or practicing ‘Inner rather than Outer Theosophy’. What does this mean? Why do this?

No matter how long you study Theosophy, the hardest question to answer is seemingly the easiest question about it – What is Theosophy? For as many theosophists you ask, there will be a different answer! Broadly the answers can be grouped into four responses:

Theosophy is an intellectual pastime: Theosophy is brim-full of complex and fascinating ideas that can absorb you for lifetimes. Many people view theosophists as a group of middle-class intellectuals just sitting around and endlessly discussing these ideas in an academic ‘ivory tower’ remote from the realities of everyday life. Indeed, many theosophical meetings may appear to be this way – but – is this what Theosophy really is all about?

Theosophy is comparative religion: many of the ideas and certainly the language of much of theosophy seem to be based on concepts from ancient religions and philosophies, especially Hinduism and Buddhism from ancient India. Many of the basic ideas of Theosophy seem to come right out a textbook on Buddhism with concepts like Karma and Reincarnation that we usually associate with Indian religion being major topics of conversation in theosophical meetings. This impression is reinforced by the widespread use of complex technical terms in Theosophy which come from the ancient Indian language Sanskrit. Terms such as ‘Swabhava’, ‘Linga Sarira’, ‘Nirvana’, all have a strong Indian flavour to them and many technical theosophical discussions sound like they are half in a foreign language! This has lead many people to think of theosophy as an amalgam of Eastern, especially Indian religions made palatable for a Western audience rather than a vibrant and living philosophy in its own right with truths relevant to a Western audience of the here and now. Again, many theosophical discussions often degenerate into discussion of where ideas appear in the different cultures and religions of the world rather than recognizing that theosophy is an attempt at revealing the core spiritual knowledge whence these religions arose. Is Theosophy therefore a ‘magpie eclectic montage’ of ideas from a host of others religions of interest to those curious about comparative religion?

Theosophy is for those interested in the occult arts: not surprising because of the subject matter of many of our discussion, people can view theosophy as an ‘entrez’ into the occult arts. Many of our discussion mention the invisible worlds or aspects of the inner constitution of man and how these worlds impinge and relate to the outer world that we know. This can be disturbing and even frightening to many people, and so the impression can be that Theosophy is a body of knowledge for those interested in ‘freaky’ subjects such as ghosts, clairaudience, clairvoyance, reading people’s thoughts, etc. Certainly, one of the aims of the Theosophical Society is to study the powers innate in man, but is Theosophy just another school for the study of the more spectacular aspects of occultism?

Theosophy as character-building: rather than these popular misconceptions of Theosophy and the work of the Theosophical Society, Randell C Grubb, reminds us “to be one’s own lamp” as did James A. Long (Leader from 1951 to 1971), who said that Theosophy is, rather, a form of character-building. That is, we should take seriously the teachings of Theosophy and put them into action in our lives and this will automatically strengthen and build our characters and have a beneficial affect on those who come into contact with us. Instead of looking at Theosophical teachings just as fascinating theories and concepts, try every day to see them as realities and change your behaviour to conform with these realities. For example, think of Karma and Reincarnation as realities. There are many things we would do, and more we would not do, if we seriously thought of these teachings as actual realities. This is putting Inner Theosophy into Outer Action, or simply practicing what we preach, or as the Buddhist saying goes: “It is necessary to live the Life to understand the Doctrine.”

By living Inner Theosophy and not just talking Outer Theosophy, we begin to self-direct our spiritual evolution. By this I mean we seriously take hold of the possibilities that await us in this and future lives. Instead of being blindly blown around by the winds of fate, we understand the basic laws of the universe from what we are told in Theosophy and put them into action. By so doing we can contribute toward a more spiritually enlightened future for ourselves and others. Other people will observe our actions and how we behave in certain, especially stressful and demanding situations, be attracted to what we have to offer them philosophically, and as warm and helpful human beings. As the Buddhists would say: “The flowers come into bloom when the sage walks through the garden’ or, as they say in India: “The bees come of their own accord in search of honey when the flower is in full bloom.”

Randell C. Grubb emphasises that this inner exploration of theosophy is a needed process accompanying all our activities in the Theosophical Society. James A. Long was in many ways setting the stage for our endeavours today and he defined theosophy as:

“…What is theosophy anyway? It is a system of character-building. And to get back to the Christian sacred scriptures, it is living the Golden Rule: doing unto others as we would have them do unto our selves. There isn’t anyone in this world who can convince me that if we as individual members of this Theosophical Society tried to really live the Golden Rule with the background of theosophy that we have, we would not set the world on fire pretty quickly. Now it is hard to live the Golden Rule. It is hard to be real theosophists. Not one of us is anywhere near perfect. We have a long way to go. But what we do know and what we do have, let us put to work. I don’t mean in sanctimonious conversation with this or that person. Let us be real men and real women, and think of the other fellow before we think of ourselves. If any one of us could really try that for 24 hours or for one waking day, we would be astonished at the results. None of us does it – I am not saying that criticizingly; we have a long way to go, but many of you do it for a good many hours a day, and maybe all of them, I don’t know. But if we consider theosophy, what it really is, a system of character building that will one day make us a counterpart of Masters and even beyond…Thus our job as theosophists, individually and as a Society, is to attend to our work and, being good citizens in our respective nations, work for theosophy as we see fit, to the best of our ability, doing our daily duty, whether it is one thing or another. So long as we do it one-pointedly and honestly, we will begin thereby to form such a solid nucleus of spiritual force that it will have an incalculable influence in the world around us and we will win the battle of true spiritual freedom…” James A. Long European Tour 1951 – record of a meeting at Bossum, Holland.