A Definition of The Ancient Wisdom: Nature exists and man exists, and somewhere unobscured by man’s own religious and philosophical imaginings, there must be available the wisdom and learning which tells why and how. As we ponder the question it seems an inevitable conclusion that somewhere there must be preserved a recording, a gathering of facts or ‘laws’, a formulation in human language of the Truth concerning Man and Nature. There must be a basic source from which sciences, philosophies and the great religions have sprung.

This Source has been called The Ancient Wisdom, the Sacred Science, or, in ancient India – Gupta Vidya (the Hidden Knowledge) or Atma Vidya (Soul Knowledge), in Greek, Theosophia, or knowledge and wisdom such as the Gods live by. The Ancient Wisdom has always been in existence, though not always publicly known, having come down through the ages tested and checked by generations of Great Seers of all the world’s peoples. It may be called the Facts of Being, the ‘Laws’ or workings of Nature.from the Introduction to the Theosophical Manuals series.

Sources of The Ancient Wisdom: There are many sources of the wisdom traditions of the world’s peoples. These include: Tradition; Religion; Philosophy; Revelation; Faith; or in the case of Theosophy, Spiritual Initiation. But how reliable are these sources?

Maybe It’s All Just Imagination? Critics and Skeptics say that the concept that there is a Knowledge of the Universe ‘as it actually is’ is a fantasy. Such critics say that ‘The Ancient Wisdom’ is pure imagination; maybe the product of a primitive world; a ‘disease’ of reason; complete fiction enshrined as reality over time; somebody’s best model of how the universe works; invented for social and political control; or maybe even a conspiracy of Demonic Forces to divert us from ‘true’ religion!

Features of The Ancient Wisdom:

Universal Brotherhood: If we can get past these criticisms, what does Theosophy (as I understand it) have to say are the basic features of the world’s esoteric traditions – The Ancient Wisdom? Let’s start with the foundation concept of Theosophy: Universal Brotherhood: the entire realm of Nature is linked by correspondences or analogies from its tiniest to its most massive structures. We can therefore understand Nature through Man. ‘As Above So Below’. Everything is related and has its source in the Divine. This Divine Source is Unknowable as it is beyond human knowledge, called by various names in different traditions – Ain-Soph (Jewish), Tat (Hindu), Unknowable God (St Paul), IT is the boundless source of All, Infinite Space, Eternal Duration, and Unending Motion. Universal Brotherhood is therefore a fact in Nature.

Everything is Alive: Nature is a complex hierarchical Being alive in all its parts. We exist and are an integral part of a living Universe. Nothing is ‘dead’ but there are differences in the state of consciousness according to the stage of conscious awareness.

The Ebb and Flow of Life: The living universe is subject to the absolute universality of Periodicity, ie. the ebb and flow of life, day and night, life and death, sleeping and waking. From out of the infinite the finite is born, only to dissolve back into the infinite once again after a time of manifestation.

A Hierarchy of Being: The Universe is composed of a ‘ladder of life’ of sentient beings stretching in conscious awareness above, and below us – Many but One. All these beings are on a pilgrimage of learning starting from an unconscious ‘elemental’ through to the highest god. Hence the universe is filled with divine intelligences of every conceivable type all seeking to unfold themselves through spiritual evolution by means of repeated embodiments.

Transmutation: an understanding and experience of spirituality has the power to transmute us. Thus we can achieve a higher state of awareness of the reality of the Universe if we put enough effort into such an understanding, ie we can achieve Enlightenment, Ascension, Samadhi – such as have been achieved by other enlightened thinkers before us.

Similarities Amongst All Traditions: we naturally discover similarities in the description of spiritual realities amongst different esoteric traditions. This is the ‘Golden Thread of Hermes’ running through all traditions, which may use different words, but describe the same Reality.

Transmission of the Teachings on The Ancient Wisdom: most esoteric systems say that, at a certain point along the spiritual journey, understanding can only be passed from Master to Student , or at least drawn forth from within the Student, through an established path of initiation. Thus the presence of sacred places around the world where such experiences are available to those suitably qualified, eg. Great Pyramid (Egypt), Himalayan mountain caves (India), Angkor Wat (Cambodia), the Elephanta Caves (India), Hopi Indian ‘Kivas’ (USA), the ‘Forbidden City’ (Northern Territory, Australia).

‘Gnosis’: meaning ‘knowledge’ or ‘knowers’. All traditions united in having such a body of knowledge of higher truths surpassing faith and even reason which can have a transformative affect on those who study and ‘become’ it. This is not ordinary scientific knowledge but an inner initiation enabling one’s spiritual advancement requiring discipline and ethical development of a very high order, with the aim of transcendence.

Lesser and Greater Mysteries: this knowledge is usually divided into two phases:

Lesser Mysteries: myths and allegories to awaken intuition, a preview of greater mysteries presented by a teacher, eg. In Greek system: an academic education, the Olympic Games, the Greek plays, the cycle of Greek Myths.

Greater Mysteries: actual experience of what has been taught previously by others. Awakening of inner potential, descent into invisible worlds and reascent into the One.

Features of the Gnosis tradition: in some form or other, all esoteric gnostic traditions teach the following using their own terminology to speak of the same things:

Theology: Divine principles and processes. The relation of the Universe and Man.

Cosmology: the birth and death of the metaphysical and physical universe from the One Life.

Anthropology: the nature of Man. His descent into material life and the nature of his inner being, both visible and invisible.

Eschatology: ‘knowledge of the end of things’ – the destiny of mankind in the Universe. Death and After-Death journey.

Pilgrimage: teachings about the qualities of thought and attitude of conduct necessary to achieve the Hidden Spiritual Knowledge. Such qualities as Wisdom, Compassion, Patience, Concentration, Ethical Disciple, Meditation, etc..

The Seven Jewels of Wisdom: are the specific subjects studied in the Ancient Wisdom which are said to be the summit of knowledge available to us at this stage of humanity’s spiritual development. They are:

  1. Reincarnation: and Reimbodiment (‘Punarjanman’).
  2. Karma: the law of cause and effect.
  3. Hierarchies (‘Lokas and Talas’): reality has many levels through which we progress.
  4. Self-Becoming (‘Swabhava’): the essential nature of each person and entity and their inbuilt capacity to grow in self-awareness.
  5. Evolution (‘Pavritti’) and Involution (‘Nivritti’): evolution into materiality and Involution back into spirit of Humanity and the Earth.
  6. The Two Paths of Spiritual Development (‘Amrita-Yana’ and ‘Pratyeka-Yana’): choices along the spiritual Path. Good and Evil, Selflessness and Selfishness.
  7. Knowledge of the Self (‘Atma Vidya’): what do we actually mean by the ‘Self’. How did the One become the Many?

More detailed information for those interested in The Seven Jewels of Wisdom is available in an article on the subject by Stefan Carey at: http://www.theosophydownunder.org/library/theosophical-lectures/the-seven-jewels-of-wisdom-by-stefan-carey/

Three Keys to Understanding the Ancient Wisdom:

“…Firstly, the philosophic axiom, As Above, so Below. This is a master-key, by the aid of which we may unlock numberless mysteries. It teaches the interdependence of all things, for all things are in essence one. What is true of the nature of man is true of the sun. Universe and atom alike are composite in nature.

The second key is the religious aphorism, Man, Know Thyself — another master-key closely related to the first. Could we but know the mysteries of consciousness and the sevenfold nature of man in their completeness, we should have full knowledge of the universe.

A third key, the scientific, is that All Things are Relative. In the last analysis nothing is great, nothing small; all things are relatively great or small, in relative degrees of development, with relative manifestations of consciousness…” [ from: La Fayette Plummer: ‘An Unfinished Universe’ Theosophical Forum, April 1937].


Wisdom is not finally tested in schools;
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it, to another not having it;
Wisdom is of the Soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is content…
– Walt Whitman


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