This is the text of a lecture presented to the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) in Melbourne, Australia. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Theosophical Society ( Pasadena). When I was asked to do a lecture for this meeting on “What Theosophy means to me”, I must say, at the time I approached the task with some concern. After all, I had not really considered what this topic means to me personally. I have considered myself a ‘life-long learner’ in this area. It is very easy to attend lectures at this group, take in that with which I agree, consider new, ‘out there’ propositions, have a cup of tea and a convivial chat after the meetings. It is very easy to be relatively passive in the sense, that what is discussed in these meetings is all very interesting, but to actively consider a quite ponderous and most broad question is daunting, especially when one is asked to formalize one’s thoughts and present them in a lecture. The task of organizing one’s thoughts is always a worthwhile activity, for it requires the coherent, self exploration of feelings, with a view to illustrating with appropriate language and reaching an audience who hopefully will at least grasp what it is that one is hoping to convey. Whether members of this audience agree with what I am about to convey is not the issue. My aim firstly is to get clear about what this topic means to me, share it with you and hopefully to prompt a response from you. After some reflection on the theme, even now, I can honestly say, I’m not altogether sure, what Theosophy means to me but the process of writing a coherent piece portraying some ruminations on the topic has at least helped me sort out in my mind what I have found to be ‘true’ for me. Also, let me further qualify this statement by placing it in the context of time. That is, these are my current views, and like everything in life which occurs in a context, that in time, these views most certainly will be modified in the fullness of experience. So what theosophy means to me is very much a ‘work in progress’. Firstly let me state that some of the texts I have referenced are:“The Key to Theosophy” by H.P. Blavatsky “Expanding Horizons” by James A. Long, numerous sites on the World Wide Web, as well as the various lectures I have attended here in the past which have influenced in some manner this discourse. For the purpose of this paper, I propose to look at the following:

  • Some definitions of the term Theosophy.
  • A consideration of the symbolic significance of the Theosophical Society’s seal
  • A consideration of the T.S. Objectives.

In discussing these aspects I will attempt to illustrate how these have influenced my evolving perspective of Theosophy. Some definitions of the term Theosophy. According to the Wikipedia, the free Web encyclopedia:“Theosophy is a body of ideas which holds that all religions are attempts by man to ascertain “the divine” as such each religion has a portion of the truth”. A formal definition from the Concise Oxford Dictionary describes Theosophy as: “any of various philosophies professing to achieve a knowledge of God by Spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition, or special individual relations, esp. a modern movement following Hindu and Buddhist teachings and seeking universal brotherhood”. According to G. de Purucker’s definition in Occult Glossary on p. 176-7 “Theosophy: is a compound Greek word ; theos a “divine being”, – god, Sophia , “wisdom”, hence divine wisdom. Theosophy is the majestic wisdom-religion of the archaic ages and is as old as thinking man. It was delivered to the first human protoplasts, the first thinking human beings on this earth, by highly intelligent spiritual entities from superior spheres. This ancient doctrine, … has been passed down from guardians to guardians through innumerable generations until our own time. Furthermore, portions of this original and majestic system have been given out at various periods of time to various races in various parts of the world by those guardians when humanity stood in need of such extension and elaboration of spiritual and intellectual thought.

Theosophy is not a syncretistic philosophy-religion-science, a system of thought or belief which has been put together piecemeal and consisting of parts or portions taken by some great mind from other various religions or philosophies. This idea is false. On the contrary, theosophy is that single system or systematic formulation of the facts of visible and invisible nature which, as expressed through the illuminated human mind, takes the apparently separate forms of science and of philosophy and of religion. We may likewise describe theosophy to be the formulation in human language of the nature, structure, origin y and operations of kosmical universe and of the multitudes of being which infill it.” In Blavatsky’s Theosophical Glossary , p.328, she states that: “Theosophy is the substratum and basis of all world-religions and philosophies, taught and practiced by a few elect ever since man became a thinking being., In its practical bearing, theosophy is purely divine ethics…” I personally identify with the definitions given by the theosophists themselves, such as Blavatsky and Purucker, as they embody a heartfelt, intuitive, personal and real interpretation of the word. Their definitions attempt to give some practical application to the aspiring theosophist. Key words for me are “divine ethics”. I will discuss later the concept of reincarnation and the creation of karma to practice and refine “divine ethics”. For me Theosophy and its application of strategies for living, as espoused by the Society’s five objectives, attempts to direct one’s endeavours towards a life of “divine ethics”. This is a personal, individual attainment. I hasten to add, difficult to live by, but a noble attainment, regardless. What I particularly appreciate about Theosophy is the lack of dogma, any sense of an organized religion with its attendant ritual and regalia. I applaud the fact that it always encourages the individual to freely and personally consider what is “truth” and to discard that which one feels is irrelevant. It encourages one to be the seeker of truth for oneself. It fosters the quest of the independent search for this “truth”. There are no gurus, leaders, messiahs. In fact, the seeker of truth must determine for oneself what this “truth” is, and allows one, over time, to re-evaluate whether this “truth” has currency. This principle links directly to the notion that no god is responsible for ones’ fortunes. I especially relate to the notion of being responsible for my own salvation, based on my thoughts, words and deeds. Being aware of this notion, one can not but be made consciously mindful. I find it useful in understanding this notion to regard past civilisations’ images. The one which is the most striking for me is that of the Egyptian “Weighing of the Heart” Judgment scene. In that society’s belief system, even thoughts were scrutinized at the day of reckoning.

I also find it insightful and instructional considering the ‘wisdom, truth, knowledge, science and philosophy of civilizations over the ages as such information relating to human endeavor has much to teach us, and is current and universal. As a student of the ‘human condition’, wondering and searching for answers to the eternal questions such as “Who am I?”, “How did I get here?”, “Is there life after death?, concepts and objectives of Theosophy (which I shall consider later in this paper) greatly comfort my fertile, inquiring mind. While various philosophies such as Existentialism consider such questions, I don’t feel that they give valuable strategies for living a purposeful life. Nor do they offer adequate mechanisms for exploring responses from the ancients about what constitutes “truths” and the ancient wisdom. As stated earlier, it is instructive to note how our forebears considered these same matters, the big mysteries of life, because all of the world religions have repeatedly demonstrated the essence of what constitutes the “Eternal Truth”. Significance of the Seal of the Theosophical Society As one who is curious of most things, especially in semiotics and the practice of symbolism in art and religion it is of interest to consider how the emblem of the Theosophical Society integrates a number of the prominent religions into a single seal. On the basis of design to convey the multiple messages of the key spiritual movements, the Seal adeptly relays these. The Seal of the Theosophical Society was adapted from the personal emblem of Madame Blavatsky before the Society was founded in 1875. The five prominent symbols in the Seal are:

  1. The Star of David
  2. The Ankh
  3. The Swastika
  4. The Ouroboros (Serpent swallowing its tail)
  5. Aum

Each of the symbols are very, very old. After some research into the origins and significance of them I was stunned to realize that all of them have been prominent throughout the major civilizations and religions of the world. Madame Blavatsky selected wisely from the ancients when designing her personal emblem which ultimately influenced the Seal of the Theosophical Society. Each of the symbols are representative of “divine, spiritual” principles. The Star of David: Also known as King Solomon’s seal, in India known as the seal of Vishnu and viewed by Pythagoreans as the symbol of creation. The interlaced triangles signify the polarity of nature and spirit, male and female, light and dark. The six points of the star reach toward the serpent of eternity, changing and evolving through time. The Ankh: This was an ancient Egyptian symbol of resurrection and immortality. The cross shape represents matter or the world of form, while the circle above it represents spirit. It can denote the embryonic universe , or spiritual egg or germ hovering over the cross of matter. Astronomically it is the sign of Venus, earth’s sister-planet and guardian of humanity.The Ankh situated in the centre of the triangles suggests divine immortality.

The Swastika (Crooked Cross): The Swastika is a holy symbol in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, however, it is widely known and used as a symbol of Nazism. The Hindu version is often decorated with a dot in each quadrant. It is one of the 108 symbols of Vishnu and represents the sun’s rays. The motif was first used in Neolithic Eurasia and was also used in Native American cultures. The symbol has also been found in Greco-Roman and Gothic Art and architecture.Essentially it represents good luck. The Indian word shubhtika meaning: good mark, first appears in the classical Sanskrit epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata epics. It was incorporated into the Seal of the Theosophical Society due to its Hindu and Buddhist links. The Ouroboros (Serpent swallowing its tail): is Greek for the word “tail-devourer”. It is one of the oldest mystical symbols in the world. Plato described the serpent swallowing it tail when describing the first living thing in the universe. It is represented in Aztec, Chinese, Native American, Norse, Christian, Hindu and Hermetic culture, mythology and literature.It symbolizes them cyclic nature of life, the eternal unity of all things, the absolute, un manifested universe containing the potentials of all form, regeneration and reincarnation. Aum (Om): It is the most sacred syllable in Hinduism, representing the infinite Brahman and the entire universe. It is considered to be the first sound. In Hindu belief, the world is viewed as vibration or rhythmic waves. It is the sacred symbol of the Trinity of Brahma (the Creater), Vishnu (the Sustainer) and Shiva (the destroyer).The written form of Aum signifies the triple state of man’s consciousness, the waking state, the unconscious state and dream state.Aum is the source of all existence. We are reminded of the statement in Genesis which says: “In the beginning was the ‘Word and the Word was with God and the Word is God”. Aum is a word of power and should be uttered with great reverence. Encircled around the Seal is the Theosophical Society’s motto: “There is no religion higher than truth” which is the quest of every theosophist. I like the Seal of the Theosophical Society as it succinctly incorporates the validity of all the major religions. Each of the symbols point to the eternal, unity of all major quests, the search for divine truth and divine meaning.

I feel the following objectives of T.S. can give adherents a practical road map for living, if you like. What exactly do each of these aims mean and how does one attempt to aspire to such noble objectives? I would like to walk you through each of them with my interpretation and application of them in daily life or “the karmic script”. The Theosophical Society’s objectives: 1. To give people an awareness of the laws of the Universe. 2. To spread the knowledge that there is unity to be found amongst all things, because unity is the basis of Nature. 3. To promote an active brotherhood amongst people regardless of race, creed or color.

4. To learn knowledge about ancient and modern religions, science and philosophies. 5. To study the inner powers of people.

1. To give people an awareness of the laws of the Universe: The essence of the laws of nature are, that all is unity. Everything originates from Spirit and returns to Spirit. Moreover, that the knowledge of “ancient truths” are timeless and universal.

2. To spread the knowledge that there is unity to be found amongst all things, because unity is the basis of Nature: I like to think of this objective as meaning that everything is connected, that there is no such thing as “chance”. I believe that all civilizations over the eons have believed this, and grasping this principle may lead the seeker of truth to a sense of reconnection with the “divine”.

3. To promote an active brotherhood amongst people regardless of race, creed or color: I understand this to mean that a Theosophist must consider every person that they meet as having a “divine spark”, that they have come from spirit and that every one is at some stage of evolving along their path of “becoming”, of reaching their potential. While some people that we meet may seem “unevolved”, they hone our power of discrimination. Yet, we must not let race, creed, colour, age nor gender initially prohibit us from demonstrating one’s innate “divinity”. One should be able to help those among us by illuminating a path, by way of illustration; by acting with right intention, and mindful of one’s thoughts, words and deeds which daily create one’s karma.I feel that this is the road that leads to “divine ethics”.

4. To learn knowledge about ancient and modern religions, science and philosophies: As I have stated earlier in this lecture, even a cursory glance of past civilizations and their human endeavors in the fields of science, art, religion and philosophy points to timeless lessons of truth, for while man has evolved over millennia, his search has not altered. That is, the perennial questions remain, which, can lead the individual to search for meaningful truth. Such a quest, once the adherent encounters it, sets him on a journey of great discovery. The fruits of such a journey, leads the seeker to a greater understanding of self, of those around him and that of nature and the environment in which he finds himself in his current incarnation.

5. To study the inner powers of people: This is the magical, alchemical process which occurs when a Theosophist earnestly searches for meaningful truth via the study over a life time, of “ancient wisdom” and universal laws. When the Theosophist applies some of the universal, ancient laws in the practical areas of his life, such as the aims espoused by this Society, then one’s sense of divine origins and strengths become further refined. Ultimately, one is aware of creating his own Karma and so may became a beacon of light, hope and inspiration to others.

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