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Tour of Theosophy

The purpose of this paper is to present the basic concepts of theosophy with reference to extensive study and discussion elsewhere on the net.

More central and essential to theosophic teachings than any other aspect is a belief in universal brotherhood -- the realization that we share goals, aspirations and the path to perfection with with all living beings. True compassion is generated through this realization of the oneness of all life and the fact that brotherhood is a fact of nature.

What Is Theosophy?

The term "theosophy" (from the Greek: god wisdom or divine wisdom) is used to describe a system of thought that is not in any sense new, but has been present in many forms throughout the ages. The Theosophical Society, formed in the late 19th century by H.P. Blavatsky, H.S. Olcott, and W.Q. Judge is an effort to collect, organize and present these theosophic ideas. It does not claim exclusive ownership of them, nor does it claim that those teachings here presented are necessarily exhaustive. They do, however, form a very solid and imposing core of insights into life, the universe, and the origins and destiny of humanity. See What Is Theosophy? by H. P. Blavatsky What Is Theosophy? By Charles J. Ryan, and What Is Theosophy? from To Light a Thousand Lamps by Grace F. Knoche.


The Sanskrit word “karma” is used in theosophy, though many other terms are used in different traditions for the same concept. The cyclic nature of events, the realization that all actions beget reactions in some form is found universally in one guise or another. That we reap what we sow is not really missing in any tradition. Unfortunately, without a setting of reincarnation and spiritual evolution, it does not always make much sense on its own. See Karma by Grace F. Knoche from To Light a Thousand Lamps.


Reincarnation has been a part of many traditions throughout the world, including not just the orient, but early Christianity, pre-Christian Europe, and in the traditions of many indigenous peoples. Theosophy, however, regards reincarnation as a progression forward and does not entertain the idea of humans being reborn as animals. See Reincarnation by Leoline L. Wright, "The Rationale of Reincarnation" by G. de Purucker, Reincarnation, from To Light a Thousand Lamps by Grace F. Knoche, "Reincarnation" from Life's Riddle by Nils A. Amneus

Multifold Nature of Man.

One argument often made against reincarnation is that, without memory of former existences, they can't possibly have any bearing upon us and our lives. Theosophy, however, regards living beings as existing on many levels. We have memories that are not always available to us; our dreaming minds see and remember things that our waking minds do not, for example. Different world traditions define human realms of consciousness in different ways. Theosophy's “Seven Principles” is just one way to view man's multifold nature. See The Seven Principles of Man By Leoline L. Wright,

After Death What?

The progress of the soul after death is a complex issue. Theosophy does treat that issue, as do a number of world traditions. See Death and After: A Study of Consciousness by G. de Purucker

The Doctrine Of Cycles

Everywhere in nature and the cosmos we see events following circular – or more accurately, helical paths. Days, months, years, seasons, ice ages, the birth and death of stars and galaxies all follow recurring patterns; none are finite, starting from nothing and ceasing with oblivion. Theosophy simply extends our understanding of cycles beyond those physical manifestations we can see and measure and incorporates underlying spiritual causes into that cyclic pattern. The precept that we humans, together with all life – preceded by elder siblings and followed by our fellow kingdoms -- are gradually progressing along a path to spiritual perfection, that our destiny is in our own hands, that all things, life itself included, follow cyclic patterns is to be found in many traditions around the globe and throughout history. See The Ocean of Theosophy by William Q. Judge, Chapter 14, Cycles, The Doctrine of Cycles By Lydia Ross, M.D, and Esoteric Hints on Cycles from Studies in Occult Philosophy by G. de Purucker.

The Astral Light and Psychic Powers

Psychic phenomena have been experienced, denied, and puzzled over by many. The presence of various non-material worlds and psychic practices is recognized and discussed in theosophy. See Psychism from To Light a Thousand Lamps by Grace F. Knoche

The Two Paths

Theosophy shares many concepts with Buddhism. Buddhism itself is largely divided into two schools of thought on paths taken toward enlightenment, the one seeking enlightenment directly, and the other renouncing and posponing enlightenment in favor of aiding the rest of humanity in its enlightenment. Theosophy tends to identify more with the latter. See Buddhism: The Path of Compassion by Kirby Van Mater

Theosophy and Christianity

"Theosophy is the essential truth underlying all religions and does not recognize any one religion as being supreme over the others or as the last word of truth. It is not hostile to Christianity, but finds itself obliged to combat many things which it considers alien to the genuine Christian gospel and which have gradually crept in since that gospel was originally proclaimed." See Theosophy and Christianity

There Is No Religion Higher Than Truth

A motto of the Theosophical Society, this assertion can be interpreted and misinterpreted in many ways. Theosophy is not a religion and the society has continually rejected the thought of declaring itself to be one. One may be a follower of any religion and also a theosophist – for theosophical concepts are to be found everywhere. Theosophical perspectives do provide a measure for determining truth. As we tread the path toward perfection, preceded by our elder ‘siblings’, the great teachers of the ages, and followed by our less evolved siblings in the animal and plant kingdoms, as we realize the sublime goals of compassion and universal brotherhood, as we mature spiritually, certain fundamental assumptions become evident. With a basic understanding of the nature of enlightened existence, though we have not yet attained it, we can judge in some degree the nature of divinity. If we assume the existence of a God or Gods who have attained that long sought-after level of perfection, would that God be vengeful? Would it crave worshipers? Would it condone wars fought in its name? Would it endorse certain sects and not others, the consumption of certain foods and not others, the sacrosanctity of certain geographical sites and not others? Thoughts and questions worthy of the asking.

Introductory Theosophical Manuals

Individual manuals introducing different aspects of theosophy have been produced and are available both in print and online. Here is one series:

1. What Is Theosophy? by Charles J. Ryan
2. Reincarnation: A Lost Chord in Modern Thought by Leoline L. Wright
3. Karma: The Law of Consequences by Gertrude W. van Pelt
4. The Seven Principles of Man by Leoline L. Wright
5. After Death -- What? by Leoline L. Wright
6. Evolution by Henry T. Edge
7. Rounds and Races: Our Divine Parentage and Destiny by Gertrude W. van Pelt
8. The Doctrine of Cycles by Lydia Ross
9. Hierarchies: The Ladder of Life by Gertrude W. van Pelt
10. The Astral Light by Henry T. Edge
11. Psychic Powers by Helen Savage
12. Theosophy and Christianity by Henry T. Edge
13. Mahatmas and Chelas by Leoline L. Wright
14. The Mystery Schools by Grace F. Knoche
15. Yoga and Yoga Discipline by Charles J. Ryan


If you have any questions or comments, please contact: andrewrooke@hotmail.com (Australasian Section) or tstec@theosociety.org (International enquiries).
How does the Theosophical Society differ from other organizations which inculcate fraternity and mutual helpfulness as the purpose of their existence? Most of these fraternities do not recognize and build upon universal brotherhood as a fact and an essential principle in nature, but look upon and treat it as a desirable result to be sought, an object to be attained. Theosophy, on the other hand, teaches that each individual in the human family is but a ray from the One Life, and that by tracing the ray back we find the whole human race united in the Over-Soul — so that all men, women, and children are not brothers merely, but are really and essentially one. Not one in kind merely, not one by incorporation into one society, but one in substance and essence, as the ocean is one though made up of all the waters that flow into it from every source, and as the tree is one though thousands of twigs and leaves are parts of it.
— G. A. Marshall