Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Theosophists

Who are the theosophists?
The word means "Divine Wisdom" or the "Wisdom of God". It is not specifically Eastern, Western, Northern or Southern. Some of the famous theosophists of history are Paracelsus, Oetinger and Jacob Boehme; all of whom were Western or Christian theosophists - or you could be a Buddhist, Muslim or Jew; it doesn't matter.

The original impulse behind the modern Theosophical Society was a Rosicrucian one, according to Dr. Steiner- who was himself a member (honorary) of that said society (along with his wife Marie). The word "theosophical" was picked out of a dictionary at the time- other suggestions were: "The Miracle Club" and " The Egyptological Society". During the long period in which he was a member, he was also the leader of the German section from 1902 until 1912 (which included Austria and Switzerland).

 "Theosophy" is a book by Rudolf Steiner. Now the question is, if the Theosophical society taught Eastern doctrines why was Dr. Steiner allowed to teach his Western Rosicrucian teachings and be a leader of the section? He titled his teachings "Rosicrucian Spiritual Science" and began lectures with "My Dear Rosicrucian Friends". Why was this allowed to happen?
The reason is that the stated aim of the Theosophical Society was to avoid dogma. It was a truly open forum with members making up their own minds on whether they wanted follow Eastern or Western paths.

Theosophy is not a religion. In London during the time when H.P. Blavatsky was alive (1883), Dr. Anna Kingsford was the leader of the London Lodge and she taught her own brand of Hermetic Christian teachings.


G.R.S Mead became Blavatsky's private secretary and also joint-secretary of the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society. He made many contributions to the Theosophical Society's Lucifer as joint editor, and eventually became the sole editor of The Theosophical Review in 1907 (as Lucifer was renamed in 1897).

He was attracted to western esotericism, religion and philosophy, but had to leave the TS in 1909 over the Leadbeater affair. "As of February 1909, Mead and some seven-hundred members of the Theosophical Society's British Section resigned in protest at Annie Besant's reinstating of Charles Leadbeater to membership in the society."

HPB moved away from the Rosicrucian to a more Eastern approach- first Indian Hindu and then Tibetan Buddhist. But her teachings were never meant to be dogma.

These are the aims of one of the Theosophical Societies:
"To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.
To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science.
To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in Man."

There is nothing there about it being a path, setting up a new religion or having dogmas (Eastern or otherwise) and forcing people to believe one thing or another. You often find folk with a wide variety of views speaking at theosophical societies around the world. 

As I said, theosophy is not a path.  If someone wants to talk about anthroposophy or any other form of occultism, at the Theosophical Society they can- this goes for the Adyar society.

If Annie Besant had accepted Steiner instead of Leadbeater as her guide, there may never have been an anthroposophical society. Dr. Steiner was in no hurry to leave - as mentioned above, some seven hundred had already left the British Section over the Leadbeater affair in 1909. But things became unbearable with the Krishnamurti issue - also the establishment of a religion was against the statutes.
In 1929 Krishnamurti himself repudiated the great claims made for himself.

As Rudolf Steiner said, the TS was not an occult movement but a place where occultism was discussed. It was, as he saw it, a place for discussion, where each and every member was as important as another.



888 said...

On the mysterious Stanzas of Dyzan: "The oriental wise men say that ancient wisdom is contained in those books, which they have carefully protected, and that this ancient wisdom has not been handed down by people like us, but they derive from higher beings, that they derive from divine sources." "thinkers claimed that this literature testifies that an ancient wisdom existed that went far beyond anything the world knows about spiritual matters today."

What Dr. Steiner is saying here is that the wisdom in the Stanzas derives from the Holy Rishis, so one would have to say that they must be an important anthroposophical study of an advanced nature.

Only gradually will the Stanzas be understood in their depth, according to Dr. Steiner. "It is in fact the case that every advance in a person's own knowledge convinces him more of their limitless depth, and lets him see with increasing clarity things which even advanced knowledge can only surmise."

888 said...

The founding members of the TS did have a fascination with "phenomena" of one kind or another. They wished to make the spiritual physically manifest, as in ectoplasm and Felt's magic shows. It was a symptom of the times materialism. They wanted to prove certain spiritual facts through 'materialisations'. The contents of the S.D.are a result of practical occultism, (as Tomberg pointed out) both by H.P.B. and the Adepts.Object No. 5: To investigate the powers innate in man. Does this mean we just read about them? Prior to the founding of the T.S., Mr.George Felt, H.B. of L., felt very inclined towards a public demonstration of the existence of nature spirits,using the magical sciences of old Egypt. The lecture was well received and afterwards as reported in Old Diary Leaves by the Colonel:

"the idea occurred to me that it would be a good thing to form a Society to pursue and promote such occult research..."

vol 1 pp 118-19 "from the Minute book" September 8th

"In consequence of a proposal of Col. Henry S. Olcott that a Society be formed for the study and elucidation of Occultism, the Cabbala, etc....."

ibid 121-122
As an aside, H.P.B. uses the word "Theosophic" in an article in the Spiritual Scientist July 1875 "the modern Theosophists, at whose head was Paracelsus."
-Collected Writings vol 1 pp 106, 110.
K.H. writing to Hume was concerned "But a hot-bed of magic we never dreamt of. Such an organisation... is unthinkable among Europeans; and it has become next to impossible in India..." M.L. p207

I think the "Universal Brotherhood" bit was popped in later. After all who were these people? They weren't philanthropists as far as I'm aware, but occultists of one sort or another.

Robert Owen however was one the greatest philanthropists in history(mentioned in People from the other World). He would have been a wonderful founding member. He unfortunately died in 1858.

888 said...

In order to become leader he was made an honorary member (how could you become leader if you weren't a member?) by being given a "diploma" sent from England.
He refused to pay the membership fee, however Marie payed hers.

"When the leader of the German theosophical branch, Countess Brockdorff, asked if he would not work with them, Steiner agreed under unusual terms: "Steiner evidently avoided requesting membership in the Theosophical Society, and made the condition that he would be released from all membership contributions. "‘Then I was sent a complementary “diploma” from England and became at the same time General Secretary of the German Theosophical Society.’" Lindenberg, p. 326.

888 said...

T.Subba Row:
"All of you know that our Society is established upon a cosmopolitan basis. We are not wedded to any particular creed or to any particular system of religious philosophy. We consider ourselves as mere enquirers. Every great system of philosophy is brought before us for the purpose of investigation. At the present time we are not at all agreed upon any particular philosophy which could be preached as the philosophy of our Society. This is no doubt a very safe position to take at the commencement. But from all this it does not follow that we are to be enquirers and enquirers only. We shall, no doubt, be able to find out the fundamental principles of all philosophy and base upon them a system which is likely to satisfy our wants and aspirations. You will kindly bear this in mind, and not take my views as the views of the Society, or as the views of any other authority higher than myself. I shall simply put them forward for what they are worth. They are the results of my own investigations into various systems of philosophy and no higher authority is alleged for them. It is only with this view that I mean to put forward the few remarks I have to make."

888 said...

"Theosophists have no dogmas, exact no blind faith. Theosophists are ever ready to abandon every idea that is proved erroneous upon strictly logical deductions; let Spiritualists do the same. Dogmas are the toys that amuse, and can satisfy, but unreasoning children. They are the offspring of human speculation and prejudiced fancy.....

"Realizing, as they do, the boundlessness of the absolute truth, Theosophists repudiate all claim to infallibility. The most cherished preconceptions, the most "pious hope," the strongest "master passion," they sweep aside like dust from their path, when their error is pointed out. Their highest hope is to approximate to the truth. That they have succeeded in going a few steps beyond the Spiritualists, they think proved in their conviction that they know nothing in comparison with what is to be learned; in their sacrifice of every pet theory and prompting of emotionalism at the shrine of fact; and in their absolute and unqualified repudiation of everything that smacks of "dogma."
- Blavatsky

888 said...

"We must learn completely to overcome the inclination to a theosophy of a definite stamp and colouring. It has gradually come about in the history of evolution that theosophies have tended to receive a certain nuance and colouring in accordance — I will not say with religious prejudices, but with religious preconceived feelings and opinions. Theosophy needs to keep constantly in view its ideal, — to be a reflection of occultism. There can therefore be no such thing as a Buddhist theosophy or a Hindu theosophy, or a Zoroastrian or a Christian. Naturally, regard must be had to the characteristic ideas and thoughts with which particular people will approach theosophy."