“In thus affording even the superficial thinker and the weak or illogical reasoner a perfect basis for ethics and an unerring guide in life, Theosophy is building toward the future realization of the Universal Brotherhood and the higher evolution of man. . . . It involves a process of thought almost unknown to the present age of empiricism and induction. It is a revelation from archaic ages, indestructible and eternal, yet capable of being obscured and lost; capable of being again and again reborn, or like man himself—reincarnated.”—William Q. Judge
Is Mr. Judge “right” in calling Theosophy a “revelation”? If one consults the first page of the Preface to The Secret Doctrine, it will be found that the author says that the truths in this book “are in no sense put forward as a revelation,” and that she does not “claim the position of a revealer of mystic lore, now made public for the first time in the world’s history.”
Reading on, however, we find H.P.B. (xxx) calling as witnesses to the reality of the Wisdom Religion “learned writers” of the last century who insisted that there must have been “fragments of a primeval revelation, granted to the ancestors of the whole race of mankind. . . . preserved in the temples of Greece and Italy,” . . . And in the Proem (pp. 9 and 10) it becomes apparent that the usage of “revelation” to which H.P.B. objects is that applied to “the God of human dogma and his humanized ‘Word’.” “Revelation” is acceptable, or not acceptable, depending upon the source to which it is attributed—since that source governs the manner in which it is received by human beings. The passage in the Proem illustrates this distinction. Rejected is the “human dogma” of which H.P.B. says:
In his infinite conceit and inherent pride and vanity, man shaped it himself with his sacrilegious hand out of the material he found in his own small brain-fabric, and forced it upon mankind as a direct revelation from the one unrevealed space.
On the other hand:
The Occultist accepts revelation as coming from divine yet still finite Beings, the manifested lives, never from the Unmanifestable one life; from those entities, called Primordial Man, Dhyani-Buddhas, or Dhyan-Chohans, the “Rishi-Prajapati” of the Hindus, the Elohim or “Sons of God,” the Planetary Spirits of all nations, who have become Gods for men.
Of the uses that may be made of “revelation” from such high intelligences, we have ample discussion by H.P.B. in her articles, “What Is Truth?” and “Is Theosophy a Religion?” The law involved in the work of these teachers is that of the Guruparampara chain, spoken of in the Letters of Mr. Judge, by means of which continuity of knowledge is maintained between “generations” of Souls, and the wisdom of those who have achieved consciousness on higher planes is made available to aspiring human beings, from cycle to cycle.
Further light on this question is obtained from H.P.B.’s comment on a long passage quoted in The Secret Doctrine (I, 308-9) from Ralston Skinner. At its conclusion Mr. Skinner remarks that there are very strong evidences to show that there once existed “a perfect language and system of science,” to which he added that “it would seem that in the history of the human race there happened, from causes which at present, at any rate, we cannot trace, a lapse or loss from an original and perfect language and a perfect system of science — shall we say perfect because they were of divine origin and importation?” H.P.B.’s comment follows:
“Divine origin” does not mean here a revelation from an anthropomorphic god on a mount amidst thunder and lightning; but, as we understand it, a language and a system of science imparted to the early mankind by a more advanced mankind, so much higher as to be divine in the sight of that infant humanity. By a “mankind,” in short, from other spheres; an idea which contains nothing supernatural in it, but the acceptance or rejection of which depends upon the degree of conceit and arrogance in the mind of him to whom it is stated. For, if the professors of modern knowledge would only confess that, though they know nothing of the future of the disembodied man—or rather will accept nothing—yet this future may be pregnant with surprises and unexpected revelations to them, once their Egos are rid of their gross bodies—then materialistic unbelief would have fewer chances than it has. Who of them knows, or can tell, what may happen when once the life cycle of this globe is run down and our mother earth herself falls into her last sleep? Who is bold enough to say that the divine Egos of our mankind—at least the elect out of the multitudes passing on to other spheres—will not become in their turn the “divine” instructors of a new mankind generated by them on a new globe, called to life and activity by the disembodied “principles” of our Earth?
On page 356 (I), H.P.B. gives unequivocal illustration of the context in which the word “revelation” is a justified term. After showing common elements in the world’s religions, she remarks:
Whence then, all this identity of ideas, if there was no primeval Universal Revelation? The few points shown are like a few straws in a hayrick, in comparison to that which will be shown as the work proceeds.
The key words here seem to be “primeval” and “universal,” giving H.P.B.’s use of “revelation” a character distinct from that of sectarian religion. A final distinguishing point is the insistence again and again that revelation is a part of nature’s processes bound up with the beginnings of cycles. As remarked in the closing pages of The Secret Doctrine (797):
It was necessary to show that no religion, since the very earliest, has ever been entirely based on fiction, as none was the object of special revelation; and that it is dogma alone which has ever been killing primeval truth. Finally, that no human-born doctrine, no creed, however sanctified by custom and antiquity, can compare in sacredness with the religion of Nature.
And so it is that in her Preface, H.P.B. observed that The Secret Doctrine “claims consideration, not by any reason of appeal to dogmatic authority, but because it closely adheres to Nature, and follows the laws of uniformity and analogy,” and adds in the Introductory: “It is above everything important to keep in mind that no theosophical book acquires the least additional value from pretended authority.”
“Revelation,” then, is a fact and a possibility in life and nature by reason of the potentiality of spiritual understanding with which each human being is endowed—a potentiality realized, for example, by Arjuna in the eleventh discourse of the Bhagavad-Gita. Arjuna was ready for what Krishna was then able to “reveal” to him.
But the abuse and imitation of this great law of nature was such in H.P.B.’s time that the very word “revelation” had become an epithet in the vocabulary of free-thinking men, and was used in this sense in her Preface, while later on, in the context of exposition of the spiritual realities of human evolution, she used the word in its original, unblemished meaning, for the benefit of those who, as serious students, could be expected not to misunderstand her intent.