All readers of T. S. [Theosophical Society] literature are aware that the terms Theosophy, Secret Doctrine, and Wisdom-Religion are generally used as synonymous. While such use of these terms is permissible, and while each of these terms may be made to convey the full meaning of the others, perhaps the real meaning of all the terms can best be shown by an object-lesson in the Wisdom-Religion. The most permanent embodiment and the most accessible form of the Secret Doctrine has always been in the form of religion, the outer forms serving only as a veil to the deeper meaning which was always represented by symbols, glyphics, allegories, and parables. The sublimest truths were ever regarded as a divine revelation to man, and therefore formed the basis of devotion and gave the forms of religious worship. The deeper mysteries completely coordinated the three departments of human action in the search after truth, viz.: Religion, Philosophy, and Science, so that there was perfect agreement between them. Science had no missing-links, Philosophy no false syllogisms or irreconcilable paradoxes, and Religion was entirely divorced from superstition and blind credulity or unreasoning dogmatism. That all such statements will be angrily denied we are quite well aware, and I am as little anxious that the general statements herein made and illustrated by the diagram shall be believed. My only desire is that they shall be understood, and so far apprehended that the reader may be enabled to preserve the picture in the mind for future reference. They who do this need never confound the Secret Doctrine with the outer garb or the degenerate form of any religion known to the world today.
The diagram is not meant to be historically or chronologically exact, though philosophically it is, I believe, true and exact as to relations and sequence. It may be read from below upward, tracing our inheritance backward beyond written history, or it may be read in the reverse order. I prefer the latter method.
Let us, then, assume that there existed in the remote past a Wisdom-Religion emanating from the “Elder Brothers” of the human race who constituted a Lodge of Adepts; whose office it was to preserve and transmit to later generations the accumulated wisdom of all previous humanities. This Wisdom-Religion was a complete coordination of the Religious, the Scientific, and the Philosophical elements in human knowledge. It is therefore represented by a circle divided equally into three parts, with the Lodge in the center as a nucleus. The earliest embodiment of this ancient wisdom was in the Vedas of old India. From the Vedas and Upanishads sprang ancient Brahmanism and later Buddhism, both of which preserved the three-fold division of religion, philosophy, and science. Next in order of importance came the religions of Chaldea and Egypt, each again preserving the three-fold form. Each of these had its organized Mysteries, in which the philosophical and scientific doctrines were preserved and taught to neophytes, with which the outer religious forms taught to the masses were originally in perfect harmony. Next came the religions of Persia and China, emanating from Zoroaster, Confucius, and Laotse, still showing the three-fold form, and followed by the philosophy of Pythagoras and Plato, and then again becoming embodied in the Kabalah with which the Pentateuch and the “Oral Teachings” (afterwards the Talmud) constituted the Jewish Religion. Repudiating later Judaism, with its ceremonies, bloody sacrifices, and traditions, and in keeping with the warnings and anathemas of the Prophets, the religion taught by Jesus embodied the more direct wisdom of the Kaballa, the philosophy of Plato (the doctrine of the Logos), and the doctrines of the Essenes and Gnostics. Thus was shown a direct descent from the old Wisdom-Religion, though giving prominence to the religious and ethical rather than to the scientific and philosophical elements. Nothing is easier than to trace this inheritance by tradition and glyphic. In Christianity under Constantine and Eusebius dogma and the sword established the reign of ecclesiasticism, superseded the religion of Jesus, and prepared the way for the dark ages. The religion of Mahommed, though a religion of conquest and blood, still through its Sufis preserved at least the traditions of a Secret Doctrine, while modern Free Masonry, coordinating the symbols from many sources (largely Kabalistic), has transmitted to modern times the science and philosophy once embodied in the Wisdom-Religion, though it has failed to recover the Key to the lost secret. Coming at last to the sects into which Christianity is today divided, ignorant theological speculations have failed entirely to discern the synthesis of the Wisdom-Religion, and while making a fetish of the name of Jesus have preserved only the ethics he taught, and so divorced his Divinity from his Humanity and became an easy prey to the materialism of modern science. Religion is the divinest part of the ancient three-fold wisdom, because it is through religion that divine truth alone reaches the toiling, sorrowing masses of humanity. Christ knew and taught the Wisdom-Religion, but Christianity today with its ironclads and standing armies is more an heir of Constantine than of Christ. Other and older religions are largely ethnic, and Christianity might indeed become in the truest sense catholic if it would go back to Christ. It is now slowly but surely being undermined by modern materialism. It might find in Theosophy a mighty ally that would enable it to defy materialism and convert the world, but it is too proud and creed-bound to do that, and so Karma awaits it.