Modern Theosophy proposes a handful of core ideas for consideration. These are not put forward as dogmas, to be blindly believed or disbelieved, but rather are presented as propositions to be studied and contemplated. Once studied and understood (at least to some degree) it will become clear that these ideas form a foundation on which the whole theosophical philosophy rests. They are, therefore, of utmost importance for a proper understanding of the worldview put forward by that philosophy.
H. P. Blavatsky begins her magnum opus The Secret Doctrine with three “Fundamental Propositions.” In prefacing these propositions, she says that “it is absolutely necessary that [the student] should be made acquainted with the few fundamental conceptions which underlie and pervade the entire system of thought to which his attention is invited. These basic ideas are few in number, and on their clear apprehension depends the understanding of all that follows.” (SD 1:13; underline added for emphasis.)
These “Three Fundamental Propositions” are:
1. “An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable Principle on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range and reach of thought—in the words of Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad, ‘unthinkable and unspeakable.’” (SD 1:14.) This is “the Absolute; the Parabrahma of the Vedāntins or the one Reality, Sat, which is, as Hegel says, both Absolute Being and Non-Being.” (SD 1:16.) “The fundamental Law in that system [the “Wisdom of the Ages”; see below], the central point from which all emerged, around and toward which all gravitates, and upon which is hung the philosophy of the rest, is the One homogeneous divine Substance-Principle, the one radical cause.” (SD 1:273.)
2. “The Eternity of the Universe in toto [in total] as a boundless plane; periodically ‘the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,’ called ‘the manifesting stars,’ and the ‘sparks of Eternity.’” (SD 1:16.) Or put another way: “The Universe is the periodical manifestation of [the] unknown Absolute Essence.” (SD 1:273.)
3. “The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul . . . and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul—a spark of the former—through the Cycle of Incarnation (or ‘Necessity’) in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term. In other words, [the] divine Soul [must] (a) pass through every elemental form of the phenomenal world . . . and (b) acquire individuality, first by natural impulse, and then by self-induced and self-devised efforts (checked by its Karma), thus ascending through all the degrees of intelligence, from the lowest to the highest Manas [mind], from mineral and plant, up to the holiest archangel (Dhyāni-Buddha).” (SD 1:17.)
“Such are the basic conceptions on which the Secret Doctrine rests. . . . Once that the reader has gained a clear comprehension of them and realised the light which they throw on every problem of life, they will need no further justification in his eyes, because their truth will be to him as evident as the sun in heaven.” (SD 1:20.)
In addition to these three fundamental propositions and the doctrines inherent in them, Blavatsky and her teachers put forward another critical idea for consideration:
4. The inherent existence of Divine Wisdom or “Theos-Sophia” and the existence of an accumulated “Wisdom of the Ages” belonging to humanity (SD 1:272). This Wisdom of the Ages is said to be taught openly in the world from time to time and to form the original foundation of all the major world religions and spiritual philosophies (while these differ in outward appearance, the claim is made in Theosophy that their fundamental cores arose from one and the same source).
Three further important ideas present themselves during our consideration of the above propositions and our study of the theosophical philosophy. Blavatsky outlines these as follows:
A. “The Universe is called, with everything in it, Maya, because all is temporary therein, from the ephemeral life of a fire-fly to that of the Sun. Compared to the eternal immutability of the One, and the changelessness of that Principle, the Universe, with its evanescent ever-changing forms, must be necessarily, in the mind of a philosopher, no better than a will-o’-the-wisp. Yet, the Universe is real enough to the conscious beings in it, which are as unreal as it is itself.” (SD 1:274.)
B. “Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is conscious: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception.” And “there is no such thing as either ‘dead’ or ‘blind’ matter, as there is no ‘Blind’ or ‘Unconscious’ Law.” (SD 1:274.)
C. “The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards. . . . The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform, and who—whether we give to them one name or another, and call them Dhyan-Chohans or Angels—are ‘messengers’ in the sense only that they are the agents of Karmic and Cosmic Laws.” (SD 1:274.)
Several subjects were placed at the forefront of early theosophical writings and were given more attention than others. It appears that Blavatsky’s teachers believed that a focus on these subjects is of critical importance to humanity at this time. Some of these are:
1. The need for Practical Brotherhood, Solidarity and Unity of Humanity on Earth. This is included in the above doctrine of Universal Brotherhood, and was made the First Object of the Theosophical Society. This subject was given higher importance than any other teaching, and was practically adopted in the Theosophical Movement on a basis of Unity in Diversity.
2. A consideration of the existence of the “Elder Brothers” of Humanity, aka Mahatmas and Adepts. This is included in the above doctrine of Human Perfectibility. Such a consideration does not involve blind belief in these further evolved beings, but is again simply a possibility to be examined in light of the above propositions.
4. The doctrine of the “Seven Principles of Man” or the “Sevenfold Constitution of Man.” This is included in the above doctrine of Divisions of Man and Nature; it also involves the doctrines of Analogy and Correspondence and Hierarchies of Beings. This is encompassed in the Third Object of the Theosophical Society.
Recommended Initial Readings
The following are some theosophical books where the above ideas are discussed:
The Key to Theosophy by H. P. Blavatsky
The Ocean of Theosophy by W. Q. Judge
Esoteric Buddhism by A. P. Sinnett
The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky
Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge by H. P. Blavatsky
The Voice of the Silence by H. P. Blavatsky
See also: Writings related to the fundamental doctrines of Theosophy and visit our Library of Theosophical Writings.