Theosophy proposes the existence of that which may be variously termed the “Wisdom-religion,” “Perennial Philosophy,” “Prisca Theologia,” “Esoteric or Occult Philosophy,” etc., as a continuous stream of human wisdom handed down from generation to generation as far back as human memory may reach. It is claimed—and attempts are made to demonstrate—that such a stream of wisdom forms “the substratum and basis of all the world-religions and philosophies,” and that it has been “taught and practised by a few elect ever since man became a thinking being.”
In her book The Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky, she explains that:
“The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system . . . It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the “Wise Men” . . . had passed their lives in learning . . . by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organisations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions—so obtained as to stand as independent evidence—of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences.”—The Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, p. 272-73
One of the key motivations of the modern Theosophical Movement was to demonstrate the existence of this stream of wisdom. H. P. Blavatsky prefaces her book The Secret Doctrine with the following:
“The public must be made acquainted with the efforts of many World-adepts, of initiated poets, writers, and classics of every age, to preserve in the records of Humanity the Knowledge of the existence, at least, of such a philosophy, if not actually of its tenets. . . . [and it must be shown] on semi-traditional and semi-historical authority, that knowledge of the Occult and the powers it confers on man, are not altogether fictions, but that they are as old as the world itself.”
Modern Theosophy, however, is not representative of that complete system, but is rather simply a few fragments and key ideas. It is but “the outline of a few fundamental truths from the Secret Doctrine of the Archaic ages,” for “that which must remain unsaid could not be contained in a hundred such volumes.”
Students of theosophy are encouraged to seek for the traces of this wisdom within their own, and any other traditions, and to not rest satisfied with the outward from of such traditional systems. The outer forms of such traditions have all, without exception, been dogmatized and mixed up with the prevalent superstitions and errors of the cultures in which they were presented. The heart, however, the truly esoteric (“hidden”) teachings can be found behind the outer veil of any of the major traditions of the world. Yet it is said that none are in possession of the whole doctrine; therefore students of Theosophy are encouraged to compare and contrast, to bring together the elements of wisdom from each tradition.
To aid in this process, the following resources have been developed.