Theosophy (Greek: θεός theos + σοφία sophia), “Divine Wisdom,” or Wisdom of the gods.
At Universal Theosophy, we approach Theosophy as defined by H. P. Blavatsky. A few definitions given by her are as follows:
“Theosophia (Gr.). Wisdom-religion, or ‘Divine Wisdom.’ The substratum and basis of all the world-religions and philosophies, taught and practised by a few elect ever since man became a thinking being. In its practical bearing, Theosophy is purely divine ethics; the definitions in dictionaries are pure nonsense, based on religious prejudice and ignorance of the true spirit of the early Rosicrucians and mediæval philosophers who called themselves Theosophists.”—Theosophical Glossary
Enquirer: Theosophy and its doctrines are often referred to as a new-fangled religion. Is it a religion?
Theosophist: It is not. Theosophy is Divine Knowledge or Science.
Enquirer: What is the real meaning of the term?
Theosophist: “Divine Wisdom,” Θεοσοφια (Theosophia) or Wisdom of the gods, as Θεογονία (theogonia), genealogy of the gods. The word theos means a god in Greek, one of the divine beings, certainly not “God” in the sense attached in our day to the term. Therefore, it is not “Wisdom of God,” as translated by some, but Divine Wisdom such as that possessed by the gods. The term is many thousand years old.
Enquirer: What is the origin of the name?
Theosophist: It comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth, Philaletheians, from φιλ (phil) “loving,” and ἀλήθεια (aletheia) “truth.” The name Theosophy dates from the third century of our era, and began with Ammonius Saccas and his disciples, who started the Eclectic Theosophical system.—The Key to Theosophy
“Theosophy, in its abstract meaning, is Divine Wisdom, or the aggregate of the knowledge and wisdom that underlie the Universe―the homogeneity of eternal GOOD; and in its concrete sense it is the sum total of the same as allotted to man by nature, on this earth.”—The Key to Theosophy
“Theosophy is the shoreless ocean of universal truth, love, and wisdom, reflecting its radiance on the earth.”—The Key to Theosophy
“. . . true Occultism or Theosophy is the ‘Great Renunciation of SELF,’ unconditionally and absolutely, in thought as in action. It is ALTRUISM, and it throws him who practises it out of calculation of the ranks of the living altogether. ‘Not for himself, but for the world, he lives,’ as soon as he has pledged himself to the work.”—“Occultism Versus the Occult Arts,” Lucifer, May, 1888
“The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system: e.g., even in the exotericism of the Purânas. But such is the mysterious power of Occult symbolism, that the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, to set down and explain, in the bewildering series of evolutionary progress, are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs. The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. But modern science believes not in the “soul of things,” and hence will reject the whole system of ancient cosmogony. 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” of the Fifth Race, of the stock saved and rescued from the last cataclysm and shifting of continents, had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: 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
For more on Theosophy from H. P. Blavatsky, see:
What is Theosophy?
What are the Theosophists?
The Key to Theosophy
In addition to definitions given by H. P. Blavatsky, the core meaning of Theosophy (especially in its practical application) is wonderfully explained by her co-worker William Q. Judge in several articles and books. For instance:
“Theosophy is that ocean of knowledge which spreads from shore to shore of the evolution of sentient beings; unfathomable in its deepest parts, it gives the greatest minds their fullest scope, yet, shallow enough at its shores, it will not overwhelm the understanding of a child. It is wisdom about God for those who believe that he is all things and in all, and wisdom about nature for the man who accepts the statement found in the Christian Bible that God cannot be measured or discovered, and that darkness is around his pavilion. Although it contains by derivation the name God and thus may seem at first sight to embrace religion alone, it does not neglect science, for it is the science of sciences and therefore has been called the wisdom religion. For no science is complete which leaves out any department of nature, whether visible or invisible, and that religion which, depending solely on an assumed revelation, turns away from things and the laws which govern them is nothing but a delusion, a foe to progress, an obstacle in the way of man’s advancement toward happiness. Embracing both the scientific and the religious, Theosophy is a scientific religion and a religious science.”—The Ocean of Theosophy
For more from W. Q. Judge on Theosophy, see:
Theosophy Generally Stated
The Criterion of Theosophy
An Epitome of Theosophy
One of the Masterpieces of modern Theosophy, The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky, presents Theosophy as “the synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy.” From this idea we may say that Theosophy is the:
Science of Spirituality
Theosophy postulates an underlying Divine Wisdom and order to the Cosmos, Nature and Man. It is claimed that this wisdom has been sought, tested and verified by nearly countless sages and seers throughout recorded and unrecorded history. Theosophy is not vague or superficial or composed of wishful thinking, but rather it is science extended to its fullest. Theosophy does not deny the truthfulness of modern scientific discoveries and understandings, but also keeps in mind the vast arena of the as yet unknown. Theosophy is scientific, but not materialistic.
Philosophy of Perfectibility
Man is the microcosm of the Macrocosm. Human Nature can either soar or sink. Human potential for creativity, benevolence and knowledge is endless. The great philosophers and philosophic systems of past and present are all attempts to investigate and understand the one shared reality in which we live. Therefore, every earnest and genuine insight into the nature of that reality takes its place among the whole, and is part of that Timeless Wisdom pointed to by theosophists of every age.
Religion of Responsibility
Religion, from the Latin religare, “to bind,” represents an innate yearning in the human heart for connection, unity, oneness. Religions may stray widely from that original impulse, but Religion per se remains ever present as part of our Nature. Divinity underlies all of life, but each man is responsible for his or her actions. The science of theosophy examines cause and effect, and the religion of theosophy urges us to live in harmony with the whole of Nature. The actions of one have a ripple effect upon all—a disturbance in the universal ecosystem may cause imbalance; wise, harmonious action may return balance. Humanity grows through self-devised and self-induced efforts, both individually and collectively. We reap what we sow.
Theosophy Through the Ages
It’s important to understand that Theosophy is not restricted to the modern presentation of these ideas; it is as old as humanity. There is a oneness in fundamental teachings underlying the world’s major religious, philosophical and even scientific schools of thought. This “Wisdom of the Ages” points us towards the true nature of Theosophy. The Movements founded all over the world by history’s Great Teachers show us the unity of their insights. The world’s Sacred Texts provide us with visions of this “divine wisdom.” This is the heritage of humanity, and it is ours to explore.
The founding of the modern Theosophical Movement is generally recognized as spearheaded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, with two main associates, Henry Steel Olcott and William Quan Judge. In 1875 they, and others, founded the Theosophical Society. The Society grew and flourished during their time, and since has spawned several distinct organizations, associations and lodges of theosophical students. There is a vast and ever-growing body of literature belonging to this movement, including translations of sacred texts, original works and countless articles.
Some Key Ideas related to the modern Theosophical Movement
The Original Objects of the Theosophical Society
[Note: the following provide the guidance and foundation of our collective work at Universal Theosophy]
“In order to leave no room for equivocation, the members of the T. S. have to be reminded of the origin of the Society in 1875. Sent to the U.S. of America in 1873 for the purpose of organizing a group of workers on a psychic plane, two years later the writer received orders from her Master and Teacher to form the nucleus of a regular Society whose objects were broadly stated as follows:
1. Universal Brotherhood;
2. No distinction to be made by the member between races, creeds, or social positions, but every member had to be judged and dealt by on his personal merits;
3. To study the philosophies of the East—those of India chiefly, presenting them gradually to the public in various works that would interpret exoteric religions in the light of esoteric teachings;
4. To oppose materialism and theological dogmatism in every possible way, by demonstrating the existence of occult forces unknown to science, in nature, and the presence of psychic and spiritual powers in man; trying, at the same time to enlarge the views of the Spiritualists by showing them that there are other, many other agencies at work in the production of phenomena besides the “Spirits” of the dead. Superstition had to be exposed and avoided; and occult forces, beneficent and maleficent—ever surrounding us and manifesting their presence in various ways—demonstrated to the best of our ability.” (H. P. Blavatsky, “The Original Programme of the Theosophical Society”)
In the Key to Theosophy, Blavatsky gives the following three objectives:
(1.) To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, colour, or creed.
(2.) To promote the study of Aryan and other Scriptures, of the World’s religion and sciences, and to vindicate the importance of old Asiatic literature, namely, of the Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies.
(3.) To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature under every aspect possible, and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man especially.
(see Key to Theosophy, “The Working System of the T.S.”)
For a history of the modifications to the Objects of the T.S., see The Golden Book of the Theosophical Society (1925), pp. 243-250.
For more, see: “Our Directives,” “The Theosophical Society: Its Origin, Plan and Aims,” “Foundation of the Theosophical Society,” etc.
Declaration of the United Lodge of Theosophists
[Note: the following—the declaration signed by associates of the United Lodge of Theosophists—was formulated from key quotes by H. P. Blavatsky and W. Q. Judge, and provides the spirit in which such associates work.]
The policy of this Lodge is independent devotion to the cause of Theosophy, without professing attachment to any Theosophical organization. It is loyal to the great Founders of the Theosophical movement, but does not concern itself with dissensions or differences of individual opinion.
The work it has on hand and the end it keeps in view are too absorbing and too lofty to leave it the time or inclination to take part in side issues. That work and that end is the dissemination of the fundamental principles of the Philosphy of Theosophy, and the exemplification in practice of those principles, through a truer realization of the SELF; a profounder conviction of Universal Brotherhood.
It holds that the unassailable basis for union among Theosophists, wherever and however situated, is “similarity of aim, purpose and teaching,” and therefore has neither Constitution, By-Laws nor Officers, the sole bond between its Associates being that basis. And it aims to disseminate this idea among Theosophists in the furtherance of Unity.
It regards as Theosophists all who are engaged in the true service of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, condition or organization, and
It welcomes to its association all those who are in accord with its declared purposes and who desire to fit themselves, by study and otherwise, to be the better able to help and teach others.
“The true Theosophist belongs to no cult or sect, yet belongs to each and all.”