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Does Theosophy have Core Doctrines or Basic Teachings?

Jul 11, 1996 11:03 AM
by Blavatsky Foundation

[On Theos-l, Theos-Roots and Alt.Theosophy, some
Theosophical students have written that *true* Theosophy does
*not* have core teachings.  These students have characterized those
who believe Theosophy has definite teachings as----
"Core Theosophists."  These Core Theosophists have been
labelled as "dogmatists" and "fundamentalists" and have been
painted in "negative" terms.  Furthermore, one or two students
have labelled the world's religions as being totally negative
and harmful.  I append below excerpts from an article (1975)
written by Boris de Zirkoff, the editor of HPB's "Collected
Writings."  I believe Mr. de Zirkoff's words reflect commonsense
and a practical approach to the study of Theosophy.  I also
append a number of excerpts from HPB's first great work
ISIS UNVEILED which, in my opinion, confirm much of what
Mr. de Zirkoff has written.  Several of HPB's passages also deal with
the subject of "religions."

Food for thought,

Daniel H. Caldwell        ] 


Boris de Zirkoff on the subject: "Does Theosophy have 
Core Doctrines or Basic Teachings?"

"For some years past, a tendency has existed among
some [theosophical] consider theosophy as 
some sort of *generalized approach* to truth, a tradition,
often somewhat uncertain, concerning various aspects
of the Universe and man, a system of ideas and concepts
which can hardly be defined with any degree of exactness
or clarity.  It is most likely that this tendency owes its
origin to a desire to avoid any dogmatic attitude or the
creation of any kind of creed.  The motive may have been
laudable, but the methods employed have been rather

"We should never lose sight of the fact that the Esoteric
Philosophy is a very definite doctrine, a system of 
thought based on specific postulates, on well-defined
propositions....Even a cursory glance at the pages of
*The Secret Doctrine* would confirm this fact.  That
work contains innumerable instances where H.P.B.
(and the Adept-Brothers speaking through her) uses such
expressions as:  "the Secret Doctrine teaches," "secret
records declare," "The Esoteric Philosophy states
that...," "it is the teaching of the ancient occult doctrine,"
and others.  If the student cared to underline these
passages and then read them consecutively, or place
them in juxtaposition, he would see at a glance that the
"Secret Doctrine," as a system of thought, is about
as definite as any science or philosophy is ever apt to
be, and stands in direct opposition to a large number
of other ideas which have become current in the world
under the name of one or another religion or philosophy."

"It is perfectly true that the objects of the organized
body known as The Theosophical Society have never
contained any definition of what Theosophy is or is
not; but it is equally true that the teachings pro-
mulgated by the Founders and their Superiors are
defined in no uncertain language throughout the
length and breadth of the original theosophical literature,
leaving no room whatsoever for doubt as to what the
system of thought known as theosophy is all about, what
it teaches and what it does not."

"If this state of affairs is at any time considered to be
credal in nature, and therefore dogmatic, then we will
have to assume that the statement of 'two and two making
four' is also a creed, or that the laws governing 
gravitational and magnetic energies are dogmatic."

"The propositions of the Esoteric Philosophy may *seem*
to be dogmatic or may be interpreted as a creed by those
of us---probably the overwhelming majority of us----who are
yet unable to prove them to ourselves experimentally.  This
situation is not much different from the fact that a beginner
in chemistry can hardly prove to himself the *alleged* fact
that water is H2O, until he has grasped the methods necessary
to verify it experimentally."

"If we are prepared to comply with the conditions necessary
for a personal investigation of the facts of nature defined by
the Occult Doctrine, we shall be in a position to prove to
ourselves experimentally the validity of its propositions.
How many of us are ready to do so?"

"In the meantime---and far from any acceptance of ideas on
merely a blind belief---we can investigate the coherence 
of that system of thought, its logical interrelatedness, its
appeal to both reason and intuition, its application in both
great and small ways, and its practical value in relation
to others.  Thereby we may become gradually convinced of the 
truth of the propositions and postulates of the Esoteric
Philosophy, long before the time when it will have become
possible for us to undertake a 'clinical' investigation of the
laws involved therein and to manipulate the forces and
energies of the occult aspects of Nature."

Boris de Zirkoff

[Below are appended a good number of quotes by HPB from
her first work ISIS UNVEILED.  I believe these quotes help to 
substantiate what Mr. de Zirkoff has written above.]

"The work now submitted to public judgment is the fruit of a
somewhat intimate acquintance with Eastern Adepts and
study of their science....we came into contact with certain
men, endowed with such mysterious powers and such
profound knowledge that we may truly designate them as
the sages of the Orient.  To their instructions we lent 
a ready ear...."  (I, v, vi)

"...from the first ages of man, the fundamental truths of all 
that we are permitted to know on earth was in the safe keeping
of the adepts of the sanctuary....those guardians of the
primitive divine revelation, who had solved every problem
that is within the grasp of human intellect, were bound
together by a universal freemasonry of science and philosophy,
which formed one unbroken chain around the globe." (I, 37-38)

"There are, scattered throughout the world, a handful of 
thoughtful and solitary students, who pass their lives in 
obscurity, far from the rumors of the world, studying the
great problems of the physical and spiritual universes.
They have thier secret records in which are preserved
the fruits of the scholastic labors of the long line of recluses
whose successors they are...."  (I, 557)

"The esoteric doctrine...teaches...that the one infinite
and unknown Essence exists from all eternity, and in
regular and harmonious sucessions is either passive
or active.  In the poetical phraseology of Manu these
conditions are called the 'day' and the 'night' of Brahma.
The latter is either 'awake' or 'asleep.'...Upon 
inaugurating an active period, says the *Secret Doctrine*,
an expansion of this Divine essence, *from within out-
wardly*, occurs in obedience to eternal and immutable
law, and the phenomenal or visible universe is the
ultimate result of the long chain of cosmical forces
thus progressivly set in motion.  In like manner,
when the passive condition is resumed, a contraction
of the Divine essence takes place, and the previous
work of creation is gradually and progressively
undone.  The visible universe becomes disintegrated,
its material dispersed; and 'darkness,' solitary and
alone, broods once more over the face of the 'deep.'
To use a metaphor which will convey the idea still
more clearly, an outbreathing of the 'unknown essence'
produces the world; and an inhalation causes it to
disappear.  *This process has been going on from 
all eternity, and our present universe is but one of
an infinite series which had no beginning and will have
no end.*"  (II, pp. 264-265)

"Gautama, no less than all other great reformers, had 
a doctrine for his 'elect' and another for the outside
masses....Gautama left the esoteric and most
dangerous portion of the 'secret knowledge' untouched...."
(II, 319)

"...*the Secret Doctrine is the Truth*...."  (II, 292)

"...many are those who...will remain in doubt and mortal
agony as to whether, when man dies, he will live again,
although the question has been solved by long bygone
generations of sages....except the initiates, no one has
understood the mystic writing.  The key was in the 
keeping of those who knew how to commune with the
invisible Presence, and who had received, from the lips
of mother Nature herself, her grand truths...."  (I, 573)

"...This 'secret doctrine' contains the alpha and omega
of universal science; therein lies the corner and the
keystone of all the ancient and modern knowledge; and
alone in this...doctrine remains buried the *absolute*
in the philosophy of the dark problems of life and
death...."  (I, 511)

"Thus is it that all the religious monuments of old,
in whatever land or under whatever climate, are the
expression of the same identical thoughts, the key
to which is in the esoteric doctrine....And the clergy
of every nation, though pracrticing rites and
ceremonies which may have differed externally,
had evidently been inititated into the same
traditional mysteries which were taught all over
the world...."  (I, 561)

"...the Northern seer, Swedenborg, advises people
to search for the LOST WORD among the hierophants
of Tartary, China and Thibet; for it is there, and only
there now...."
"...the four *Vedas*; the *Books of Hermes*; the Chaldean
*Book of Numbers*; the *Nazarene Codex*; the *Kabala*...
; the *Sepher Jezira*; the *Book of Wisdom*...; the 
*Brahmanas; the *Stan-gyour,* of the Thibetans; all these
volumes have the same ground-work.  Varying but in 
allegories they teach the same secret doctrine which...
will prove to be the Ultima Thule of true philosophy, and
disclose what is this LOST WORD."  (I, 580)

"...the 'secret doctrine' or wisdom was identical in every
country...."  (I, 444)

"...What we desire to prove is, that underlying every 
ancient popular religion was the same ancient wisdom-
doctrine, one and identical, professed and practiced
by the initiates of every country, who alone were aware
of its existence and importance....A single
enough to assure one that it could not have attained 
the marvellous perfection in which we find it pictured to us
in the relics of the various esoteric systems, except
after a succession of ages.  A philosophy so profound,
a moral code so ennobling, and practical results so
conclusive and so uniformly demonstrable is not the
growth of a generation, or even a single epoch.  Fact
must have been piled upon fact, deduction upon 
deduction, science have begotten science, and myriads
of the brightest human intellects have reflected upon
the laws of nature, before this ancient doctrine had 
taken concrete shape.  The proofs of this identity
of fundamental doctrine in the old religions are found
in the prevalence of a system of initiation; in the
secret sacredotal castes who had the guardianship
of mystical words of power, and a public display of a
phenomenal control over natural forces, indicating
association with preterhuman beings...."
"As we proceed, we wil point out the evidences of this
identity of vows, formulas, rites, and doctrines, between
the ancient faiths.  We will also show that not only their
memory is still preserved in India, but also that the Secret
Association is still alive and as active as ever....the chief
pontiff and hierophant, the *Brahmatma*, is still accessible
to those 'who know,' though perhaps recognized by another
name; and that the ramifications of his influence extend
throughout the world...."  (II, 99-100)

"Our examination of the multitudinous religious faiths that
mankind, early and late, have professed, most assuredly
indicates that they have all been derived from one 
primitive source.  It would seem as if they were all but 
different modes of expressing the yearning of the imprisoned
human soul for intercourse with supernal spheres.  As the 
while ray of light is decomposed by the prism into the various
colors of the solar spectrum, so the beam of divine truth, in
passing through the *three-sided* prism of man's nature, has
been broken up into vari-colored fragments called RELIGIONS.
And, as the rays of the spectrum, by imperceptible shadings,
merge into each other, so the great theologies that have
appeared at different degrees of divergence from the original
source, have been connected by minor schisms, schools, and
off-shoots from the one side or the other.  Combined, their
aggregate represents one eternal truth; separate, they are
but shades of human error and the signs of imperfection..."
"What has been contemptuously termed Paganism, was ancient
wisdom replete with Deity; and Judaism and its offspring,
Christianity and Islamism, derived whatever of inspiration they
contained from this ethic parent.  Pre-Vedic Brahmanism
and Buddhism are the double source from which all religions
sprung; Nirvana is the ocean to which all tend."  (II, 639)

[Many other excerpts from ISIS UNVEILED could be cited 
on these same themes.]

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