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Defining Theosophy

Feb 16, 1997 02:49 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

>>Theosophy (capital "T") to me is the study of the ideas
>>promulgated by the Theosophical Society found in 1875; ideas
>>promulgated by the schisms; and ideas promulgated by
>>organizations inspired by the original Organizations.
>> Small "t" theosophy, on the other hand, is the study of those
>>ideas believed to be derived from intercourse with God, the
>>gods, or angels.

>I agree with this 4%..
>In my opinion, the future of the TS is very bleak unless it can
>somehow ween itself away from this capital-T indulgence.  This
>will be very difficult, if not impossible.  The doctrinal
>association came down to us over time courtesy of many, many
>individuals who could not resist the temptation to have
>something "solid" in terms of belief or "teachings" to point to.

I sympathize and agree with your concerns, and I think our
disagreement here is really more apparent than real.  In truth,
the Theosophical Society had doctrines (teachings) almost from
the beginning.  This idea of the TS having teachings was probably
not in the minds of the seventeen or so original founders, but it
became so through the writings of Blavatsky and Sinnett through
the Mahatmas (regardless of whoever or whatever you believe or
don't believe them to be).  That doctrine was first formalized in
1883 in  A.P. Sinnett's ESOTERIC BUDDHISM.  Based upon my
numerous readings and readings of the Mahatma Letters and of
Blavatsky's writings, I think that it was Blavatsky's and the
Mahatma's intention that the TS have teachings.  However, it was
never the intention that the TS have dogmas.  I agree that the
problems came through the "doctrinal association" that you
mentioned.  However, the problem was not with the doctrines, but
with the "association" of the doctrines with dogma.  When members
of the TS began to become marginalzed for not agreeing with the
beliefs of the management (i.e. world teacher, neo-theosophy,
LCC, OSE, ER, Co-M, etc.), then the handwriting was already on
the wall.

>If it is HPB's Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis one subscribes
>to, perhaps one should simply say "Cosmogenesis" and
>"Anthropogenesis" rather than "Theosophy."  By continuing to
>insist that there is both a brand-name Theosophy and a lesser
>generic theosophy, all the problems of the organization get
>perpetuated.  For example, your Theosophy includes "ideas
>promulgated by the schisms"; however, it is doubtful that many
>of the former or present ES would be willing to go along with
>such an inclusive view of what comprises real Theosophy.  Thus,
>you are out, organizationally speaking, and there is a good
>reason to keep you out, organizationally speaking.

I absolutely agree. I am "out, organizationally speaking."  I was
thrown out because I refused to conform to the Organizational
dogmas, and worse yet, I tried to change them by advocating that
the TS practice brotherhood towards the other Theosophical
organizations.  But if I were a member of the TS in 1887, my
definition or beliefs would not have put me out.  Currently, I
have been researching W.B. Yeats' association with the TS, and it
has become very clear that he resigned from the TS precisely
because he saw the same dogmatic attitude developing that keeps
me out of the Organization today.  Yeats said that the TS started
out as a great philosophical movement, but is turning into a
religion.  His criticism was not with the doctrines, but with the
developing dogmatism among the membership.

My definition of Theosophy is intended to include all of the
doctrines generated by the TS, its schisms and Organizations
inspired by those doctrines.  But it excludes theosophy as
understood by the seventeenth century philosophers.  Antone
Faivre in his recent book, ACCESS TO WESTERN ESOTERICISM,
separates the two, because theosophy has its roots in the Greco-
Egyptian world, where Theosophy syncretises this with Eastern
philosophy and religion.  I agree with this.  Faivre also
separates the Arcane School (Bailey), classifying it among the
new age religions, while still considering Theosophy as a
syncretic philosophy.

That the former or present ES would not accept my definition of
Theosophy or theosophy is no concern of mine.  What they call
Theosophy, is what I call neo-Theosophy.  My personal interest is
in Theosophy as it was in 1890, not in 1990.  But the rejection
of members who do not conform is not new.  Around 1887 or so,
Maude Gonne, a famous Irish revolutionary, once complained to HPB
that she was rejected by the Dublin Theosophists because of her
political activities.  In her autobiography, Gonne quoted HPB's

       `My deal child,' she said, `of course you can do what you
       like in politics.  That has nothing to do with Theosophy.
       If a man, for instance, cut off a cow's tail" (the English
       papers at the time were full of talk of Land-League
       atrocities) it will injure his own Kharma, but it would not
       prevent him being a member of the Theosophical Society.
       They must be flapdoodles in that Dublin Branch.  I will tell
       them so.'

>Perhaps more important from my standpoint, however, is the way
>that "small-t" ~theosophy~ often gets defined.  "Those ideas
>believed to be derived from intercourse with God, the gods, or
>angels," is not such a good representation, in my opinion.

Perhaps not, but it is the definition used in THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF
PHILOSOPHY, and I believe it to be responsive to the historical
usage of the term.  My point was to separate the nineteenth
century Theosophical movement from the classical theosophical
movement.  I realize that HPB wanted to make the Theosophical
movement an extension of the classical theosophical movement, but
later commentators outside of the TS make a distinction between
the two.  This is because HPB syncretised Eastern philosophy to
what had always been a Western movement, thus creating a wholly
different concept.  I have to respect this distinction.  It
works.  When discussing Theosophy with people who are not
Theosophists, but know classical philosophy, it makes
communication possible.  The definition that annoys me is:
"Theosophy is everything, but everything is not theosophy."
Though it makes no logical sense, and explains nothing to an
inquirer, it was in popular use among Theosophists for a while.
Perhaps because of its pseudo-zen ring.

>The whole idea of theosophy, it seems to me, is that each
>individual has the capacity to unite with his or her own "divine
>nature," and as a result of this union, things can be known
>which cannot be known in any other way.  Maybe if this ~process~
>gradually became known as capital-T ~Theosophy~, the TS could be
>saved, after all. . . .

According to my understanding of Blavatskian Theosophy, uniting
with one's own divine nature is a modern way of saying what the
theosopher mystics meant when they talked of having intercourse
with angels or gods.  I see it as two ways of saying the same

>~theosophy~:  "valid knowledge which has its base in, or at
>least originally derives from, transcendental, mystical, or
>intuitive insight or higher perception."


>~Theosophy~:  "The Universal of which ~theosophy~ is the

I think the syncretic philosophy as developed in Blavatsky's
writings was intended to carry the label "Theosophy."  Though the
organization and its schisms has caused the term to grow beyond
that.  When I want to be more precise, I distinguish between
Theosophy and neo-Theosophy.  As for "theosophy", I reserve this
term for the classical movement, as described in any good
dictionary or encyclopedia.

>~Theosophy~:  "The organization or general modern movement."

For this definition, I use the terms "Theosophical Society" or
"Theosophical Movement"

>~Theosophy~:  "The factitious synonymizing of a term by Saducees
>and Pharisees so that every Jesus after Jesus is forced to
>eventually leave the Temple in dispair that he or she must not
>have really been Jewish to begin with."

What you define here, is what I believe to be the "Theosophy"
taught and practiced by the present day ES.

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