Aug 03, 1997 07:13 AM
Here is an interesting statement by H. S. Olcott, the Founder-President of
TS. He should have understood the purpose and goal of TS better than anyone,
because fired as he was by the lofty and difficult task ahead of him, he
was in his prime of life and he gave up everything went off to an unknown
land and worked hard for Theosophy till the end of his life. Even the
American HQ of TS(Adyar) is named after him.
I think as we are getting near the millenium, the following may be of
interest to some.
By H. S. Olcott
[Compiled by S. B. Dougherty, from speeches collected in
Theosophy, Religion and Occult Science (1885), and from
Theosophical Siftings, vol. 4, no. 10 (1891).]
I had been a student of practical psychology for nearly a quarter of a
century. From boyhood no problem had interested me so much as
the mystery of man, and I had been seeking for light upon it
wherever it could be found.
[On meeting H. P. Blavatsky,] our acquaintance at once ripened into
a friendship. We found ourselves to be congenial in opinion, and she
brought to our intercourse the great resources of a mind stored with
a mass of erudition with regard to the arcane or esoteric
philosophies of the ancient times. I found her the most intellectual
woman I had ever met in my life, a very eccentric personage, but a
person who compelled you to either like her very much or to be very
antagonistic to her.
Besides these extraordinary literary and mental accomplishments of
hers, she also possessed in a very striking degree psychical powers
such as we read about in the accounts of the lives of ancient sages,
and the proof of the reality of which powers was vouchsafed to
many witnesses in America for years before we sailed from New
York for India; so that naturally those of us who knew her in those
times and subsequently, have been unaffected by all the imputations
upon her character that have been so rife during the later years of
her life. She was not perfect, yet conceding all her imperfections she
was greater than her detractors and we loved her for herself and for
I now look back to that meeting as the most fortunate event of my
life; for it made light shine in all the dark places, and sent me out on
a mission to help to revive Aryan (1) Occult science, which grows
more absorbingly interesting every day.
Little by little she opened out to me as much of the truth as my
experiences had fitted me to grasp. Step by step I was forced to
relinquish illusory beliefs, cherished for twenty years. And as the
light gradually dawned on my mind, my reverence for the unseen
teachers who had instructed her grew apace. At the same time, a
deep and insatiable yearning possessed me to seek their society, or,
at least, to take up my residence in a land which their presence
glorified, and incorporate myself with a people whom their greatness
ennobled. The time came when I was blessed with a visit from one
of these Mahatmas in my own room at New York -- a visit from
him, not in the physical body, but in the "double," or Mayavi-rupa. .
. . This visit and his conversation sent my heart at one leap around
the globe, across oceans and continents, over sea and land, to India,
and from that moment I had a motive to live for, an end to strive
after. That motive was to gain the Aryan wisdom; that end to work
for its dissemination.
During the three years when I was waiting to come to India, I had
other visits from the Mahatmas, and they were not all Hindus or
Cashmeris. I know some fifteen in all, and among them Copts,
Tibetans, Chinese, Japanese, Siamese, a Hungarian, and a Cypriote.
But, whatever they are, however much they may differ externally as
to race, religion and caste, they are in perfect agreement as to the
fundamentals of occult science and the scientific basis of religion.
The Rishis knew the secrets of Nature and of Man, that there is but
one common platform of all religions, and that upon it ever stood
and now stand, in fraternal concord and amity, the hierophants and
esoteric initiates of the world's great faiths. That platform is
Many practical problems which seem insoluble to individual thinkers
can find their solvent only in an altered disposition of mankind. All
religions seek to effect this change of disposition in the individual
consciousness. But nearly all religious systems have preferred their
specific and distinctive tenets to their true universal basis and
inherent tendency, and have thus become the most discordant of
influences in the world they would regenerate. Therefore it is that
the Theosophical Society has no room for propagandists of any
Religion is most strictly a personal affair: every man makes his own
religion and his own God: . . . after all, when it comes to your actual
religious experience, it will be your experience, measured and limited
by your own personal, psychical and theosophical capacity.
[Religion] is also something sacred, something not to be rudely
interfered with and pried into. The true moralist will exert his
influence to make his fellow-men live up to the best features of their
respective faiths; it is the most audacious of experiments to try and
glue together bits of a number of good religions into a new mosaic.
We are advocating Theosophy as the only method by which one may
discover that Eternal Something, not asking people of another creed
than ours to take our creed and throw aside their own. We two
Founders profess a religion of tolerance, charity, kindness, altruism,
or love of one's fellows; a religion that does not try to discover all
that is bad in our neighbour's creed, but all that is good, and to make
him live up to the best code of morals and piety he can find in it.
It is time that we should try to discover the sources of modern ideas,
and compare what we think we know of the laws of Nature with
what the Asiatic people really did know thousands of years before
Europe was inhabited by our barbarian ancestors, or an European
foot was set upon the American continent.
Suppose that, for a change, we approach the Eastern people in a less
presumptuous spirit, and honestly confessing that we know nothing
at all of the beginning or end of natural law, ask them to help us to
find out what their forefathers knew. This has been the policy of the
Theosophical Society, and it has yielded valuable results already
It is my happiness to not only help to enlarge the boundaries of
Western science by showing where the secrets of nature and of man
may be experimentally studied, and to give Anglo-Indians a greater
respect for the subject nation they rule over, but also to aid in
kindling in the bosoms of Indian youths a due reverence for their
glorious ancestry, and a desire to imitate them in their noble
achievements in science and philosophy.
As I see it, the young Hindus, outside the reformatory Samajes, are
losing their old religious belief, without gaining, or being ready to
embrace, any other. They are becoming exactly like the great mass
of educated youth in Europe and America. . . . It is Science which
undermined the foundations of Religion; it is Science which should
be compelled to erect the new edifice. As an incomplete study of
Nature has led to materialistic Atheism (2), so a complete one will
lead the eager student back to faith in his inner and nobler self, and
in his spiritual destiny. . . . We interfere with no man's creed or
caste; we preach no dogma; we offer no article of faith. We point to
Nature as the most infallible of all divine revelations, and to Science
as the most competent teacher of her mysteries.
There is but one truth, and that is to be sought for in the mystical
world of man's interior nature; theosophically, and by the help of the
"Occult Sciences." .
. . If physical facts can be observed by the eye of the body, so can
spiritual laws be discovered by that interior perception of ours which
we call the eye of the spirit. This perceptive power inheres in the
nature of man; it is the godlike quality which makes him superior to
Every man who really did penetrate the mysteries of life and death
got the truth in solitude and in a mighty travail of body and spirit.
These were all Theosophists -- that is, original searchers after
spiritual knowledge. What they did, what they achieved, any other
man of equal qualities may attain to. And this is the lesson taught by
the Theosophical Society. As they wrested her secrets from the
bosom of Nature, so would we.
Essentially, a Theosophical Society is one which favours man's
original acquisition of knowledge about the hidden things of the
universe, by the education and perfecting of his own latent powers.
Theosophy differs as widely from philosophy as it does from
theology. . . . [It] professes to exclude all dialectical process, and to
derive its whole knowledge of God from direct intuition and
contemplation. This Theosophy dates from the highest antiquity of
which any records are preserved, and every original founder of a
religion was a seeker after divine wisdom by the theosophic process
The lusts of the flesh, the pride of life, the prejudices of birth, race,
creed (so far as it creates dogmatism), must all be put aside. The
body must be made the convenience, instead of the despot, of the
higher self. The prison-bars of sense that incarcerate the man of
matter must be unlocked, and while living in and being a factor in
the outer world, the Theosophist must be able to look into, enter,
act in, and return from, the inner world, fraught with divine truth.
The Theosophist is a man who, whatever be his race, creed, or
condition, aspires to reach this height of wisdom and beatitude by
self-development; and, therefore, you will see that in a Theosophical
Society like that we have founded -- to have one creed for our
members to subscribe to, or one form of prayer for them to adopt,
or any rules that would interfere with their individual relations to
caste, or any other social and external environment not actually
antipathetic to Theosophical research, would be impossible. . . . we
are not preaching a new religion, or founding a new sect, or a new
school of philosophy or occult science.
Now it has been remarked that this movement was floated on
phenomena. To a certain extent that is true, but the fault probably is
more with myself than with [H. P. Blavatsky]. The things she did
were so novel and striking to me, they were so interesting to me as a
veteran student of psychology, they had such an important scientific
bearing upon the problem of the powers of man and the latent forces
of nature, that naturally I urged her to continual displays of these
powers before a variety of witnesses. Reluctantly she complied, and
the result was most unfortunate; it vindicated the wisdom of that
reticence which had been the policy of all the great sages and adepts
in the past.
Neither pessimist nor optimist, I am not satisfied that our race is
doomed to destruction, present or future, nor that the moral sense of
society can be kept undiminished without constant refreshment from
the parent fount. That fount I conceive to be Theosophical study and
personal illumination, and I regard him as a benefactor to his kind
who points out to the sceptical, the despairing, the world-weary, the
heart-hungry, that the vanities of the world do not satisfy the soul's
aspirations, and that true happiness can only be acquired by interior
self-development, purification and enlightenment.
(From Sunrise magazine, February/March 1997. Copyright ©
1997 by Theosophical University Press)
1. [Olcott always used Aryan in reference to Hindustan, and
especially to its ancient sages; aryan comes from the Sanskrit word
for "noble." -- Ed.]
2. Atheism, in the sense of disbelief of even the Universal Principle.
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