Theosophy (1912) by Annie Besant

Theosophy (1912) by Annie Besant 

Theosophy (1912) by Annie Besant


Theosophy is derived from two Greek words Theos, God; Sophia, Wisdom and is, therefore, God- Wisdom, Divine Wisdom. Any dictionary will give as its meaning: 

"A claim to a direct knowledge of God and of Spirits," a definition which is not inaccurate, though it is scanty and affords but a small idea of all that is covered by the word, either historically or practically. The obtaining of " a direct knowledge of God " is as we shall see in dealing with the religious aspect of Theosophy the ultimate object of all Theosophy, as it is the very heart and life of all true Religion; this is " the highest knowledge, the knowledge of Him by whom all else is known "; but the lower knowledge, that of the knowable " all else " and the methods of knowing it, bulk largely in Theosophical study. 

This is natural enough, for the supreme knowledge must be gained by each for himself, and little can be done by another, save by pointing to the way, by inspiring to the effort, by setting the example; whereas the lower knowledge may be taught in books, in lectures, in conversation, is transmissible from mouth to ear. 

This inner, or esoteric, side of religion is found in all the great faiths of the world, more or less explicitly declared, but always existing as the heart of the religion, beyond all the dogmas which form the exoteric side. 

Where the exoteric side propounds a dogma to the intellect, the esoteric offers truth to the Spirit; the one is seen and defended by reason, the other is grasped by intuition that faculty " beyond the reason " after which the philosophy of the West is now groping. In the religions that have passed away, it was taught in the " Mysteries," is the only way in which it can be taught by giving instruction how to pursue the methods which unfold the life of the Spirit more rapidly than that life unfolds in natural and unassisted evolution; we learn from classical writers that in the Mysteries the fear of death was removed and that the object aimed at was not the making of a good man only the man who was already good was admissible but the transforming of the good man into a God. 

Such Mysteries existed as the heart of the religions of antiquity, and only gradually disappeared from Europe from the fourth to the eighth centuries, when they ceased for want of pupils. We find many traces of the Christian Mysteries in the early Christian writers, especially in the works of S. Clement of Alexandria and of Origen, under the name of " The Mysteries of Jesus ". The condition of high morality was made here, as in the Greek Mysteries: "

 Those who for a long time have been conscious of no transgression ... let them draw near." Indications of their origin and existence are found in the New Testament, in which the Christ is said to have taught His disciples secretly " Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to others in parables " and these teachings, Origen maintains, were handed down in the Mysteries of Jesus; S. Paul also declares that " we speak 1 wisdom among them that are perfect " two terms used in the Mysteries. Islam has its secret teachings said to have been derived from Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad to be found by meditation and a discipline of life, methods taught among the Sufis. Buddhism has its Sangha, within which, again by meditation and a discipline of life, the inner truth is to be found. Hinduism, both in its scriptures and its current beliefs, asserts the existence of the supreme and the lower knowledge, the latter to be gained by instruction, the former, once more, by meditation and a discipline of life. 

It is this which makes the supreme knowledge " esoteric "; it is not deliberately veiled and hidden away, but it cannot be imparted; it can only be gained by the unfolding of a faculty, of a power to know, of a mode of consciousness, latent in all men, but not yet developed in the course of normal evolution.

 This shows itself sporadically in the Mystic, often in an erratic fashion, often accompanied with hysteria, but, even then, is nonetheless an indication for the clear-sighted and unprejudiced of a new departure in the long evolution of human consciousness. It is brought to the surface sometimes by exceptional purity: " the pure in heart . . . shall see God." Startling irruptions of it into ordinary life are seen in such cases of " sudden conversion " as are recorded by Prof. James. 

 The spiritual consciousness is a reality; its witness is found in all religions, and it is stirring in many today, as it has stirred in all ages. 

Its evolution in the individual can only be gently and deliberately forced, ahead of normal evolution, by the meditation and the discipline of life alluded to above. For esotericism in religion is not a teaching, but a stage of consciousness; it is not an instruction, but a life. Hence the complaint made by many, that it is elusive, indefinite; it is so to those who have not experienced it, for only that which has been experienced in consciousness can be known to consciousness. Esoteric methods can be taught, but the esoteric- knowledge to which they lead, when successfully followed and lived, must be won by each for himself. We may help to remove obstacles to vision, but a man can only see with his own eyes.


Introduction . . . . . . 9 

I. Theosophy as science. ... 21 

Ii. Theosophy as morality and art . . 43 

In. Theosophy as philosophy .... 52 

Iv. Theosophy as religion . . . . 67 

V. Theosophy applied to social problems. 73 

Vi. A few details about systems and worlds 81 

Vii. The theosophical society . . 89 

Bibliography x . . . ^ 92 

Index  .93 

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