A GLIMPSE INTO THEOSOPHY

by F.A. BRODIE-INNES

reprinted from Theosophical Siftings - Volume 2

" IT is the fashion to believe in ghosts". Little straws show which way the wind blows, and the casual remark here quoted is an indication of the widely-increasing curiosity in the direction of the so-called supernatural. Materialism is producing its inevitable reaction towards spirituality; a reaction which takes various directions with different minds. Spiritualism attracts some — the study of the old writings of alchemists and astrologers others — and perhaps a larger number are drawn to Eastern philosophy, which really supplies most of the keys needed to any study which goes deeper than the mere surface of things.

Waves of thought creep over races and nations in a regular order — and, looking back, one may see at intervals of about one hundred years the same turning towards spiritual development after a long growth in a material direction. Mesmer and Cagliostro, in the eighteenth century, and the old witchcraft trials in the seventeenth century show the same curious tendency, and now even more strongly we may see it, creeping into every form of thought and teaching, and reaching all minds according to the way in which each can be affected by it. This persistent and ever-recurring attempt to explore the unknown — this vague yearning after the infinite, has its place in nearly every human soul, and to the more advanced souls in each succeeding age this has been no vague yearning merely, but a splendid reality, a living embodiment of eternal truths called by various names. Theosophia — wisdom of God — Wisdom Religion.

Here it has been, here it will be, ever ready and waiting for men to see and use, but those who need this wisdom must seek it, and only when men have come to that blank wall where ends all purely materialistic search, when they have realized their own emptiness of satisfaction — then they turn with the empty hands and heart into which wisdom will be surely put. All forms of religious belief are based upon certain great truths, as old as mankind. These relate to man's nature and his attitude with regard to the source of his being.

Probe every form of religious belief to its inmost heart and there will be found the truth, alike in each one, from which the diverging lines of thought have grown. The materialistic tendency of modern thought is one of the chief causes of the numerous and various sects which from time to time detach themselves from the parent stem, their mother church, and try to grow and flourish by themselves. Their reason for breaking away from the larger body is usually one of denial of some doctrine, and not a fresh assertion of a truth; they separate because they wish to limit, not because they desire to extend [Page 10] their former boundaries. All materialism tends to limit and define, to bring human reason to bear upon every subject and every thought. This gradual narrowing down inevitably produces a withering -and decay, the lopped-off branches cannot grow apart from the parent stem, they keep a certain amount of vitality, which lingers on for some time, but the detached branch is doomed, for it has been cut away from the roots and the source of nourishment. And what is thus true of sects is true of individuals. Each one with this tendency to think and reason everything out from a purely exoteric point of view, detaches himself from the root-ideas — the great underlying truths, which he has lost sight of in his endeavour to reason about externals; this mental attitude is so general, so widespread, that it is beginning to produce the inevitable result — the reaction towards a more spiritual growth — a struggle in a totally opposite direction.

The power to retrace one's steps is not given to everyone, and for most people, the only way is to approach the subject from a different point of view, or we might say, open another door into the light of truth. No new truth is required, all that we want is there, only hidden under a good deal of the dust and dross of human thought and expression; or rather, we ourselves have accumulated all this dust and dross in front of one of our doors into the light, and because we cannot see that this heap is of our own making and must be cleared by our own effort, we must needs try another of the ways into the light. This seeking into the heart of any system of religious belief can in no sense be called an endeavour to create a new religious system; it is, as regards the religion, the same as educating a child, drawing out and developing the latent powers — helping the hidden soul to bud and blossom and bear fruit. Every form of religious belief has this soul, more or less overlaid with the crust of human materialism, as the soul is weighted and bound with chains of matter, and one of the chief objects of Theosophy is to help the growth of this soul in religion, so that, by its development, it shall throw off whatever of human error had accumulated upon and hidden the Divine truth. All, great religious reforms have been accomplished in the same way — from within outwards — no other way is possible. Just as each individual soul works from within outwards, so also must each individual system of belief work from within outwards. Therefore, one of the principal aims of Theosophy is to lead each one, no matter what his creed, to look into the heart of that creed and find the truth and beauty that lie within it, casting off whatever external crust may be necessary to the clearer perception of, and the enlarged faith, in that creed.

Theosophy is not a new religion. There can be no such thing. It brings new light, new enthusiasm, new zeal, new faith; but only to concentrate all these upon the old eternal Divine heart in the old religion.

Theosophy is not, in any sense, antagonistic to the Christianity taught by Christ. It is at war with the shams and hypocrisy and heathen selfishness [Page 11] which so often rule the lives of those who have the Master's word on their lips, but whose hearts are far from Him.

Much of modern Christianity may be compared to a jewel hidden in a tarnished casket, which few are willing or able to unlock. There is the jewel shining radiantly as ever, but the casket is dimmed and soiled with human error and selfishness, men have forgotten that it may be opened, some have thrown away the key, others say it is not meet to look at the jewel, others deny, that any jewel is there; some there are whose faith wavers, and to whom a key, and one glimpse at the Divine light hidden within the casket, would be the commencement of their progress to higher things and firmer faith, and to these Theosophy especially appeals. It gives no fresh jewel, no new casket, but a key to open the old one. Where in this can be found antagonism to, and denial and destruction of popular beliefs and doctrines ?

Theosophy meets and answers some of the difficulties of earnest seekers after truth, who have had none but the outside forms presented to them, and who have failed to see the inner meaning lying hidden in the forms. They feel the difference between the theory and practice of religion; they see the perfunctory performance of religious duties absolutely separated from the spirit which should animate them; they see rules of life and conduct; framed in accordance with the highest ideals, absolutely disregarded and disobeyed, and those who attempt to follow them lightly scorned as "unpractical" and "Quixotic". Then they rebel against the form, thinking that alone is to blame; and so quarrelling with externals, cut themselves off from the possibility of grasping the spirit which is still in the form, waiting to be called forth by the one who call see and feel it, and who is ready and willing to take both spirit and form, and make them the means of living anew life.

So any system of philosophy or religion which draws out and makes more clear and perceptible the spirit which animates it, should be welcomed by the seeker after truth, who has in his blind endeavours pushed aside the very truth he was seeking, because he failed to recognise it; and this is what Theosophy is doing in a large measure for Christianity, not denying its truths, but making them more clear to those who have failed to perceive.

The first great aim of Theosophy is Unity. The proclaiming of unity in everything: —

"One God, one law, one element.
"And one far-off divine event to which the whole creation moves."

To find a common ground on which all spiritual belief rests, a common motive for all action, a common law of righteousness. Hence, in true Theosophy is no room for denial. It insists on the positive teaching of all religious systems, the negative side it leaves alone. Truth will live, falsehood need not be killed — it will die. And the speed of its death will be in exact proportion [Page 12] to the strength of the positive assertion of truth. So, individualism, sectarianism, separateness of every kind, is diametrically opposed to the true spirit of Theosophy, which will, if we act up to that spirit, but bind us more firmly and closely together, minimising our differences, magnifying our agreements, and so bringing about a greater harmony of thought and feeling, which is the only way to unity of action. Unity leads to goodness — goodness in its largest, widest, sense; not outward propriety of conduct or blamelessness in the eyes of our neighbours, but the endeavour after absolute purity of mind and heart, the effort towards self-sacrifice, self-knowledge, and self-control. All this is all essential part of Theosophy's first great aim.

And in no way is the urgent necessity for purity of life and thought more keenly brought home to each individual mind than in the teaching embodied in what is called "the law of Karma". The inevitable, inexorable justice of the divine law of consequences. "As a man sows, so also shall he reap". Every trivial thought or action entailing a good or evil result — it is the payment of the “uttermost farthing”. To realize this law fully, its absolute justice and ultimate end involves that earnest endeavour after self-knowledge, which leads to self-control and effort towards higher things. Not the mere selfish thought that right-doing will produce personal satisfaction, but that higher reaching after goodness — that hunger of soul, which has for its final end the loss of self in the great All or Oneness. So goodness and unity are one, and nothing is good but what leads to unity. And the outcome of both is knowledge; not the mere intellectual attainments the world counts knowledge, but that higher wisdom, that knowledge of divine things which is indicated in the term Theosophy — Divine wisdom, science of divine things. And science it is, in the most exact meaning of that much misused word, which has come to mean only knowledge of material things, only to be proved and perceived by the evidence of man's five senses.

There are two methods of apprehending this divine science. First, the inward conviction of a truth, the intuitive perception of it. This is faith in its widest aspect, and involves reason. St. Paul, speaking of it in this sense, says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen".

Upon this intuitive perception the intellect may be brought to bear — not to confirm, for conviction is there already, but to partially work out the steps leading to it by way of the intellect.

The second method is by appealing entirely to the intellect, and by laborious reasoning working out the perception of this divine science; but it must be the higher reason and not mere logic.

For both these methods the modern exposition of Eastern philosophy is an almost necessary study. For this knowledge, hidden in the sacred books of the East, is, to a certain extent, almost latent in every form of religious belief that has moved and guided the world. It contains the great truths of every great [Page 13] religion, the roots from which that religion has sprung, and apparently new forms are but a casting of new light on the old truths. Theosophy puts forward the Eastern forms of thought in a manner appreciable to the Western mind, at a time when the Western mind, weighed down and degraded by the so-called advantages of civilization, the materialistic thought and the selfish luxury of life, is specially in need of new light on buried truths, new life infused into old forms of belief, and an awakening to the terrible divergence between its religious professions and its everyday life.

Theosophy regards all living faiths equally; but they must be alive, they must be rooted in the tree of divine wisdom and partake of its sap.

Knowledge of divine things leads to power. Power to develop the higher nature of man, power to control his animal nature by the divine self within him; power to work out his own salvation, and power to keep him in the path leading to the final goal.

This power increases in proportion to the purity of aim and singleness of purpose of those who would acquire and develop it. All ideas of self-aggrandisement weaken and destroy it, all selfishness converts it into a terrible weapon to wound him who wields it. Rightly used, it will overcome the law of Karma — that is, it will take the soul on to that higher plane where Karma ceases to be necessary; into that purer air where self in its lower meanings is cast out and the spirit of unity alone animates the soul.

This is a brief statement of some of the points of Theosophy. Such a philosophy, wide and far-reaching and all-embracing, is a mighty power for good. It includes all branches of knowledge, throwing clearer light on each one, and by helping man to realize his threefold nature, forwards the equal development of each part, for only in equal and harmonious growth is true progress possible. The tendency of all civilization is towards perfecting materiality, towards concentrating the consciousness on material things, and this directly leads to selfishness in its worst aspect — towards the separation of the individual from the mass — towards division and discord. Spirituality is the direct opposite of this, self-abnegation in its highest form being the aim — unity and harmony the necessary accompaniments. All excess of materiality produces a corresponding reaction towards spirituality. And to those who look beneath the surface there is now a growing spiritual effort, a greater earnestness in all systems of religious thought, an enlarged knowledge of higher things, and a translation of this knowledge into moral power. And here is where Theosophy appeals at once to those earnest but half-starved souls, growing, striving, struggling, to the light, but not seeing the way to it clearly. Some of the ideas it embodies have already sprung up in countless minds and hearts, scarcely conscious as yet of their existence; but when they are once recognised and carried into action, the bud grows to a blossom and the blossom will bear fruit.

But all inquiry into Theosophy must be done earnestly. There must be [Page 14] no idle curiosity, above all, no idea that it is merely a short cut to the working of marvels and obtaining of abnormal powers. The aim of those who would learn this philosophy and follow its teachings must be absolutely a pure and unselfish one, the regeneration of themselves as the first step in that ladder which leads to the regeneration of the world, that bringing of light out of darkness which we all desire, and for which we sometimes so blindly strive.

The path is a difficult one, how difficult no one knows but those who have taken the first steps, and there is no retreat — no going back; but to the true aspirant, no danger and no terror can cloud the glory of that mountain top which he perceives so dimly with his inner sight, but whose piercing radiance thrills his weak powers with Divine strength, a strength which is a certain promise of victory.


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