Article from The Theosophist of March 1996
THE 'THEOS' OF THEOSOPHY
by Geoffrey A Farthing
We all know the derivation of the word Theosophy: Theos-Sophia, where 'Theos' and 'Sophia' are the Greek words for 'God' and 'knowledge'. The combination has been variously translated as God's knowledge, Divine Wisdom, the Knowing of God (by the mystic), the Wisdom Religion, and even just the Ancient Wisdom which to many people's minds also has a religious connotation. Departing, however, from the religious theme and expanding that of the 'Wisdom' we have Esoteric Science and then the Secret Doctrine, as a doctrine as opposed to the book.
Theos-Sophia (Theosophy), however, conveys the impression of a fundamentally Divine Nature or Essence to Cosmos and man.
At the beginning of Volume I of The Secret Doctrine, the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom regarding the creation and government of the universe are set out from a number of different angles.
In the Proem there are the three fundamental Propositions, the first of which deals with the Absolute, the ever Unmanifest and Unknowable Principle, eternal and unchanging, 'behind' all existence.
Periodically from It there arises the Existent ONE which by way of the processes of manifestation becomes the universe that we know with first its inner, subjective levels and then its objective, physical manifestations.
This Existent ONE has its being as LIFE, as the multitude of lives in their infinite variety of forms which constitute not only the living creatures of all the kingdoms of Nature but all the 'material' of the universe as well.
Every thing from the tiniest to the greatest is a living entity supporting a unit of the universal consciousness, monadic essence.
These lives comprise an infinite series of hierarchies. Those nearest the 'Homogeneity' - to use H.P.B.'s expression - of the undifferentiated Existent ONE are the highest, represented by the great Beings, which would justify the name of 'Gods'. They impart to every living thing its fundamental nature. These 'Gods' themselves are the product of countless cycles of evolution on countless heavenly bodies of countless universes which have existed in a number of universal schemes in times past, whose duration beggars our imagination. The whole massive cyclic progression as a WHOLE has no beginning and no end. Our present time, this very moment, is a huge cross section through this ever-enduring process. All beings are learning, developing faculties, unfolding the potentialities of spirit, some, the many, in an infinitely small way from that of the tiniest thing imaginable; others in the infinitely great of, say, a galaxy of stars.
This learning aggregates to a massive knowledge, know-how, of the processes of Nature as they have been developed from time immemorial. These processes are the Law in operation, universal law, Karma.
This law and how its affect each aspect of manifest existence is inherent in the ONE LIFE operating through its innumerable lives, each of which 'knows' its role within the universal scheme. The Law therefore is itself inherent in everything. By it the universe is self-regulating, there is no law-giver as such.
In the Summing-up to Part 1 of Volume 1 of H.P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine much is said about the great entities who, so to speak, create and govern our universe. Perhaps something should be said about what is meant therein by the word 'universe'. It is a unit of existence of virtually any magnitude, i.e. on the one hand to embrace the vast interplanetary spaces and all that is in them as far as the most powerful telescope or other registering instrument now produced by science can probe, and on the other our Solar System. In Occultism, however, because of the nature of the inner worlds of which it treats, these spaces, measurable by millions of light years or seconds as indicated by our clocks, have no meaning. The inner worlds are dimensionless so that our universe, or Cosmos as we may call it (with either a 'K' or a 'C') is that sphere of existence of which any of us can be cognizant.
It would take too long to summarize the content of the Summing-up but some paragraphs from it are pertinent to our considerations of the 'Theos' of Theosophy. There are two principal aspects of the subject: one is the lives at all levels of being that comprise the One Life; the other is the Law, manifesting as Nature's processes at all levels, from the lowest physical right through to the highest spiritual. This latter, the Law, is in the Secret Doctrine referred to as Deity. Law is Deity and vice versa.
At the highest spiritual levels among the highest Spiritual Entities are the gods of the Elements, great Beings, high Intelligences whose characteristics determine the nature of all life forms on Earth. These characteristics are incipient to a more or less degree in developing humanity. It is important to realize that these great 'Beings' long since transcended the limitations of personality with its possessions, passions, prides and sought after positions. They cannot be affected by praise; they cannot be flattered; they cannot be supplicated; they cannot dispense favours. Our nature and the nature of the world or Cosmos in which we live reflects their nature. It is all, at least potentially, within each of us if we would avail ourselves of their 'favours'. We have to fit ourselves to receive them by the development, in our physical and psychic make-up, of the vehicles which correspond to them.
These are the origin of the full spectrum of character, qualities, etc., of Universal Spirit, reflecting into each of us.
They are not only the Lords of the Firmament, but of the 'lives', that we know of as Elementals, which are both the constituent elements of, and the active agents in, all Nature's processes. The lords of the elements direct these processes.
It must be remembered that these lords are superhuman and not human. They do not have the limited, confined consciousness of our personal egos, those bundles of attributes that we are used to thinking of as 'I'. They are a collective host, members of which have all transcended the human stage. We are told that as we transcend the limitations of personality by growing to the stage of Masterhood or achieve Adeptship, our consciousness becomes 'liberated'. It becomes that of the hierarchy of beings next above the human stage. To that extent we lose our personal identity, that of the conditioned being that we are accustomed to be and identify with.
Consciousness bursts forth into a new order altogether. As it is said in The Light of Asia, 'the dewdrop slips into the shining sea'. At last we become the ALL. This liberation is, as all Nature's processes, gradual and graduated.
Our evolutionary development in terms of our spiritual progress is to achieve that consummation. Largely Nature herself has made us what we are up to now. From here on we have to make ourselves beings worthy of graduation into the higher spheres of existence. One of the aids towards this is our legitimate religious practice, disciplined devotion, aspiration, adoration, gratitude. All these things, however, are to our ultimate benefit, not to that of God or 'Theos', of which all these worthy sentiments in ourselves are but faint reflections.
Regarding the lofty Beings whom we may regard as the 'Creators' and 'Governors' of our Cosmos, H.P.B. says in The Secret Doctrine that they should not be regarded as
'proper subjects for divine honours or worship. All are entitled to the grateful reverence of Humanity, however, and man ought to be ever striving to help the divine evolution of Ideas, by becoming to the best of his ability a co-worker with nature in the cyclic task.' [Secret Doctrine, Volume II, page 280, Original Edition.]
How to become a co-worker? For the student of Occultism and he who would unravel its mysteries for himself H.P.B. gives some keys to understanding, some invaluable guidance, in the booklet Mme Blavatsky on How to Study Theosophy written down by Commander Robert Bowen. The booklet contains essential information under three heads: a) the fundamental unity of all existence, b) there is no dead matter and c) man is 'the microcosm of the macrocosm'. She also quotes the Hermetic Axiom that 'As is the inner, so is the outer, etc.' All that she has to say is not only for our guidance but for our inspiration and the quickening of our highest faculties, without which the study of Theosophy is 'lifeless' and can become just a tedium.
For him who would understand for himself the idea of Unity, which
she stresses is of prime importance, she says,
'The moment one lets it go [and, she says, it is most easy to do so when engaged in the many intricate aspects of the esoteric philosophy] the idea of SEPARATION supervenes, and the study loses its value.'
Bearing that in mind, the earnest student will be well advised to spend time reading the 'summaries' given in The Fundamentals of Esoteric Philosophy compiled by Ianthe Hoskins. These give a framework to the massive seed-thoughts which are to germinate and eventually to grow into a living picture of the vast territory for our exploration.
The idea of Unity is so to speak the lamp of illumination which enables us to penetrate the otherwise obscure and dark places of the mental images that begin to arise. The words 'darkness' and obscurity' are of course mere metaphors to describe areas of knowledge which have not yet come within our comprehension. The illumination of this area only comes as we quicken our faculties of inner perception and this we do by the processes of spiritual training which is a subject beyond the scope of this article.
As said above, the idea of unity is the key to these perceptions. This key, however, can only be exercised with meaning and significance during those periods of inward withdrawal that are induced by meditation. The quickening and unfolding of our inner faculties is of necessity a slow one. Our starting point does, of course, depend on any work on ourselves that we may have done in previous lives, but no attempt is without its effect and all effects are cumulative. As said in The Bhagavad Gîtâ by the Lord Sri Krishna, 'I will safeguard whatever he may achieve'.
The idea of Unity and the words of our scriptures all tell us of the only thing that is worth knowing, and this is the SELF. All this can, however, remain only an idea, a conception, something maybe we do not argue with but which may not, to begin with, have meaning in terms of our experience. This can make our study of the scriptures fruitless unless the words relate to some discoverable reality within ourselves.
As students we will surely have come across instruction for our spiritual development and many methods of the attainment of Self-realization. Sooner or later we come to appreciate that unless we start to apply these instructions or adopt one of these methods and perseveringly see it through, everything will for us stay as it always has been, a matter of words, however inspiring. We learn that we must do something about it if that situation is to change. It is the experience of all persevering aspirants that there comes a time when consciousness suddenly changes. Our perspectives alter completely; a living seed has been sown. The seed relates to our consciousness. As the seed germinates, careful nurturing by way of suitable 'spiritual' mystical literature and by meditational practice begins to foster growth. The growth is slow but it is recognizable by an increase in understanding. Our perception deepens, realizations dawn and our instruction, and all so far we have gleaned by way of viable ideas, now have real meaning. One of these realizations is that all we have learned, if it is true, relates not only to external Nature but to ourselves, both our personal selves and our inner spiritual selves. That realization blossoms until the idea of Unity is seen as the final realization: ourself and the Self are one and the same. That one, that Unity is all that there is, including any Deity or Gods that there may be. We essentially are that All, and therefore, in very fact, the Theos of Theosophy. There is nothing else!
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