reprinted from “Theosophical Siftings” Volume - 2 -

The term “Theosophia" means “Divine Wisdom", and many have asked what this expression signifies. There have also been many who have attempted to describe it; but they have often signally failed; neither is it surprising that they should fail, for no one can truly describe a thing unless it exists within his own knowledge. How could anyone have any true knowledge about Divine Wisdom unless he were in possession of it, and therefore himself, in some moments at least, divinely wise ? nor would it be possible for any truly divine being to bring such a thing to the correct understanding of inferior minds; for they likewise cannot realize anything that does not exist within themselves. We are all so constituted that we can only know truly that which exists in our own consciousness, and can but understand that which exists in the consciousness of another in so far as that consciousness is similar to our own. Only a God could truly explain what God is, and only gods could understand his explanation. Only a man in possession of wisdom can have a true conception of what wisdom is. Our writers on “Theosophical" subjects do not claim to be divine beings, and it would perhaps be difficult to find even among those who call themselves “Theosophists" a single individual who is divinely wise. It is, therefore, not surprising that even among the leaders in what today is mis-named “Theosophy" the greatest confusion of ideas exists in regard to the signification of that term.

But if we are incapable of understanding what divine wisdom is, we may at least form an approximately correct conception of what it is not, and of what it cannot be; for the rule that the nature of a tree is known by the character of its fruits holds good not only with regard to terrestrial trees, but also in the realm of ideas.

When, soon after the formation of the “Theosophical Society", it became known that certain Adepts living on the other side of the Himalayan mountain range had at last relented from their long silence, and were giving instructions of a high and exalted kind about the true nature of man and the constitution of the material universe, there were many who could see in this, nothing but the establishment of a new creed, and they imagined “Theosophy" to be the acceptance of this new creed without ever attempting to realize within [Page 2] themselves the exalted truths they were thus taught, or trying to experience within their own consciousness the fact that they were more than intellectual animals.

High and exalted and true as the doctrines of the Adepts may be, they are to those who are not capable of realizing their truths within their own consciousness nothing else but opinions and speculations; such persons will credulously accept one creed or one theory today; because it seems plausible to them they will swear to the truths of the last book which they have been reading; and tomorrow they will find another contradicting all that they have learnt from the former, giving more plausible views and opinions, and then they will spurn the belief which they had adopted at first and agree to adopt another, until this likewise becomes displaced by one still more plausible. The Adepts may give us information about what they know, but they cannot give us their Wisdom; the knowledge of an Adept cannot become the self-knowledge of a disciple; it must unfold and develop within the soul of the latter himself. To live and be satisfied in the realm of mere creeds and opinions and theories is surely not divine, and to imagine one knows something about which he has no self-knowledge is not wise. Such a condition cannot constitute true Theosophy.

To realize in this case what the term “Theosophy“ means, we should seek to become capable of knowing the truth not from mere hearsay, but by perceiving it within ourselves; to see it as it is, and not what we or others may imagine it to be; to open our souls to the influence of the Divine Light of Love and Intelligence, to learn how to send our thoughts to the innermost centre of our own being, and to do our own thinking instead of thinking only the thoughts of another. Such would be practical Theosophy, and there can be no other but a practical one; for a kind of wisdom which exists merely in theory exists merely in the imagination and cannot be real. If we were to acquire the true power of perceiving the truth, we could then be capable of seeing for ourselves whether or not that which the Adepts have told us is true; we would need no further information, whether it be obtained from books or from teachings handed down by tradition; we would not merely believe but know that the Microcosm and the Macrocosm are one, and knowing our own Microcosm we would also know the Macrocosm of the universe and everything contained therein. We are along distance away from such a divine state, and those who cannot conceive of such an idea will scoff at the suggestion of its possibility; but if such a state is at least at present beyond our reach, if we are not gods and goddesses, but merely mortal men and women, we should at least be modest, and realizing our insignificance, not call ourselves “Theosophists" nor apply to our petty knowledge (if it deserves that name) the term “Divine Wisdom”.

There is another class of writers who tell us that “Practical Theosophy” consists in going about remedying the mistakes which divine justice or the law [Page 3] of Karma have made; to give alms and to spend our money on benevolent institutions. They tell us that Practical Theosophy is to lead a moral and "virtuous” life and avoid doing evil. There is no doubt that charity, benevolence, humanitarianism, morality, and that kind of virtue which consists in the avoiding of evil are relatively very good things; but if they are identical with "Theosophy", there is then no reason why they should be called by different names, as one would have been amply sufficient. Theosophy, however, means "Divine Wisdom", and so make it and the practice of almsgiving identical, it would be necessary that he who desires to give alms should know exactly all the conditions under which he who is to receive it exists. If these are not known, the alms given might be sorely misapplied and do far more harm than good, and our wisdom would then not be the wisdom of God, but that of the devil, which is the outgrowth of ignorance. For instance: a case is known to the writer where a poor man and his wife occupied a lodging house in a city. They were never able to pay the full amount of the rent, and month after month were in arrears. The landlord, however, was a kind and generous soul; he suffered them to remain, and the man, counting upon this generosity, stayed, but instead of exerting himself to find remunerative work, took to drinking for the purpose of drowning his grief. At last the house was sold, and the new owner, less merciful than his predecessor, promptly ejected the poor people, who, not being able to find another refuge to lead an idle life in the city, betook themselves to the country and began to work, when they became prosperous within a comparatively short time. Here it would appear that the harsh landlord manifested unknowingly more wisdom than the generous one. An act performed without any knowledge of the results it will produce is certainly not divine wisdom, however laudable the act may have been. True Theosophy is quite a different thing.

Again, the practice of morality cannot be identical with real Theosophy. “Wisdom" means the knowledge not only of Good, but also the knowledge of relative Evil, and without a knowledge of evil the knowledge of good cannot be acquired. The soul of man is nailed to the cross of material suffering so that he may obtain knowledge of the absence of good and its consequences, and strive for that which is good. Suffering is the best friend and teacher of mankind, and he who would deprive a man entirely of suffering, would steal away his best treasure. He who gets naught but enjoyment from the senses may be dragged down still deeper in the mire of the sensual world; while he who suffers may have a longing aroused within his soul for another realm where the life of the external senses ceases and pure spirituality alone exists. We cannot know the nature of the Tree of Knowledge unless we eat its forbidden fruit; a plant cannot draw strength from the earth unless it sends its roots into the darkness within. “Sin” begins only when man knowingly chooses evil instead [Page 4] of good, but when he already knows evil, there is no necessity for him to choose it again.

Theosophy proper has nothing to do either with virtue or with vice. It is above both of them. The idea of God practising morality is not less absurd than that of His practising immorality. There are thousands of human beings who are below virtue, and there may be some who are above it; but no one can rise superior to virtue unless he first comes up to its level. There may be some who imagine that they are above virtue, while they are far below it. To such we would say: “Rise up to virtue and then you may think of rising still higher up to Divine Wisdom". There are hundreds who, in the imaginary self-consciousness of their own superiority, look down with contempt upon the degraded, ignorant of the fact that a state of degradation may be a necessary lesson for the degraded individual, and that they themselves may have passed through such a school, and may have to pass through it again in a future life if they have not well learned their lesson. True “virtue" means “power", and he who possesses power may use it for good or for evil; therefore the wicked but powerful may, by applying his power in another and better direction, gain the Kingdom of Heaven; while the orderly, well-behaved, good-for-nothing moralist learns nothing, gains no experience, and no knowledge, and remains a weakling all his life.

Looked at from the standpoint of true Theosophy all the actions of men, the “good" as well as the “evil" ones, are foolish. To fight with shadows and to seek for imaginary knowledge from them is the business of man who lives in the land of the shadows; to rest in His own tranquillity, in His own divine self-luminous Light, is said to be the business of God. What does Divine Wisdom care about the joys and miseries of mortal beings, all of which belong to the shadowy forms and are merely imaginary ? Little boys and girls amuse themselves with playing with marbles and dolls, grown people with love-making and seeking for money and fame. Some spend their energies to gratify their own vanities; some waste them with objects of trade, others by writing books; but if at the end the soul awakens to the realization of its own true state it finds that all these occupations, one as well as the other, are useless toil, and that life itself is a farce; the outcome of our own ignorance.

There are those who will say that these teachings are pernicious, and that we are advising mankind to be idle. Not so! Our subject under consideration is “Divine Wisdom", a thing known only to those who have outgrown the state of mortal humanity. Our doctrines are not for those who are climbing up to its level. There are laws governing the movements of the fish swimming in the water, and there are laws governing those of the eagle flying in the air. There are beings still inhabiting gross material bodies subject to the natural forces and principles that go to make up their constitution, and there are others who [Page 5] know what it is to be free; beings that have become their own Masters, and who are not subject to the laws which nature imposes upon those that are her slaves. Only to the latter belongs Divine Wisdom; to the former is the imaginary knowledge of the world of illusions; a knowledge which is well enough as it is, and even necessary for the existence of those illusory beings; but which has nothing to do with that divine wisdom which belongs not to the speculating brain, but to the Soul of man. Our considerations are for those who wish to enter the realm of real Theosophy, and not for those who cling to the shadows of this material earth.

It is said that to attain to the comprehension of divine truth it is necessary to renounce not only the external world and its vanities, but also one's own material bodily self, which, like all other material things, is also nothing else but a passing illusion. This ought not to be misunderstood. It would be foolish to throw away our terrestrial possessions as long as we need them ourselves; but when we have outgrown our own semi-animal nature, when we have risen superior to our human condition; then, and then alone, will we no longer need the things which belong not to our true selves, but to the human nature by which we are controlled at present.

We are continually told that we must give up our own selves; that only those who die in the flesh will live in the Spirit; that the Adam in us must die, so that the Christ in us may be resurrected; but how can anyone give up a thing which he does not know? How can we give up a thing which is not in our possession, but which possesses us, and forces us to partake of its joys and its sufferings, and finally to perish with it, unless we have learned the way to Freedom ? Is it not, above all, necessary that we should first learn to know that "Self " which we propose to renounce; that we should first learn what is that "Life" which we wish to give up ? What would be left of a man who were to give up that self whose consciousness is his own, it being himself, and his all ? What is to become of his immortality, if all that exists of him is mortal ? What part of his being is to live for ever, if there is nothing in him capable of becoming conscious of such immortality ? Is the cripple to throwaway the crutches which alone enable him to walk, because they are not genuine legs ? Or the beggar his pennies because they are not gold ? We must first know ourselves before we can reasonably talk about giving it up. We must know the value of that which we propose to renounce. To give up a thing whose value we do not know cannot be Divine Wisdom.

No one but a very ignorant person would deny that there are but very few people (if any) in the world who know their own selves. We are made of "Matter", and do not know what matter is. We are surrounded and penetrated by “Life" and do not know what life is. We are capable of sensation and thought, but cannot tell where our sensation originates, nor what is that cause [Page 6] which enables us to think, to will, and to love. Our inclinations change with our age, and our moods of mind with the state of the weather. Our health or disease does not depend on our own free will. If our nature wants sleep, we have to lie down and sleep; if it awakes, we awake; if it hungers, we have to feed it. Its enjoyment is our enjoyment, its suffering our suffering. So long as we are one with our human nature, we live and suffer with it, or rather nature lives and suffers in us, for we are one, and cannot live separate as long as we are not conscious of anything higher within us than our humanity.

What is that “nature" that lives and suffers in us ? Is it a thing that has a life of its own, and a consciousness of which we know nothing if we are separated from it, as may be partly the case during our sleep? Is it possible that we, with all our self-conceit and imaginary greatness, are, after all, nothing else but forms in and through which universal nature feels and thinks, enjoys and suffers, and if so may it not likewise be possible that we might become instruments of a superior power, in and through which that superior power (or God) may live and act and bring forth a new and far higher state of Sensation and Life and Thought ? Is it not probable, perhaps certain, that since nature is not self-existent, but, as external evidence shows, doomed continually to die and be reborn, that there is an internal divine power which causes nature to exist, and that our bodies may become instruments for the direct manifestation of that divine power, instead of merely its secondary effects in material nature? To know that divine power would constitute real Theosophy. When we are one with it as we now are one with nature, then we will know ourselves, and be entitled to be called Theosophists.

Every day's experience teaches us that we are surrounded by an ocean of natural forces, which, for aught we know, possesses no self-consciousness; but which becomes self-conscious in us when it enters our nature. Is it not then thinkable that there is likewise a still higher, universal and divine principle permeating all nature, in which divine wisdom exists, and which may under certain conditions become self-conscious within ourselves? If within ourselves was recognisable one spark of that principle, then all that would be necessary to come in possession of divine wisdom, would be to establish the conditions necessary for that spark to be roused into a flame. We would find that all knowledge exists within ourselves, only we are at present not conscious of it. We would perhaps find that the God in us knows more than can ever be told to us by any occult writer, even if he were an Adept, and that by becoming one with that God, we would be gods and know all the mysteries of nature existing within ourselves.

Is such a proposition merely hypothetical, or can its truth be proved ? We care nothing for all ancient or modern authorities on the subject; their knowledge cannot be our own. What they say may be true, but we do not want to [Page 7] know the truth from mere hearsay; we want to see and feel and understand it ourselves. We care not whether their assertions are plausible or not, nor whether their opinions are based upon sound logical inferences; we want to be taught by our experience. What does it concern us whether Plato or Socrates, Buddha or Zoroaster believed in this or that doctrine ? As long as we do not know what they knew, a mere information about their beliefs would do us no more good than to know the exact amount of money which our neighbour has deposited in the bank, while we are beggars ourselves.

But where can we come in possession of real truth ? Where can we find self-knowledge ? When will the soul awaken to a consciousness of its own divine existence ? When shall we realize that we are superhuman and gods ?

It is self-evident to everyone who is capable of thinking, that self-knowledge can only be found within one's own self. If all our attention is taken up by studying the manifestations of nature on the external plane, we will have no other knowledge than that of external nature. If our attention is taken up in studying the manifestation of natural forces within our own constitution, we may obtain a fair knowledge of the nature of our own constitution; but if we wish to know the divine power that is said to exist within ourselves, we must direct all our attention to the manifestations of that divine power taking place within ourselves; we must watch its awakening, its birth and growth and development, and facilitate by all possible means these processes of “spiritual regeneration". This divine consciousness is “The Christ" and the Saviour, the Redeemer within ourselves; the immortal man within the tomb of living matter; the incorruptible body existing within the mortal Adam, whose life is illusive, because it is not his own, he being merely a creature of natural forces manifesting their life in his form. This divine consciousness is the power of God “made manifest in the flesh". Those who are in possession of it will know it, but to those who are not in possession of it, it can neither be described, nor can its existence be proved by any arguments which speculative philosophy may invent; nor would it be useful or advisable to prove to the vulgar the existence of that which they do not wish to know and which they do not desire; they being satisfied to live in their ignorance and to perish like animals in the end.

There can be hardly any more ungrateful task than that of writing books for the purpose of convincing the world of the existence of truths of which it does not wish to comprehend; and foremost of all, and most unwelcome, stands the teaching that we must cease to cling to and be absorbed by external material things, desires, and pleasures, before we can enter the higher life of the Spirit in which alone immortality can exist. What but a fraud and a swindle is all our external morality as long as our heart clings to the material pleasures of life and craves to commit the sins which we pretend to abhor ? What but an unnatural monster is the man who is afraid to follow the dictates of his nature [Page 8] for fear of receiving punishment, while at the same time he is unable and unwilling to rise superior to his own nature and to become her dictator ? The sins which he does not commit on the outward plane are committed by him a thousand times within his own internal world; the evil forces which he accumulates within himself gain strength by resistance, until at last an explosion follows and his imaginary morality is at an end.

So long as we try to rise superior to nature, by resisting the action of nature within us, we commit what Eliphas Levi calls “crimes against nature" ; and therefore it is said that the study of Occultism is beset with dangers for those who are not ripe for it, because, unable to rise above the realm of illusions to the regions of divine thought, and incapable of forming a correct conception of the meaning of the doctrines received, such persons seek to resist nature instead of rising above her, and in so doing they create monsters within themselves by which they may be devoured.

But what means has man to rise above his own nature ? Can he give to himself anything which he does not possess ? Can he dispose of anything which he does not comprehend ?

There is no power by which man can rise above his nature except that power which is above nature, and which has been called "God" because it is considered to be absolute Goodness and free from evil; nor can he expect aid from any other divine power except from that which exists within him and which he may know if he seeks for within himself; for although all forces in the universe act from the outside upon the centres of the forms in which they become manifest, they can only grow from the centre towards the periphery. Man builds artificial houses by putting one stone upon another and nailing boards together; but that which God builds by means of nature, the external matter of forms, is born from the womb of time as a unit, and as a whole, like the seeds, in the kernel of which all the qualities of the matured tree are contained in a latent condition, waiting only for proper chances to be developed and unfolded, and to produce themselves new flowers and fruits.

Let the scientists, psychical researchers, and speculative philosophers break their heads over the solution of the problem, whether their insignificant knowledge is or is not sufficient to warrant them to accept a belief in the existence of God. Let the theologians dispute about the qualities of the gods which they have invented, and which exist nowhere except in their own imagination. He in whom the power of the universal God has become manifest, whose own interior realm is illuminated by the spirit of wisdom; he whose soul has become by the grace of God self-luminous in the Light of the truth may well laugh at such follies; he needs no arguments to convince him of the existence of God ; he needs no books to describe to him that which he can see and feel himself; [Page 9] he requires no doctrines from those who claim to be wiser than the God whose voice speaks to him in his soul; he asks for no priest to obtain for him a salvation which he has already obtained himself.

But to attain to such a divine state it is not sufficient to imagine one's self to be God; such a God would be merely an imaginary one and prevent man of finding the real; nor is it, as some have taught, sufficient to hypnotize or to magnetize one's self, or to “suggest " to one's self that one is God, until one is foolish enough to believe it. If we wish to attain such a divine state, it is necessary that all our attention should be directed towards its attainment; that we should look at the world and all material things merely from the standpoint of a disinterested spectator, who may permit his terrestrial personality to take a part in terrestrial affairs, if it is advisable to do so; but without allowing himself to be absorbed by them. The “God" in us, that is to say the spirit of Love and Truth, of Justice and Wisdom, of Goodness and Power, should be our only true and permanent Love; our only friend, a friend who will never disappoint us in our expectations; our only reliance in everything, our only “Faith", which, standing as firm as a rock can for ever be trusted; our only Hope, which never will fail us if all other things perish, and the only object which we must seek to obtain by our Patience, waiting contentedly until our evil Karma has been exhausted and the divine Redeemer will reveal to us his presence within our soul.

There is no use clamouring for the coming of the Redeemer as long as we keep our doors shut to keep Him from entering; nor can He be coaxed to come by the beating of drums and the braying of horns. The door through which he enters in is called “Contentment" ; for he who is discontented with himself is discontented with the law that made him such as he is, and as God is Himself the Law, God will not come to those that are discontented with Him. To be satisfied with everything as it is, not on account of any indifference arising from ignorance, but on account of a true realization of the Cause which produces all things and of the nature of the effects it produces; this must be Divine Wisdom as far as we are capable to grasp it.

Seen from this point of view, what but a fool's-play is this terrestrial world with all its superficial glitter, in which there is nothing eternal or permanent, and nothing certain but death ? What is its superficial morality, resulting from fear of punishment or hope of reward ? What is its sham charity, exercised for the purpose of gratifying one's own vanity, and with the purpose of boasting and bragging about it ? What are its philosophical speculations based on the plausibility of appearances, instead of on a knowledge of real truth ? What are its scientific accomplishments, enabling the shells of men and women to live in comfort for a few years, and to be rapidly transported from one place to another, while their real selves, their souls, sunk in the mire [Page 10] of materiality and sensualism, become more and more petrified in eternal death ? What is vice and what is “virtue" except the outgrowth of the conditions by which man is or has been surrounded ? What is man himself but an evanescent shadow, an organized centre resulting from certain vibrations of matter, and in which universal powers are manifesting themselves for the time being ? There is nothing real in him but God. This God will continue to be when all the great phantasmagoria of the universe, created by his divine imagination, will have disappeared from the field of his own divine consciousness. He will continue to be in a conscious or unconscious state according to the amount of self-consciousness which he has attained within the forms which He created Himself. We are the instruments through which God awakens to His own divine self-consciousness, and to enable Him, by creating the necessary conditions, to attain the greatest amount of self-consciousness within ourselves, this alone is what we call Practical Theosophy.

It will therefore appear that from this point of view neither a belief in “Rings and Rounds" in Kama Loka or Re-incarnation, nor a belief in the possibility of the wonders of Alchemy, nor even the practice of morality and charity, or the giving of alms, is Theosophy. All these things may be both useful and good; external learning may be useful to those who are incapable of looking within themselves; the practice of virtue will develop the power to rise up to that level which one must reach before he can rise above it; but none of these are Divine Wisdom; they are merely steps leading up to the plane where Divine Wisdom begins.

Can those who have at least partly grasped the truth, aid those who are unable to grasp it themselves ? All that one man can do for another in this respect is to induce him to think. If the world were flooded with so-called theosophical literature, it would make no impression on those who had no desire for such information, while, for those who desire it, sufficient already exists. I, for one, believe that there is a law of divine justice, according to which everyone receives that which he deserves. To attempt to force one's doctrines upon the world, and to make proselytes of persons against their will, would mean to try to improve on the laws of divine justice and to assume the prerogatives of divine wisdom. I have invariably found that fruits fall from the trees when they are matured, and that those who desire spiritual knowledge find the way to attain it either by external or internal means. A candle lighted at night will be no adequate substitute for the light of the day, for when the sun rises everyone sees the light, and the candle is useless. Likewise there are in the spiritual aspect of the universe certain ruling constellations which were known to some of the ancients, and are known to modern enlightened minds. As long as the necessary constellations do not exist, all attempts to diffuse occult knowledge will merely create disturbances in the mental atmosphere and confuse the [Page 11] minds, causing new quarrels, discussions, and sectarian difficulties. Only when the sun enters the sign of the Ram — that is to say when Wisdom enters into Power — then will the eyes of the world be opened to behold the daybreak of a new morning, and like as a person, with a sigh of relief, awakes from a sleep that has been disturbed by a hideous nightmare, so will we awaken to the realization that “life" is a grand illusion, that we have been running after empty shadows, and that there is real life, and peace, and happiness, and knowledge to be found within the self-consciousness of eternal Truth.

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