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Introduction to Theosophy
Theos= gods, the divine Sophia= wisdom, knowledge • Theosophy = Divine Wisdom • At a general level, Theosophy is not merely the embracing of Indian religions, but a mixture of Platonic/Neo-Platonic philosophy with Hindu and Buddhist theories of karma and re-incarnation.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as an allegory for Theosophy Plato’s Republic Book VII
Neo-Platonism and the Taxonomy of Being • Ammonius Saccas (160 A. D. – 242 A. D. ): considered the founder of Neo-Platonism and taught in Alexandria, Egypt where Greek and eastern cultures freely mixed. 19 th Century Theosophy considers him to be the first theosophist. • Plotinus (205 A. D. – 270 A. D. ): student of Saccas and the first formalizer of Neo-Platonism. Developed and ontological cosmology of Being that inspires Theosophy.
Plotinus’ Process of Emanation (from The Enneads) ONE Nous World-Soul Universe Souls -rational -sentient -vegetative Matter
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (August 12, 1831 – May 8, 1891)
19 th Century Spiritualism • Belief in God (usually the Christian God) but claim that the souls of deceased can be contacted. • Mediumistic practices
Blavatsky comes to America • 1873 – arrives in New York; investigates Spiritualism • 1874 – Meets Henry Steel Olcott • 1875 – Co-founded the Theosophical Society in New York City • 1877 – first major work: Isis Unvieled (2 Volumes) Henry Steel Olcott (1832 -1907)
Three Theosophical Objects • 1) To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, colour, or creed • 2) To promote the study of Aryan and other Scriptures, of the World’s Religion and sciences, and to vindicate the importance of old Asiatic literature, namely of the Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies • 3) To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature under every aspect possible, and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man especially
• February, 1879: Olcott and Blavatsky move to India and eventually settle in Madras, to set up the world headquarters for the Theosophical Society • October, 1879: First publication of Theosophist magazine • 1880: Olcott and Blavatsky travel to Sri Lanka and become the first European-Americans to officially convert to Buddhism
Blavatsky acclaimed last works: The Secret Doctrine (Two Volumes) 1888 The Key to Theosophy 1889 The Voice of the Silence 1889
On May 8 th, 1891, Blavatsky dies
Theory of the Human Person 1)Atma- the impersonal divine principle 2) Buddhi – also called the spiritual Ego or individual aspect of Atma 3)Manas – the Mind a) higher spiritual/rational aspect b) lower practical aspect 4) Kama – the volitional principle i. e. will and desire a. k. a “the animal soul” 5) Prana – Life force; motive energy 6) Linga Sharira – the astral body, or invisible body double; blueprint or model of physical body 7) Sthula Sharira – the physical body
Devachan • Karmic reward after separation • Fulfill unrequited desires and ideal scenarios from the life just lived • Remain here for 1000 -1500 years
Karma • Principle of universal justice-ultimate law of the universe • Action = cause and effect • Ensures re-incarnation • We cannot know what it is per se, only how it works • Personal karma, National karma, World karma
Cosmological Overview • The Absolute or Unknowable primal life force seeking expression • The entire universe is alive and self contained as one entity. Separate beings are merely parts of the whole • Unlike Neo-Platonism even inert matter is alive • Cyclical universe that moves in an upward spiral pattern (called the cosmic Round)-each Round is a further evolution
Root Races 1) Polarians: non-physical 2) Hyperboreans: non-physical 3) Lemurians 4) Atlanteans Sub-races: 1) Romahls 5) Aryans 2) Tlavatlis 6) ? ? ? 3) Toltecs 7) ? ? ? 4) First Turanians 5) Original Semites 6) Akkadians 7) Mongolians Aryans
Aryan Sub-Races Aryan 1) Hindus 2) Sumerians 3) Egyptians 4) Hellenes 5)Europeans 6) Nova Men 7) ? ? ?
William Butler Yeats (18651939) – Irish poet, mystic, political activist Thomas Paine (1737 -1809) – honorary Theosophist
Controversies/Critiques • Mahatmas • Emma Cutting • Society for Psychical Research