The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
Q. Is moral elevation, then, the principal thing insisted upon in your Society?
A. Undoubtedly! He who would be a true Theosophist must bring himself to live as
Q. If so, then, as I remarked before, the behavior of some members strangely
belies this fundamental rule.
A. Indeed it does. But this cannot be helped among us, any more than amongst
those who call themselves Christians and act like fiends. This is no fault of
our statutes and rules, but that of human nature. Even in some exoteric public
branches, the members pledge themselves on their "Higher Self" to live the life
prescribed by Theosophy. They have to bring their Divine Self to guide their
every thought and action, every day and at every moment of their lives. A true
Theosophist ought "to deal justly and walk humbly."
Q. What do you mean by this?
A. Simply this: the one self has to forget itself for the many selves. Let me
answer you in the words of a true Philaletheian, an F.T.S., who has beautifully
expressed it in The Theosophist:
What every man needs first is to find himself, and then take an honest inventory
of his subjective possessions, and, bad or bankrupt as it may be, it is not
beyond redemption if we set about it in earnest.
But how many do? All are willing to work for their own development and progress; very few for those of others. To quote the same writer again:
Men have been deceived and deluded long enough; they must break their idols, put away their shams, and go to work for themselves-nay, there is one little word
too much or too many, for he who works for himself had better not work at all;
rather let him work himself for others, for all. For every flower of love and
charity he plants in his neighbor's garden, a loathsome weed will disappear from
his own, and so this garden of the gods-Humanity-shall blossom as a rose. In all
Bibles, all religions, this is plainly set forth-but designing men have at first
misinterpreted and finally emasculated, materialized, besotted them. It does not
require a new revelation. Let every man be a revelation unto himself. Let once
man's immortal spirit take possession of the temple of his body, drive out the
money-changers and every unclean thing, and his own divine humanity will redeem him, for when he is thus at one with himself he will know the "builder of the Temple."
Q. This is pure Altruism, I confess.
A. It is. And if only one Fellow of the T.S. out of ten would practice it ours
would be a body of elect indeed. But there are those among the outsiders who
will always refuse to see the essential difference between Theosophy and the
Theosophical Society, the idea and its imperfect embodiment. Such would visit
every sin and shortcoming of the vehicle, the human body, on the pure spirit
which sheds thereon its divine light. Is this just to either? They throw stones
at an association that tries to work up to, and for the propagation of, its
ideal with most tremendous odds against it. Some vilify the Theosophical Society only because it presumes to attempt to do that in which other systems-Church and State Christianity preeminently-have failed most egregiously; others because they would fain preserve the existing state of things: Pharisees and Sadducees in the seat of Moses, and publicans and sinners revelling in high places, as under the Roman Empire during its decadence. Fair-minded people, at any rate, ought to remember that the man who does all he can, does as much as he who has achieved the most, in this world of relative possibilities. This is a simple truism, an axiom supported for believers in the Gospels by the parable of the talents given by their Master: the servant who doubled his two talents was
rewarded as much as that other fellow-servant who had received five. To every
man it is given "according to his several ability."
Q. Yet it is rather difficult to draw the line of demarcation between the
abstract and the concrete in this case, as we have only the latter to form our
A. Then why make an exception for the T.S.? Justice, like charity, ought to
begin at home. Will you revile and scoff at the "Sermon on the Mount" because
your social, political and even religious laws have, so far, not only failed to
carry out its precepts in their spirit, but even in their dead letter? Abolish
the oath in Courts, Parliament, Army and everywhere, and do as the Quakers do,
if you will call yourselves Christians. Abolish the Courts themselves, for if
you would follow the Commandments of Christ, you have to give away your coat to him who deprives you of your cloak, and turn your left cheek to the bully who smites you on the right. "Resist not evil, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you," for "whosoever shall break one of the least of these Commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven," and "whosoever shall say 'Thou fool' shall be in danger of hell fire." And why should you judge, if you would not be judged in your turn? Insist that between Theosophy and the Theosophical Society there is no difference, and forthwith you lay the system of Christianity and its very essence open to the same charges, only in a more serious form.
Q. Why more serious?
A. Because, while the leaders of the Theosophical Movement, recognizing fully
their shortcomings, try all they can do to amend their ways and uproot the evil
existing in the Society; and while their rules and bylaws are framed in the
spirit of Theosophy, the Legislators and the Churches of nations and countries
which call themselves Christian do the reverse. Our members, even the worst
among them, are no worse than the average Christian. Moreover, if the Western
Theosophists experience so much difficulty in leading the true Theosophical
life, it is because they are all the children of their generation. Every one of
them was a Christian, bred and brought up in the sophistry of his Church, his
social customs, and even his paradoxical laws. He was this before he became a
Theosophist, or rather, a member of the Society of that name, as it cannot be
too often repeated that between the abstract ideal and its vehicle there is a
most important difference.
The Abstract and the Concrete
Q. Please elucidate this difference a little more.
A. The Society is a great body of men and women, composed of the most
heterogeneous elements. Theosophy, in its abstract meaning, is Divine Wisdom, or the aggregate of the knowledge and wisdom that underlie the Universe-the
homogeneity of eternal good; and in its concrete sense it is the sum total of
the same as allotted to man by nature, on this earth, and no more. Some members earnestly endeavor to realize and, so to speak, to objectivize Theosophy in their lives; while others desire only to know of, not to practice it; and others still may have joined the Society merely out of curiosity, or a passing
interest, or perhaps, again, because some of their friends belong to it. How,
then, can the system be judged by the standard of those who would assume the
name without any right to it? Is poetry or its muse to be measured only by those
would-be poets who afflict our ears? The Society can be regarded as the
embodiment of Theosophy only in its abstract motives; it can never presume to
call itself its concrete vehicle so long as human imperfections and weaknesses
are all represented in its body; otherwise the Society would be only repeating
the great error and the outflowing sacrilege of the so-called Churches of
Christ. If Eastern comparisons may be permitted, Theosophy is the shoreless
ocean of universal truth, love, and wisdom, reflecting its radiance on the
earth, while the Theosophical Society is only a visible bubble on that
reflection. Theosophy is divine nature, visible and invisible, and its Society
human nature trying to ascend to its divine parent. Theosophy, finally, is the
fixed eternal sun, and its Society the evanescent comet trying to settle in an
orbit to become a planet, ever revolving within the attraction of the sun of
truth. It was formed to assist in showing to men that such a thing as Theosophy
exists, and to help them to ascend towards it by studying and assimilating its
Q. I thought you said you had no tenets or doctrines of your own?
A. No more we have. The Society has no wisdom of its own to support or teach. It is simply the storehouse of all the truths uttered by the great seers,
initiates, and prophets of historic and even prehistoric ages; at least, as many
as it can get. Therefore, it is merely the channel through which more or less of
truth, found in the accumulated utterances of humanity's great teachers, is
poured out into the world.
Q. But is such truth unreachable outside of the society? Does not every Church
claim the same?
A. Not at all. The undeniable existence of great initiates-true "Sons of
God"-shows that such wisdom was often reached by isolated individuals, never,
however, without the guidance of a master at first. But most of the followers of
such, when they became masters in their turn, have dwarfed the Catholicism of
these teachings into the narrow groove of their own sectarian dogmas. The
commandments of a chosen master alone were then adopted and followed, to the exclusion of all others-if followed at all, note well, as in the case of the
Sermon on the Mount. Each religion is thus a bit of the divine truth, made to
focus a vast panorama of human fancy which claimed to represent and replace that truth.
Q. But Theosophy, you say, is not a religion?
A. Most assuredly it is not, since it is the essence of all religion and of
absolute truth, a drop of which only underlies every creed. To resort once more
to metaphor. Theosophy, on earth, is like the white ray of the spectrum, and
every religion only one of the seven prismatic colors. Ignoring all the others,
and cursing them as false, every special colored ray claims not only priority,
but to be that white ray itself, and anathematizes even its own tints from light
to dark, as heresies. Yet, as the sun of truth rises higher and higher on the
horizon of man's perception, and each colored ray gradually fades out until it
is finally reabsorbed in its turn, humanity will at last be cursed no longer
with artificial polarizations, but will find itself bathing in the pure
colorless sunlight of eternal truth. And this will be Theosophia.
Q. Your claim is, then, that all the great religions are derived from Theosophy,
and that it is by assimilating it that the world will be finally saved from the
curse of its great illusions and errors?
A. Precisely so. And we add that our Theosophical Society is the humble seed
which, if watered and left to live, will finally produce the Tree of Knowledge
of Good and Evil which is grafted on the Tree of Life Eternal. For it is only by
studying the various great religions and philosophies of humanity, by comparing
them dispassionately and with an unbiased mind, that men can hope to arrive at
the truth. It is especially by finding out and noting their various points of
agreement that we may achieve this result. For no sooner do we arrive-either by
study, or by being taught by someone who knows-at their inner meaning, than we find, almost in every case, that it expresses some great truth in Nature.
Q. We have heard of a Golden Age that was, and what you describe would be a
Golden Age to be realized at some future day. When shall it be?
A. Not before humanity, as a whole, feels the need of it. A maxim in the Persian
Javidan Khirad says:
Truth is of two kinds-one manifest and self-evident; the other demanding
incessantly new demonstrations and proofs.
It is only when this latter kind of truth becomes as universally obvious as it
is now dim, and therefore liable to be distorted by sophistry and casuistry; it
is only when the two kinds will have become once more one, that all people will
be brought to see alike.
Q. But surely those few who have felt the need of such truths must have made up their minds to believe in something definite? You tell me that, the Society
having no doctrines of its own, every member may believe as he chooses and
accept what he pleases. This looks as if the Theosophical Society was bent upon reviving the confusion of languages and beliefs of the Tower of Babel of old. Have you no beliefs in common?
A. What is meant by the Society having no tenets or doctrines of its own is,
that no special doctrines or beliefs are obligatory on its members; but, of
course, this applies only to the body as a whole. The Society, as you were told,
is divided into an outer and an inner body. Those who belong to the latter have,
of course, a philosophy, or-if you so prefer it-a religious system of their own.
Q. May we be told what it is?
A. We make no secret of it. It was outlined a few years ago in The Theosophist
and Esoteric Buddhism, and may be found still more elaborated in The Secret
Doctrine. It is based on the oldest philosophy of the world, called the
Wisdom-Religion or the Archaic Doctrine. If you like, you may ask questions and have them explained.
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