The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
Esoteric in All Ages
Q. Since Ammonius never committed anything to writing, how can one feel sure
that such were his teachings?
A. Neither did Buddha, Pythagoras, Confucius, Orpheus, Socrates, or even Jesus, leave behind them any writings. Yet most of these are historical personages, and their teachings have all survived. The disciples of Ammonius (among whom Origen and Herennius) wrote treatises and explained his ethics. Certainly the latter are as historical, if not more so, than the Apostolic writings. Moreover, his pupils-Origen, Plotinus, and Longinus (counselor of the famous Queen Zenobia)-have all left voluminous records of the Philaletheian System-so far, at all events, as their public profession of faith was known, for the school was divided into exoteric and esoteric teachings.
Q. How have the latter tenets reached our day, since you hold that what is
properly called the wisdom-religion was esoteric?
A. The wisdom-religion was ever one, and being the last word of possible human knowledge, was, therefore, carefully preserved. It preceded by long ages the Alexandrian Theosophists, reached the modern, and will survive every other
religion and philosophy.
Q. Where and by whom was it so preserved?
A. Among Initiates of every country; among profound seekers after truth-their
disciples; and in those parts of the world where such topics have always been
most valued and pursued: in
Q. Can you give me some proofs of its esotericism?
A. The best proof you can have of the fact is that every ancient religious, or
rather philosophical, cult consisted of an esoteric or secret teaching, and an
exoteric (outward public) worship. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that the
mysteries of the ancients comprised with every nation the "greater" (secret) and
"Lesser" (public) mysteries-e.g., in the celebrated solemnities called the
initiated Brahmins of the
preserved, for fear of profanation, their real bona fide beliefs secret. The
Jewish Rabbis called their secular religious series the Merkabah(the exterior
body), "the vehicle," or, the covering which contains the hidden soul-i.e.,
their highest secret knowledge. Not one of the ancient nations ever imparted
through its priests its real philosophical secrets to the masses, but allotted
to the latter only the husks. Northern Buddhism has its "greater" and its
"lesser" vehicle, known as the Mahayana, the esoteric, and the Hinayana, the
exoteric, Schools. Nor can you blame them for such secrecy; for surely you would not think of feeding your flock of sheep on learned dissertations on botany instead of on grass?
Pythagoras called his Gnosis "the knowledge of things that are," or [translit. Greek] "he gnosis ton onton" and preserved that knowledge for his pledged disciples only: for those who could digest such mental food and feel satisfied; and he pledged them to silence and secrecy. Occult alphabets and secret ciphers are the development of the old Egyptian hieratic writings, the secret of which was, in the days of old, in the possession only of the Hierogrammatists, or initiated Egyptian priests. Ammonius Saccas, as his biographers tell us, bound his pupils by oath not to divulge his higher doctrines except to those who had already been instructed in preliminary knowledge, and who were also bound by a pledge. Finally, do we not find the same even in early Christianity, among the Gnostics, and even in the teachings of Christ?
Did he not speak to the multitudes in parables which had a two-fold
meaning, and explain his reasons only to his disciples? He says:
To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven;
but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables The
Essenes of Judea and
Q. Can you attain the "Secret Wisdom" simply by study? Encyclopedias
defineTheosophy pretty much as Webster's Dictionary does, i.e.,as
… supposed intercourse with God and superior spirits, and consequent attainment of superhuman knowledge by physical means and chemical processes.Is this so?
A. I think not. Nor is there any lexicographer capable of explaining, whether to
himself or others, how superhuman knowledge can be attained by physical or
chemical processes. Had Webster said "by metaphysical and alchemical processes," the definition would be approximately correct: as it is, it is absurd. Ancient Theosophists claimed, and so do the modern, that the infinite cannot be known by the finite-i.e., sensed by the finite Self-but that the divine essence could be communicated to the higher Spiritual Self in a state of ecstasy. This condition can hardly be attained, like hypnotism, by "physical and chemical means."
Q. What is your explanation of it?
A. Real ecstasy was defined by Plotinus as "the liberation of the mind from its
finite consciousness, becoming one and identified with the infinite." This is
the highest condition, says Professor Wilder, but not one of permanent duration,
and it is reached only by the very, very few. It is, indeed, identical with that
state which is known in
who facilitate it physically by the greatest abstinence in food and drink, and
mentally by an incessant endeavor to purify and elevate the mind. Meditation is
silent and unuttered prayer, or, as Plato expressed it,
… the ardent turning of the soul toward the divine; not to ask any particular
good (as in the common meaning of prayer), but for good itself-for the universal
Supreme Good …-of which we are a part on earth, and out of the essence of which we have all emerged. Therefore, adds Plato, Remain silent in the presence of the divine ones, till they remove the clouds from thy eyes and enable thee to see by the light which issues from themselves, not what appears as good to thee, but what is intrinsically good.
This is what the scholarly author of The Eclectic Philosophy, Professor
Alexander Wilder, F.T.S., describes as "spiritual photography":
The soul is the camera in which facts and events, future, past, and present, are
alike fixed; and the mind becomes conscious of them. Beyond our everyday world of limits all is one day or state-the past and future comprised in the present.
… Death is the last ecstasis on earth. Then the soul is freed from the
constraint of the body, and its nobler part is united to higher nature and
becomes partaker in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the higher beings.
Real Theosophy is, for the mystics, that state which Apollonius of Tyana was
made to describe thus:
I can see the present and the future as in a clear mirror. The sage need not
wait for the vapors of the earth and the corruption of the air to foresee events
… The theoi, or gods, see the future; common men the present, sages that which is about to take place.
"The Theosophy of the Sages" he speaks of is well expressed in the assertion,
Q. Theosophy, then, is not, as held by some, a newly devised scheme?
A. Only ignorant people can thus refer to it. It is as old as the world, in its
teachings and ethics, if not in name, as it is also the broadest and most
catholic system among all.
Q. How comes it, then, that Theosophy has remained so unknown to the nations of the Western Hemisphere? Why should it have been a sealed book to races
confessedly the most cultured and advanced?
A. We believe there were nations as cultured in days of old and certainly more
spiritually "advanced" than we are. But there are several reasons for this
willing ignorance. One of them was given by St. Paul to the cultured Athenians-a
loss, for long centuries, of real spiritual insight, and even interest, owing to
their too great devotion to things of sense and their long slavery to the dead
letter of dogma and ritualism. But the strongest reason for it lies in the fact
that real Theosophy has ever been kept secret.
Q. You have brought forward proofs that such secrecy has existed; but what was the real cause for it?
A. The causes for it were:
1. The perversity of average human nature and its selfishness, always tending to
the gratification of personal desires to the detriment of neighbors arid next of
kin. Such people could never be entrusted with divine secrets.
2. Their unreliability to keep the sacred and divine knowledge from desecration.
It is the latter that led to the perversion of the most sublime truths and
symbols, and to the gradual transformation of things spiritual into
anthropomorphic, concrete, and gross imagery-in other words, to the dwarfing of the god-idea and to idolatry.
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