An Epitome of Theosophy

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 34, No. 6, April, 1946
(Pages 205-209; Size: 13K)
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[This epitome was first issued as a Theosophical Tract by the New York Branch of the T. S. in December, 1887, and published in the Path by Mr. Judge in the following month. So great was its success in the U. S. that the Theosophical Publication Society in England requested Mr. Judge to revise the leaflet for distribution in Great Britain. This Mr. Judge did, enlarging the leaflet into a booklet under the same title. It was this manuscript which the T. P. S. characterized as "too advanced," giving as its opinion that what was needed was a "stepping-stone from fiction to philosophy."
Mr. Judge took exception to this view, vigorously urging that "strong lines of action," directed toward spreading philosophical fundamentals, be adopted. (His letter to the T. P. S. is the fourth in Book II of Letters That Have Helped Me.) H. P. Blavatsky supported his counsel, and the "Epitome" pamphlet was accordingly issued in the summer of 1888.

The original Epitome, being in outline form, seems to offer a practical basis for studying the fundamentals of Theosophy, and for class discussion. For that reason it is here reprinted, for the first time, from the Path. --Editors.]

THEOSOPHY, the Wisdom-Religion, has existed from immemorial time. It offers us a theory of nature and of life which is founded upon knowledge acquired by the Sages of the past, more especially those of the East; and its higher students claim that this knowledge is not something imagined or inferred, but that it is seen and known by those who are willing to comply with the conditions.
I. Some of its fundamental propositions are:

1. That the spirit in man is the only real and permanent part of his being; the rest of his nature being variously compounded, and decay being incident to all composite things, everything in man but his spirit is impermanent.

Further, that the universe being one thing and not diverse, and every thing within it being connected with the whole and with every other, of which upon the upper plane above referred to there is a perfect knowledge, no act or thought occurs without each portion of the great whole perceiving and noting it. Hence all are inseparably bound together by the tie of Brotherhood.

2. That below the spirit and above the intellect is a plane of consciousness in which experiences are noted, commonly called man's "spiritual nature"; this is as susceptible of culture as his body or his intellect.

3. That this spiritual culture is only attainable as the grosser interests, passions, and demands of the flesh are subordinated to the interests, aspirations, and needs of the higher nature; and that this is a matter of both system and established law.

4. That men thus systematically trained attain to clear insight into the immaterial, spiritual world, their interior faculties apprehending Truth as immediately and readily as physical faculties grasp the things of sense, or mental faculties those of reason; and hence that their testimony to such Truth is as trustworthy as is that of scientists or philosophers to truth in their respective fields.

5. That in the course of this spiritual training such men acquire perception of and control over various forces in Nature unknown to others, and thus are able to perform works usually called "miraculous," though really but the result of larger knowledge of natural law.

6. That their testimony as to super-sensuous truth, verified by their possession of such powers, challenges candid examination from every religious mind.

II. Turning now to the system expounded by these Sages, we find as its main points:

1. An account of cosmogony, the past and future of this earth and other planets, the evolution of life through mineral, vegetable, animal, and human forms.

2. That the affairs of this world and its people are subject to cyclic laws, and that during any one cycle the rate or quality of progress appertaining to a different cycle is not possible.

3. The existence of a universally diffused and higher ethereal medium, called the "Astral Light"(1) or "Akasa," which is the repository of all past, present, and future events, and which records the effects of spiritual causes and of all acts and thoughts from the direction of either spirit or matter. It may be called the Book of the Recording Angel.

4. The origin, history, development, and destiny of mankind.

III. Upon the subject of Man it teaches:

1. That each spirit is a manifestation of the One Spirit, and thus a part of all. It passes through a series of experiences in incarnation, and is destined to ultimate re-union with the Divine.

2. That this incarnation is not single but repeated, each individuality becoming re-embodied during numerous existences in successive races and planets, and accumulating the experiences of each incarnation towards its perfection.

3. That between adjacent incarnations, after grosser elements are first purged away, comes a period of comparative rest and refreshment, the spirit being therein prepared for its next advent into material life.

4. That the nature of each incarnation depends upon the merit and demerit of the previous life or lives, upon the way in which the man has lived and thought; and that this law is inflexible and wholly just.

5. That "Karma," -- a term signifying two things, the law of ethical causation (Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap), and the balance or excess of merit or demerit in any individual, determines also the main experiences of joy and sorrow in each incarnation, so that what men call "luck" is in reality "desert," -- desert acquired in past existence.

6. That the process of evolution up to re-union with the Divine contemplates successive elevations from rank to rank of power and usefulness, the most exalted beings still in the flesh being known as Sages, Rishees, Brothers, Masters, their great function being the preservation at all times, and -- when cyclic laws permit -- the extension, of spiritual knowledge and influence among humanity.

7. That when union with the Divine is effected, all the events and experiences of each incarnation are known.

IV. As to the process of spiritual development it teaches:

1. That the essence of the process lies in the securing of supremacy to the highest, the spiritual, element of man's nature.

2. That this is attained along four lines, among others--

(a) The eradication of selfishness in all forms, and the cultivation of broad, generous sympathy in and effort for the good of others.

(b) The cultivation of the inner, spiritual man by meditation, communion with the Divine, and exercise.

(c) The control of fleshly appetites and desires, all lower, material interests being deliberately subordinated to the behests of the spirit.

(d) The careful performance of every duty belonging to one's station in life, without desire for reward, leaving results to Divine law.

3. That while the above is incumbent on and practicable by all religiously-disposed men, a yet higher plane of spiritual attainment is conditioned upon a specific course of training, physical, intellectual, and spiritual, by which the internal faculties are first aroused and then developed.

4. That an extension of this process is reached in Adeptship, an exalted stage, attained by laborious self-discipline and hardship, protracted through possibly many incarnations, and with many degrees of initiation and preferment, beyond which are yet other stages ever approaching the Divine.

V. As to the rationale of spiritual development it asserts:

1. That the process is entirely within the individual himself, the motive, the effort, the result being distinctly personal.

2. That, however personal and interior, this process is not unaided, being possible, in fact, only through close communion with the Supreme Source of all strength.

VI. As to the degree of advancement in incarnations it holds:

1. That even a mere intellectual acquaintance with Theosophic truth has great value in fitting the individual for a step upwards in his next earth-life, as it gives an impulse in that direction.

2. That still more is gained by a career of duty, piety, and beneficence.

3. That a still greater advance is attained by the attentive and devoted use of the means to spiritual culture heretofore stated.

VII. It may be added that Theosophy is the only system of religion and philosophy which gives satisfactory explanation of such problems as these:

1. The object, use, and inhabitation of other planets than this earth.

2. The geological cataclysms of earth; the frequent absence of intermediate types in its fauna; the occurrence of architectural and other relics of races now lost, and as to which ordinary science has nothing but vain conjecture; the nature of extinct civilizations and the causes of their extinction; the persistence of savagery and the unequal development of existing civilization; the differences, physical and internal, between the various races of men; the line of future development.

3. The contrasts and unisons of the world's faiths, and the common foundation underlying them all.

4. The existence of evil, of suffering, and of sorrow -- a hopeless puzzle to the mere philanthropist or theologian.

5. The inequalities in social condition and privilege; the sharp contrasts between wealth and poverty, intelligence and stupidity, culture and ignorance, virtue and vileness; the appearance of men of genius in families destitute of it, as well as other facts in conflict with the law of heredity; the frequent cases of unfitness of environment around individuals, so sore as to embitter disposition, hamper aspiration, and paralyse endeavor; the violent antithesis between character and condition; the occurrence of accident, misfortune, and untimely death; -- all of them problems solvable only by either the conventional theory of Divine caprice or the Theosophic doctrines of Karma and Re-incarnation.

6. The possession by individuals of psychic powers -- clairvoyance, clairaudience, etc. -- as well as the phenomena of psychometry and statuvolism.

7. The true nature of genuine phenomena in spiritualism, and the proper antidote to superstition and to exaggerated expectation.

8. The failure of conventional religions to greatly extend their areas, reform abuses, re-organize society, expand the idea of brotherhood, abate discontent, diminish crime, and elevate humanity; and an apparent inadequacy to realize in individual lives the ideal they professedly uphold.