We take up the concept of Universal Brotherhood.

What is it?

Should we say Universal Brotherhood and Sisterhood?

Is it a fact in Nature or an Ideal?  Both?

Why is it so central to the theosophical philosophy?

We shall take up these questions and more in this discussion.

See References here: Universal Brotherhood

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From William Quan Judge

“. . . we insist that universal brotherhood is a fact in nature. It is a fact for the lowest part of nature; for the animal kingdom, for the vegetable kingdom, and the mineral kingdom. We are all atoms, obeying the law together. Our denying it does not disprove it. It simply puts off the day of reward and keeps us miserable, poor, and selfish. Why, just think of it! if all in Chicago, in the United States, would act as Jesus has said, as Buddha has said, as Confucius said, as all the great ethical teachers of the world have said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” would there be any necessity for legal measures and policemen with clubs in this park as you had them the other day? No, I think there would be no necessity, and that is what one of this great Brotherhood has said. He said all the troubles of the world would disappear in a moment if men would only do one-quarter of what they could and what they ought. It is not God who is to damn you to death, to misery. It is yourself. . . . . Live with each other as brothers; for the misery and the trouble of the world are of more importance than all the scientific progress that may be imagined. I conclude by calling upon you by all that humanity holds dear to remember what I say, and whether Christians, Atheists, Jews, Pagans, Heathen, or Theosophists, try to practice universal brotherhood, which is the universal duty of all men.”

— William Quan Judge, from an address given during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 (The Theosophical Society participated in the first World’s Parliament of Religions).


I know that brotherhood should include sisterhood but it sure sounds more inclusive to me when we mention sisterhood.  When we say Mankind we are talking outside of gender.  Brotherhood does have gender connotations.  Equality between the sexes is a big part of HPB influence.  I think there was a reason this great soul was born into a female body rather than a male one.


Grace how would you feel about the terminology of Human Solidarity, I think used by Edward Bellamy, as a non gender specific term?


Perhaps it would be better to simply say that we are all One.  Brotherhood and sisterhood still evoke images of separateness.  Male and female is simply differentiation of the One; we are all simply different aspects of the One.  We seem to be separate for a reason.  We cannot develop and grow without a sense of being alone, independent.  It is in that sense of being alone or separate that we find others, that we discover love and compassion, that we make a true and honest sacrifice of self because of that love.  Then we discover the true meaning of brotherhood and sisterhood and Oneness. 


You make a good point but we need to take many steps along the way to get there and a good way to start is to accept every human being as a member of one's own family and to care for and about them as if they were your blood brother or sister.  It is a beautiful concept when we think of it this way.


“The term “Universal Brotherhood” is no idle phrase. . . . It is the only secure foundation for universal morality. If it be a dream, it is at least a noble one for mankind and it is the aspiration of the true adept.”

—Mahatma K.H. in a letter to A.P. Sinnet


"Realization comes from dwelling upon the thing to be realized." It is the duty of every serious theosophists to dwell on this idea and work to make it a reality.  It makes so much sense.  We are a family.


My thought is that the idea of 'brotherhood' is just a human way of expressing how the universe works; as one.  When we express the idea that brotherhood is the ideal, we're saying that the ideal for humans is to be one with the universe.  I don't think it's meant to be gender specific, but the 'brother' part sure can throw you off :)

Theosophy's central tenet is brotherhood - to keep this in front of ourselves as our work.  The issue is simple, and yet we often make it so complicated.  I know I do. 


It may be a generational thing.  Previous generations saw Brotherhood as gender neutral.  Perhaps today not so much.   Either way the ideal is there for us to reach to.  The idea that we are all part of the same family expresses the ideal well I think.


I have similar thoughts - brotherhood is the physical expression of the realization of the Oneness in Reality.   Our inner understanding has to commensurate with our outer action.  To glimpse and realize the One Life permeating throughout the manifested universe is a vision the occult students all share.


Beautifully put.  Please elaborate on this interesting statement.

"Our inner understanding has to commensurate with our outer action."


When there is a gap between our inner understanding and our outer action, what is the cause of the gap?  What is the heart of the problem?  Why is brotherhood so hard to manifest?

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Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 7, 2014 at 9:57pm

From the Key to Theosophy by HPB


ENQUIRER. What are the objects of the “Theosophical Society”?

THEOSOPHIST. They are three, and have been so from the beginning. (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. These are, broadly stated, the three chief objects of the Theosophical Society.

ENQUIRER. Can you give me some more detailed information upon these?

THEOSOPHIST. We may divide each of the three objects into as many explanatory clauses as may be found necessary.

ENQUIRER. Then let us begin with the first. What means would you resort to, in order to promote such a feeling of brotherhood among races that are known to be of the most diversified religions, customs, beliefs, and modes of thought?

THEOSOPHIST. Allow me to add that which you seem unwilling to express. Of course we know that with the exception of two remnants of races — the Parsees and the Jews — every nation is divided, not merely against all other nations, but even against itself. This is found most prominently among the so-called civilized Christian nations. Hence your wonder, and the reason why our first object appears to you a Utopia. Is it not so?

ENQUIRER. Well, yes; but what have you to say against it?

THEOSOPHIST. Nothing against the fact; but much about the necessity of removing the causes which make Universal Brotherhood a Utopia at present.

ENQUIRER. What are, in your view, these causes?

THEOSOPHIST. First and foremost, the natural selfishness of human nature. This selfishness, instead of being eradicated, is daily strengthened and stimulated into a ferocious and irresistible feeling by the present religious education, which tends not only to encourage, but positively to justify it. People’s ideas about right and wrong have been entirely perverted by the literal acceptance of the Jewish Bible. All the unselfishness of the altruistic teachings of Jesus has become merely a theoretical subject for pulpit oratory; while the precepts of practical selfishness taught in the Mosaic Bible, against which Christ so vainly preached, have become ingrained into the innermost life of the Western nations. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” has come to be the first maxim of your law. Now, I state openly and fearlessly, that the perversity of this doctrine and of so many others Theosophy alone can eradicate.

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on September 8, 2014 at 5:06pm

I think that HPB was placing these 3 objectives in order; from the most important, namely universal brotherhood, then to the others which follow in priorty.  

I take her comments above to mean that if we have a clear understanding of brotherhood, or selflessness, then we've fundamentally understood the most important theosophical objective.   To me, this is what HPB was referring to when she refers to the 'key' to theosophy.   Without that key apparently, the other doors cannot be opened.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 9, 2014 at 10:42am

The forces of disunity amongst human beings are enormous.  Just look at our recorded history, it is filled with inhumanity to man.  No spiritual adventure is worth its salt without the concept of human solidarity.  Without it people will be left out and disregarded.  But the real challenge comes within our own hearts.  What do we do when we are criticized, or dealt an injustice, or taken out of our comfort zone?  How do we respond?  This is where our adherence to brotherhood is really tested and it is remains no longer some vague theory.  Is it a principle upon which we are trying to live a human life or not?

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on September 9, 2014 at 10:56am

Yes we are, and right, we're tested at every turn. 

Our test as I see it, is whether we'll apply our personalized (the personality - Don) conciousness or whether we'll apply our higher, non-personalized (reincarnating Ego) conciousness.   It's said that we choose our conciousness at any given moment and that conciousness moves up and down, like an elevator so to speak depending upon how we've placed our attention.  

Do we have the discipline (as in disciple) to live out our principles?  That seems to me to be the very spear-point of our movement or evolving state of being.  Not easy for sure.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 10, 2014 at 5:38pm

Many religions and philosophies are formulated to make a person feel better about where they are at or who they think they are.  Theosophy is going the other way.  It is challenging us to question and expand our sense of family and sense of self.

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on September 11, 2014 at 10:11am

Yes, unfortunately there is a lot of emphasis on strengthening, even hardening, the personality-ego wth most religions and philosophies.  It probably wasn't supposed to go that way, but that's mainly how it goes in the West.   

Theosophy, by design, does go in the opposite direction to hopefully counter that sort of strengthening process.  That is true though, only when it goes in the way it is supposed (difficult word that) to go.  Reduction of (s) self, and as a fallout of that reduction, the expansion of (S)Self...    

Do you ever wonder what the overall impact thesophy has had on the West's push towards strengthening the personality-ego?  I think it must have had some great impact since the late 1800's, but it's hard to know. 

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 15, 2014 at 5:24pm

Only a sage could read that barometer.  I wonder too.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on September 16, 2014 at 4:00pm

Would it be accurate to say that the second and third aims are intended to support the first one?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 10, 2014 at 3:08pm

From J.D. Buck

To profess belief in the universal brotherhood of man, therefore, by any fair and intelligent construction involves two things. First, an intellectual assent to brotherhood as a fact; and second, a determined effort to act in accordance with the implied relation at all times and in all circumstances. It does not imply that any one professing such belief has reached the point of perfection; that he is always reasonable, just, and charitable; but it does imply that he is using his best endeavor to become so; and such an one will learn from his own failures and lapses into passion and selfishness how difficult a task he has undertaken. Self-conquest alone can satisfy the ethical claims of the Brotherhood of Humanity. As a rule, the members of the T. S. understand this principle and exercise it to a far larger degree than a certain class of their critics. Brotherhood does not imply that falsehood may not be exposed, or misstatements denied, for herein lies a large part of the advocacy of truth. It does, however, imply charity toward the faults and mistakes of individuals, even of our enemies and traducers. All that has been said relating to the T. S. and the Brotherhood of man equally applies to Christianity. Pure Theosophy is but another name for genuine Christianity; self-conquest and altruism being the aim in each, and being equally the basis whence arise the regeneration of man and the true illumination of the understanding.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 12, 2014 at 11:28pm

From Mr. Judge's Universal Brotherhood a Fact in Nature

That which knowers of the Vedas call the Unchanging, to which saints, freed from passion, enter in, that which they seek who vow service to the Eternal, that resting place shall I briefly tell to thee.

Firmly holding all the doors of the senses, and holding emotion within the heart, drawing the life-breath together in the brow, steadfastly set on the practice of union;

Sounding the syllable Om, for the eternal, with heart set upon Me, who goes forth thus, putting off the body, he enters on the highest Way.

He who ever rests his heart on Me, with no other thought, for him I am easy to find, for the seeker of union, thus holding ever to union.

Entering into Me, the Mighty-souled return not to rebirth, to this unenduring house of pain; they have reached supreme attainment. (15)

All beings, Creator and worlds alike, return again and again, O Arjuna; but, son of Kunti, entering into Me, there is no more rebirth.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 17, 2014 at 12:04am

By Sarah Belle Dougherty

Brotherhood is generally accepted as a noble sentiment, a grand ideal, but personal and international events show how frequently it is disregarded. Our egocentricity and sense of separateness often blind us to the fact that the universe is a webwork of mutual dependence and reciprocal relationships, and that brotherhood is inherent in this reality.

Certainly the brotherhood of man is obvious from a global perspective. Looking at the planet as a whole, our individual differences shrink to almost nothing, and humanity emerges with its common interests, responsibilities, and destiny. In this context our unbrotherly actions stand out as unnatural — not only those directed toward members of mankind, but also those affecting our "little brothers," the other life forms that make up Mother Earth. Modern scientific research is making us more and more aware of ourselves as part of a delicately balanced, living system which cannot be altered to suit our convenience without effects ranging from minor to catastrophic for ourselves and our environment. On the material level the earth itself is forcing us to reexamine the basis of our actions toward our surroundings and to either respect the intrinsic interdependence of each with all or suffer increasingly severe consequences.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on September 21, 2014 at 6:49am

I wonder if it is possible to have a sense of brotherhood with everyone on the planet.  I don't think it is for most of us.  But we can have a sense of brotherhood with those around us and I think that is what life is about on many levels.  It is natural that people who share the same adventures and traumas often feel a sense of understanding and belonging to each other.  For most of us this might be as close as it gets to having a deep understanding of brotherhood.   Sometimes we have to go through crisis and turmoil to learn this and I think this happens for some of us.  

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Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 30, 2014 at 10:45am

It seems like that is the goal, both individually and for the theosophical movement, that is, to create a sense of fellowship for the whole human race. Problem is that we often love the idea of human solidarity but find out that it is individual people we cannot stand.  Our test of brotherhood is what we do about and how we treat those that are hard to like in our eyes. This requires some introspection since what we don't "like" is often a reflection of what we don't like in ourselves.   The idea of a "nucleus" of universal brotherhood is important to contemplate too I believe.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on September 30, 2014 at 5:24pm

I agree with your premise, and you are right we love the IDEA of human solidarity, but find all kinds of reasons to hate the individual.  Look at the Middle East situation and ISIS.  There is hate on an international level.  How do we embrace such people as our fellow human beings when, if they could, they would either force us to submit to their philosophy or kill us.  I would find it and do find it impossible to call such people my brothers or sisters.  I think universal brotherhood only works if it is universally felt by all men and women, until then it is only a dream.  A worthy dream, but only a dream.  I remind myself that the strife of this world is part of our evolution as souls, part of the evolution of the Divine.  I remember fighting with my siblings as a child but today I love them all the more for it.  Maybe the same things plays out on a grander scale throughout the cosmos.....