The Ocean of Theosophy

Chapter 1: Theosophy and Masters

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First paragraph from the first chapter:

Theosophy is that ocean of knowledge which spreads from shore to shore of the evolution of sentient beings; unfathomable in its deepest parts, it gives the greatest minds their fullest scope, yet, shallow enough at its shores, it will not overwhelm the understanding of a child. It is wisdom about God for those who believe that he is all things and in all, and wisdom about nature for the man who accepts the statement found in the Christian Bible that God cannot be measured or discovered, and that darkness is around his pavilion. Although it contains by derivation the name God and thus may seem at first sight to embrace religion alone, it does not neglect science, for it is the science of sciences and therefore has been called the wisdom religion. For no science is complete which leaves out any department of nature, whether visible or invisible, and that religion which, depending solely on an assumed revelation, turns away from things and the laws which govern them is nothing but a delusion, a foe to progress, an obstacle in the way of man's advancement toward happiness. Embracing both the scientific and the religious, Theosophy is a scientific religion and a religious science.

How does the student deepen his or her appreciation for the philosophy?  How do we embrace the immensity of the Wisdom with humility but at the same time acknowledge that it is accessible to little children?

Teachers are often faced with this problem..there are different levels of students in every class, so how do we involve everyone? How do we involve each of our own principles? How do we emulate to others how to help connect to others whose principles might not be awakened, karmically obscured, or inspire them to open gently and safely?

Oftentimes, rebecoming like children, regaining parts of our simpler child selves that are valuable and get snuffed out in our adult frenzied world, help us to focus on what is important like: taking naps, not fighting, having a sense of awe and wonder I think above all, etc etc

So I think that regaining our humility is like regaining our childlike but not childish state, and affords us the most chance to exercise humility. It's like becoming a beginner or a newcomer each and every day, when feeling like an oldtimer might leave us old, gray and cranky...arthritic in our thinking and unwilling to do the stretching that would allow for greater movement...

And the beauty of it is that all it takes is the power of our plastic minds to shift our focus to those states and gain its insights...we can become childlike...and humble...without its downside risks...but take advantage of its uplifting tendencies no matter what our age...

I sometimes wonder if Theosophy is actually quite simple and it is vanities of our age that make it seem complicated.

I think that is quite true.  Theosophy is life itself, it is Nature, it is in the Stars so to speak. It is the inherited ideas of the age that block our view of what is right before us.

Very interesting post Helena.  Great teachers know the condition and level of consciousness of those to whom they teach.  It is interesting to see how the Dalai Lama operates.  He does not talk about high level Buddhist metaphysics in his public talks all that often, he seems to confine it to certain circles. He focusses on loving kindness and compassion in much of his public communications.

To be a good communicator we probably need to take the temperature of the listener, so to speak.

You might say that one component of compassion is the ability to see life through the eyes of another.  Great Teachers have this ability, not only for single individuals, but for groups, nations and races.  They can see where the knots of self have congealed and need breaking up.

 I think we can start by acknowledging the idea that behind Nature stands Wisdom, that the vast eco-system of life is a symphony of benign law and compassionate intelligence. No corner of life is without it so learning is possible everywhere and at any time.

Or within every god, monad and atom the whole universe is represented.  There is mystery in that idea.

One idea this question brings to mind is the fact that Theosophy is always greater than any one persons expression of it. Which leads to the additional idea that Theosophy is always greater than the students current power of perception.  This idea will keep us honest and moving ahead to newer and grander progressive awakenings.

Good point, we need to acknowledge the magnitude of the idea, the unfathomable depths, mirroring the absolute itself.

I think one way we accomplish this task is by striving to see Theosophy in every corner of life, as being universally present, not something that exists only in books or in the utterances of men. We can see it in the big and in the small when we contemplate the universality of the Law.  Therefore it pops up in old wives tales, the pronouncements of young children and the insights of a Sage.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on May 30, 2015 at 8:24am

Another point to add to Gerry's question is to never let go of the childlike wonder for the Teachings. You do not need to be a geologist to appreciate or be moved by a grand mountain.  You don't need to be a marine biologist to be awed by the ocean.  When we start to assume things, which comes with age I find, we start to lose that sense of wonder.  What would be required to see both the Teachings and Ocean, lets say, afresh each time we encountered them?

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on June 1, 2015 at 6:47pm

Excellent comment Grace, thanks.

It reminds me of a similar comment as to the question of how we know that adepts or wise "men" exist?

Well, if we see that there's furniture in the world, we can assume that carpenters do exist, when we hear music we may assume that musicians exist, if we see airplanes we may assume that engineers exist, so if we contact wisdom we may assume that wise men exist.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on June 6, 2015 at 3:03pm

Dhammapada, Bhagavad-Gita, Tao te Ching, The Golden Verses, Plato's Dialogs, The Sermon on the Mount, The Voice of the Silence, The Secret Doctrine etc. etc.  Pretty good furniture and mountains of wisdom to be awed by.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 5, 2015 at 10:35pm

2nd Paragraph

It is not a belief or dogma formulated or invented by man, but is a knowledge of the laws which govern the evolution of the physical, astral, psychical, and intellectual constituents of nature and of man. The religion of the day is but a series of dogmas man-made and with no scientific foundation for promulgated ethics; while our science as yet ignores the unseen, and failing to admit the existence of a complete set of inner faculties of perception in man, it is cut off from the immense and real field of experience which lies within the visible and tangible worlds. But Theosophy knows that the whole is constituted of the visible and the invisible, and perceiving outer things and objects to be but transitory it grasps the facts of nature, both without and within. It is therefore complete in itself and sees no unsolvable mystery anywhere; it throws the word coincidence out of its vocabulary and hails the reign of law in everything and every circumstance.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on April 6, 2015 at 7:46am

It seems to me that Mr. Judge is introducing the ideas of esoteric and exoteric in this paragraph.

Permalink Reply by Tommy Kehoe on April 7, 2015 at 6:38pm

Grace I never realized that before.  He's planting seeds that would cause some students to start asking questions along that line right off the bat!

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 8, 2015 at 11:05am

Agreed both of you.  Mr. Judge is opening us the vista and the horizon.  He seems to be inviting us on an adventure, an exploration into a vast unknown (to us) territory.  Oddly enough the territory is our own consciousness.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 19, 2015 at 4:30pm

It does seem to be an important distinction to think about in relation to the study of Theosophy.  Most people in modern times talk about belief system.  I believe this, you believe that.  Christians believe this, Muslims believe that and so on.  Theosophy talks about a hierarchy of knowledge we ascend step by step.  It is a radically different approach.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on April 19, 2015 at 11:07pm

One has to reach the pinnacle of the mountain of knowledge for spiritual lightning (or intuition) to strike.

The substance of our mountain consists of increasingly abstract concepts (even if you don't believe in anything, that is still a concept but it will keep you at the foot of the mountain). The concepts in and by themselves do not reveal the truth yet, but function as images (or stepping stones) to build upon, the use of imagination versus fantasy. At some point in our journey - the pinnacle and exhaustion of our concepts - we reach such a hight that intuition can strike and the truth can be revealed. These images form the hierarchy of knowledge referred to. In other words, one has first to do the work (correct conceptualization or the formation of images) to reap its reward (intuition).

Kama-manas has a habitual tendency to conform and succumb to its environment through attachment and its need to belong, the reason why anyone born into a religion or belief system is most likely to stick with it and defend its merits. Had they been born into a different system of belief they would have conformed to that.

In that sense anyone who can divest him/herself from the shackles of these attachments and dogmatism is a trailblazer, iconoclast and non-conformist in the positive sense of the word.

HPB quotes from an excellent excerpt by the English 18th century poet William Cowper from his famous poem "The Task" (1785) in SDI:165 that illustrates this idea:

 '…knowledge dwells
In heads replete with thoughts of other men,
Wisdom in minds attentive to their own…'

Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on April 20, 2015 at 8:24am

Pierre I found your post wonderfully illuminating.  Thank you. It seems to me we could think of our conceptualizations as lenses.  When we start the journey the lens is murky and cloudy.  As we progress the lens clears up and the vision becomes untainted.  This is the goal of the true philosopher, abstract conceptualization, clear vision and access to intuition as a result.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on April 20, 2015 at 10:36am

Good point Alex, lenses will do as well :-) HPB refers in theVoice (p.28) to cleaning up the mirror of our mind: "For mind is like a mirror; it gathers dust while it reflects. It needs the gentle breezes of Soul-Wisdom to brush away the dust of our illusions.".

Permalink Reply by Tommy Kehoe on April 7, 2015 at 6:34pm

I think Mr. Judge here is emphasizing the breadth of the philosophy as well as the recognition of law.  He is doing so by pointing out that materialistic science doesn't cover the inner departments of Nature, whereas Theosophy addresses all departments.  He also points out that religions, which claim to address the soul of man and "things unseen", do not recognize the rule of universal law in those areas. Theosophy "hails the reign of law in everything and every circumstance." - I think this would include both "seen" and "unseen".

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 8, 2015 at 12:48pm

Beautifully stated.  For something to be "true" it must embrace the whole and not just some of the parts.  That might be another way to make the point.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 9, 2015 at 10:29pm

3rd Paragraph

That man possesses an immortal soul is the common belief of humanity; to this Theosophy adds that he is a soul; and further that all nature is sentient, that the vast array of objects and men are not mere collections of atoms fortuitously thrown together and thus without law evolving law, but down to the smallest atom all is soul and spirit ever evolving under the rule of law which is inherent in the whole. And just as the ancients taught, so does Theosophy; that the course of evolution is the drama of the soul and that nature exists for no other purpose than the soul's experience. The Theosophist agrees with Prof. Huxley in the assertion that there must be beings in the universe whose intelligence is as much beyond ours as ours exceeds that of the black beetle, and who take an active part in the government of the natural order of things. Pushing further on by the light of the confidence had in his teachers, the Theosophist adds that such intelligences were once human and came like all of us from other and previous worlds, where as varied experience had been gained as is possible on this one. We are therefore not appearing for the first time when we come upon this planet, but have pursued a long, an immeasurable course of activity and intelligent perception on other systems of globes, some of which were destroyed ages before the solar system condensed. This immense reach of the evolutionary system means, then, that this planet on which we now are is the result of the activity and the evolution of some other one that died long ago, leaving its energy to be used in the bringing into existence of the earth, and that the inhabitants of the latter in their turn came from some older world to proceed here with the destined work in matter. And the brighter planets, such as Venus, are the habitation of still more progressed entities, once as low as ourselves, but now raised up to a pitch of glory incomprehensible for our intellects.

Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on April 10, 2015 at 8:15am

I like the way Mr. Judge makes his point here.  In orthodox religions they say human beings have a soul and can lose it.  In Theosophy we are told we are a soul.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on April 10, 2015 at 10:33am

Another underlying idea that is implied in Mr. Judge's statement is the perfectibility of man and all the rest of nature. Perhaps the most important element is that of "meaning". If we were to rely solely on the scientific approach - which undoubtedly has its merits - the universe would just be one cold aggregate of dead atoms. It is through self-conscious beings that the universe is able to know itself, without man the universe would't even know it exists.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 20, 2015 at 7:15pm

When we talk about drawing meaning from experience are we essentially trying to follow the bread crumbs of universal principles that lie behind all experience?

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on April 10, 2015 at 12:06pm

I find it interesting that Mr. Judge chose to begin his book with the Masters. I've seen other theosophical writers do the same; setting that tone right from the outset. Why do you think that is? Is there an importance to tackling that subject right from the start, instead of building up to it gradually?

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on April 11, 2015 at 5:33pm

Jon, my comment should have followed yours :-)

Perhaps - using a biblical quote - it is also a way of "separating the wheat from the chaff" upfront? Could it be that there is an occult element involved in stating this from the very beginning and those who stumble over it bar themselves from some kind of beneficent influence or a subjective connection?

If the adepts (Mahatmas) do indeed represent what is claimed by theosophy, they are then to be looked upon as being one with Atma, the SELF or the AUM. This is often used in oriental books at the beginning and the end of important spiritual instruction as mentioned for instance in the Laws of Manu:

"A Brahmin, at the beginning and end of a lesson on the Vedas, must always pronounce the syllable OM, for unless OM precede, his learning will slip away from him, and unless it follows, nothing will be long retained." See WQ Judge's article on AUM!, WQJ Theosophical Articles, Vol 1, p. 560. (Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, 1980)

So, introducing a book with the subject of the Mahatmas is sort of akin to starting a treatise with AUM.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on May 21, 2015 at 12:38am

After centuries of organized religion corrupting the dignity of being human, and after the East turning it back on the Buddha and under the pressure of behaviorism and materialism perhaps the theosophical movement needed to re-establish the grandeur of human potential.  The Masters represent the best of what it means to be human. They represent what is possible for everyone. It is a great place to begin the journey into Theosophy.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 14, 2015 at 11:36pm

4th Paragraph

The most intelligent being in the universe, man, has never, then, been without a friend, but has a line of elder brothers who continually watch over the progress of the less progressed, preserve the knowledge gained through aeons of trial and experience, and continually seek for opportunities of drawing the developing intelligence of the race on this or other globes to consider the great truths concerning the destiny of the soul. These elder brothers also keep the knowledge they have gained of the laws of nature in all departments, and are ready when cyclic law permits to use it for the benefit of mankind. They have always existed as a body, all knowing each other, no matter in what part of the world they may be, and all working for the race in many different ways. In some periods they are well known to the people and move among ordinary men whenever the social organization, the virtue, and the development of the nations permit it. For if they were to come out openly and be heard of everywhere, they would be worshipped as gods by some and hunted as devils by others. In those periods when they do come out some of their number are rulers of men, some teachers, a few great philosophers, while others remain still unknown except to the most advanced of the body.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 15, 2015 at 7:32pm

We are given the image of Elder Brothers, perhaps to indicate that these beings are different from ordinary men, not in kind but in degree.

What role in the spiritual life is conceptualizing the magnitude of these great teachers, Mahatmas?

Permalink Reply by Helena Kerekhazi on April 19, 2015 at 6:54am

Excellent point and excellent reference Pierre! Pointing to the Masters at the gitgo as they say, or beginning, also gives us access to hopes of the potential in us for reaching to something better in ourselves, which we are all capable of. Just knowing that we have elder brothers and beings who watch over us is also a comfort I think.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on May 6, 2015 at 8:17am

The week of the death anniversary of HPB gives us an opportunity to appreciate the contributions of this great soul to the furtherance of human enlightenment.  When we appreciate people like this we establish a pattern in our minds of what human beings are capable of and it serves as a guide for our own lives.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on May 6, 2015 at 10:31am

Wonderful comment Grace.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 19, 2015 at 4:33pm

One might say, where are these elder brothers now in our hour of need?  If you look, for example to all the sacred texts and all the instructions that have been compiled just on the Universal Theosophy site you will discover that elder brothers have given humanity a wealth of riches in regards to teachings about man, nature and life.

Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on April 20, 2015 at 8:17am

You get the impression that everything that can be done by the Mahatmas is being done and the rest must be done by us.  Gerry makes a good point, we certainly are not in short supply of instructions and teachings.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on April 20, 2015 at 10:28am

Good question Gerry, perhaps they are telling us that they are inside us, not outside of us, so we have to look within as The Voice of the Silence (p.29) points out:

"seek in the Impersonal for the "Eternal Man"; and having sought him out, look inward: thou art Buddha."

On the outside they are represented by their messenger and the teachings.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on May 4, 2015 at 7:59am

I find that a very intriguing point "they are inside us, not outside of us".  Is our sense of inside and outside out of whack because we identify with our bodies?  If we were to cease to identify with our body how would it effect our sense of what is inside and what is outside?

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on May 6, 2015 at 10:41am

Inside and outside are of course relative terms to our present condition. I would think that in reality there is neither inside nor outside, but on our present plane of evolution we separate the in from the out, although the out is still within. Just like we can say, my body is in this room, but the room is within my mind, so in reality there's no in nor out.

If we were to cease to identify with our body we would most likely be on an increasing scale of being a lot more "in touch" with ourself and with others as we would most likely identify more and more with the one mind while at the same time preserving our identity.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 7, 2015 at 7:38pm

This topic goes back to life interpenetrating life concept we are talking about in the SD group.  I think the inside/outside distinction is one of the fundamental illusions we have to overcome to discard the separative self problem.  What do you think?

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on May 22, 2015 at 7:39am

I find this inside outside dichotomy problem at the root of problem of separateness.  What is inside and what is outside to me?  We typically start with the physical body, then expand that to our mental horizon.  What if we could stretch that horizon? What if the horizon included the thoughts of "others"?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on May 24, 2015 at 10:57am

What if our consciousness is centered just a little above the physical vehicle,  then the expanse of our horizon is invariably stretched because we are no longer confined in a shell.  We become a "point" of consciousness, no within nor without. 

Permalink Reply by barbaram on May 24, 2015 at 7:14pm

I should elaborate more on my earlier message regarding the sense of separateness.   

Because of the limitation of our consciousness, we only "know" our own sensations, feelings and thoughts and this is who we believe we are.  

We identify ourselves with our physical form, believing we are separate individuals.  And from a narrow and myopic angle, it is not untrue.  But, if we look at the bigger picture, we know we are part of a larger Whole.   Not a speck of dust in this universe is an isolated unit;   what affects one invariably affects all.  It is difficult to live this truth when we are mesmerized by our senses.  To learn to rise above the sensory mind and penetrate the causes behind the veil is an ongoing struggle for all the students.  I find it helpful reading and pondering on the Secret Doctrine because it tears down the mental confines and uplifts the mind to infinity.        

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 25, 2015 at 11:17am

We talk about separateness and we intellectually grasp the problem but I find psychologically to really come to terms with this problem is extremely difficult.  We see life and experience life through the veil of separateness which have all collectively and individually created for ourselves.  We get a glimmer of non-separateness when we experience elevated states of love or appreciation for others.  And with that it is only still a glimpse of a higher consciousness.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on May 25, 2015 at 3:10pm

Hi Gerry:

It is very difficult for me as well.  I continually try to "see" life with my intuitive mind instead of my physical senses.  Recently, the times my consciousness is more elevated is when my mind is absorbed in the Secret Doctrine. 

As you said, every now and then we get glimmers of the state of non-separateness.  Those precious moments are like a firefly flickering in the dark night that draws a trail of light for us to follow. 

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Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 25, 2015 at 10:37am

5th paragraph of Chapter 1

It would be subversive of the ends they have in view were they to make themselves public in the present civilization, which is based almost wholly on money, fame, glory, and personality. For this age, as one of them has already said, "is an age of transition," when every system of thought, science, religion, government, and society is changing, and men's minds are only preparing for an alteration into that state which will permit the race to advance to the point suitable for these elder brothers to introduce their actual presence to our sight. They may be truly called the bearers of the torch of truth across the ages; they investigate all things and beings; they know what man is in his innermost nature and what his powers and destiny, his state before birth and the states into which he goes after the death of his body; they have stood by the cradle of nations and seen the vast achievements of the ancients, watched sadly the decay of those who had no power to resist the cyclic law of rise and fall; and while cataclysms seemed to show a universal destruction of art, architecture, religion, and philosophy, they have preserved the records of it all in places secure from the ravages of either men or time; they have made minute observations, through trained psychics among their own order, into the unseen realms of nature and of mind, recorded the observations and preserved the record; they have mastered the mysteries of sound and color through which alone the elemental beings behind the veil of matter can be communicated with, and thus can tell why the rain falls and what it falls for, whether the earth is hollow or not, what makes the wind to blow and light to shine, and greater feat than all—one which implies a knowledge of the very foundations of nature—they know what the ultimate divisions of time are and what are the meaning and the times of the cycles.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on May 6, 2015 at 8:24am

From the Aphorisms on Karma

(6) Karma is not subject to time, and therefore he who knows what is the ultimate division of time in this Universe knows Karma.

I suspect the only way a human being can know karma and time is for their consciousness to reside on a  plane outside of Karma and Time.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on May 2, 2015 at 4:48pm

Paragraph 6

But, asks the busy man of the nineteenth century who reads the newspapers and believes in "modern progress," if these elder brothers are all you claim them to be, why have they left no mark on history
nor gathered men around them? Their own reply, published some time ago by Mr. A. P. Sinnett, is better than any I could write.

"We will first discuss, if you please, the one relating to the presumed failure of the 'Fraternity' to 'leave any mark upon the history of the world.' They ought, you think, to have been able, with their extraordinary advantages, to have 'gathered into their schools a considerable portion of the more enlightened minds of every race.' How do you know they have made no such mark? Are you acquainted with their efforts, successes, and failures? Have you any dock upon which to arraign them? How could your world collect proofs of the doings of men who have sedulously kept closed every possible door of approach by which the inquisitive could spy upon them? The prime condition of their success was that they should never be supervised or obstructed. What they have done they know; all that those outside their circle could perceive was results, the causes of which were masked from view. To account for these results, men have, in different ages, invented theories of the interposition of gods, special providences, fates, the benign or hostile influences of the stars. There never was a time within or before the so-called historical period when our predecessors were not moulding events and 'making history,' the facts of which were subsequently and invariably distorted by historians to suit contemporary prejudices. Are you quite sure that the visible heroic figures in the successive dramas were not often but their puppets? We never pretended to be able to draw nations in the mass to this or that crisis in spite of the general drift of the world's cosmic relations. The cycles must run their rounds. Periods of mental and moral light and darkness succeed each other as day does night. The major and minor yugas must be accomplished according to the established order of things. And we, borne along on the mighty tide, can only modify and direct some of its minor currents."*

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on May 6, 2015 at 8:27am

This week we are reminded of HPB mark on history and the progression of human thought. Comparative religious study, reincarnation, karma, Eastern Philosophy and Buddhist thought, the concept of perfected human beings are just a few of the ideas that she aroused in the minds of men which are so crucial for our future progress.  Thank you HPB.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on May 9, 2015 at 9:28am

Paragraph 7

It is under cyclic law, during a dark period in the history of mind, that the true philosophy disappears for a time, but the same law causes it to reappear as surely as the sun rises and the human mind is present to see it. But some works can only be performed by the Master, while other works require the assistance of the companions. It is the Master's work to preserve the true philosophy, but the help of the companions is needed to rediscover and promulgate it. Once more the elder brothers have indicated where the truth—Theosophy—could be found, and the companions all over the world are engaged in bringing it forth for wider currency and propagation.


Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on May 12, 2015 at 8:22am

This passage is a clarion call to all of us to do our parts to make the Wisdom Religion come alive and to spread broadcast the teachings.  Whether we are strong or weak, big or small, each one has a role to play to further the cause.  A genuine smile to a stranger performed in the right spirit is a step in the direction of universal brotherhood.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 20, 2015 at 7:18pm

I like how you take a big idea and show how it has value for seemingly simplest of gestures, the smile.  If we really mean it a smile is a silent blessing of one immortal soul to another.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on May 16, 2015 at 12:02pm

Paragraph 8

The Elder Brothers of Humanity are men who were perfected in former periods of evolution. These periods of manifestation are unknown to modern evolutionists so far as their number are concerned, though long ago understood by not only the older Hindus, but also by those great minds and men who instituted and carried on the first pure and undebased form of the Mysteries of Greece. The periods, when out of the Great Unknown there come forth the visible universes, are eternal in their coming and going, alternating with equal periods of silence and rest again in the Unknown. The object of these mighty waves is the production of perfect man, the evolution of soul, and they always witness the increase of the number of Elder Brothers; the life of the least of men pictures them in day and night, waking and sleeping, birth and death, "for these two, light and dark, day and night, are the world's eternal ways."

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 25, 2015 at 11:11am

This passage reminds one of the time required to truly evolve to the levels of the Mahatmas.  They are like giant sequoias growing incrementally for ages and ages.

Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on May 24, 2015 at 9:09am

I am adding this quote to two different discussions.  I hope you don't mind.

A famous quote from Shankara:

"The great and peaceful ones live regenerating the world like the coming of the spring.  Having crossed the ocean of embodied existence themselves they freely aid all others who seek to cross it.  The very essence and inherent will of Mahatmas is to remove the suffering of others, just as the ambrosia rayed moon, of itself, cools the earth."

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on June 8, 2015 at 10:39pm

Paragraph 9

In every age and complete national history these men of power and compassion are given different designations. They have been called Initiates, Adepts, Magi, Hierophants, Kings of the East, Wise Men, Brothers, and what not. But in the Sanskrit language there is a word which, being applied to them, at once thoroughly identifies them with humanity. It is Mahatma. This is composed of Maha great, and Atma soul; so it means great soul, and as all men are souls the distinction of the Mahatma lies in greatness. The term Mahatma has come into wide use through the Theosophical Society, as Mme. H. P. Blavatsky constantly referred to them as her Masters who gave her the knowledge she possessed. They were at first known only as the Brothers, but afterwards, when many Hindus flocked to the Theosophical movement, the name Mahatma was brought into use, inasmuch as it has behind it an immense body of Indian tradition and literature. At different times unscrupulous enemies of the Theosophical Society have said that even this name had been invented and that such beings are not known of among the Indians or in their literature. But these assertions are made only to discredit if possible a philosophical movement that threatens to completely upset prevailing erroneous theological dogmas. For all through Hindu literature Mahatmas are often spoken of, and in parts of the north of that country the term is common. In the very old poem the Bhagavad-Gita, revered by all Hindu sects and admitted by the western critics to be noble as well as beautiful, there is a verse reading, "Such a Mahatma is difficult to find."

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on June 9, 2015 at 9:06am

It seems that one of the "Brothers" was a woman, HPB.  If she is not a Mahatma then she is most certainly Mahatma like.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on June 9, 2015 at 3:25pm

Grace, here's an interesting link to "Women Adepts" (the numbers relate to the footnotes you'll find in the link)

Women Adepts

In May, 1880, Col. Olcott wrote an article in The Theosophist in answer to a claim by Dr. George Wyld, who stated that no woman had become an Adept. The Colonel wrote:

It is equally incorrect to say that no woman has become an adept. Not to mention one example which will immediately recall itself to every Theosophist, I may say that I personally have encountered in India two other initiated women, and know of a number of others in the East.[6]

In June, 1889, C. S. Stockholm sent a few questions to the editors of the Theosophical Journal Lucifer. One of them was about the existence of Women Adepts:

Has any woman ever attained to Adeptship proper? Will her intellectual and spiritual nature and gifts permit it, even while supposing that her physical nature might endure the hardships therefrom indispensable?

To this, H. P. Blavatsky answered:

Woman has as good a chance as any man has to reach high Adeptship. Why she does not succeed in this direction in Europe is simply due to her early education and the social prejudice which causes her to be regarded as inferior to man.[7]

T. Subba Row, considered by Mme. Blavatsky to be her equal in occultism, wrote:

There are instances of females becoming the greatest Adepts. Whether an individual is male or female depends upon temperament as much as anything else. . . . There is one woman who still stands in the list of the Mahachohans of one of the greatest Rays--that to which H ... belongs. She is not merely a great Adept of that Ray, but had made many original discoveries. . . There is a Ray specially adapted to women; it is sometimes called "the body of love". Its Logos is rather a female than a male; it belongs to the magnetic pole of the universe. I do not think there will ever be a female Adept of the First Ray, because it belongs entirely to the positive pole.[8]

In The Theosophist, October, 1883, "An Inquirer" asked:

Will you kindly let me know whether females can attain to adeptship, and whether female adepts exist at all?

To this, Damodar K. Mavalankar, a chela of Mahatma K. H. wrote:

It is difficult to see any good reason why females should not become Adepts. None of us, Chelas, are aware of any physical or other defect which might entirely incapacitate them from undertaking the dreary ordeal. It may be more difficult, more dangerous for them than it is for men, still not impossible. The Hindu sacred books and traditions mention such cases, and since the laws of Nature are immutable, what was possible some thousand years ago must be possible now. . . . In Nepaul, we all know, there is a high female Adept. And in Southern India, flourished at a recent date, another great female Initiate named Ouvaiyar. Her mysterious work in Tamil on Occultism is still extant. It is styled Kural, and is said to be very enigmatically written, and consequently inexplicable. In Benares too lives a certain lady, unsuspected and unknown but to the very few. . .[9]

Mme. Blavatsky added an interesting perspective about the possibilities of high women adepts. In talking about the divine virgin figures such as the Gnostic Sophiashe wrote:

Śakti being a female principle, it is fully manifested through a woman, although, properly speaking, the inner man is neither male, nor female. It is only the preponderance of either of the two principles (positive and negative) which determines the sex. Now, this preponderance is determined by the Law of Affinity; and hence in a woman is manifested abnormally the occult power represented by Śakti. She is moreover gifted with a wonderfully vivid imagination—stronger than man’s. And as the phenomenal is the realization or rather the manifestation of the IDEAL, which can be properly and strongly conceived only by a powerful IMAGINATION—a WOMAN-ADEPT can produce high occultists—a race of “Buddhas and Christs,” born “without sin.” The more and the sooner the animal sexual affinities are given up, the stronger and the sooner will be the manifestation of the higher occult powers which alone can produce the “immaculate conception.” And this art is practically taught to the occultists at a very high stage of initiation.[10]

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on June 11, 2015 at 8:32am

Thank you for this Pierre.  It is clear to me that the Theosophical Movement should not have a gender issue.  I don't believe it was an accident that the leader of the Modern Theosophical Movement is a woman.  But it also makes sense not to put too much focus on gender given that one of the results of solid theosophical study is to loosen the grip of body identification so powerful in modern culture.

Permalink Reply by Peter on June 11, 2015 at 11:47am

There’s an interesting question and response between Sinnett and the Mahatma KH relating to general question of gender at birth:

Sinnett: Is there any essential spiritual difference between a man and a woman, or is sex a mere accident of each birth – the ultimate future of the individual furnishing the same opportunities?

Mahatma KH:  A mere accident – as you say. Generally a chance work yet guided by individual Karma, – moral aptitudes, characteristics and deeds of a previous birth.

(From Mahatma Letters to A.P. Signet; no. 17)

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on June 14, 2015 at 3:28pm

Paragraph 10

But irrespective of all disputes as to specific names, there is sufficient argument and proof to show that a body of men having the wonderful knowledge described above has always existed and probably exists today. The older mysteries continually refer to them. Ancient Egypt had them in her great king-Initiates, sons of the sun and friends of great gods. There is a habit of belittling the ideas of the ancients which is in itself belittling to the people of today. Even the Christian who reverently speaks of Abraham as "the friend of God," will scornfully laugh at the idea of the claims of Egyptian rulers to the same friendship being other than childish assumption of dignity and title. But the truth is, these great Egyptians were Initiates, members of the one great lodge which includes all others of whatever degree or operation. The later and declining Egyptians, of course, must have imitated their predecessors, but that was when the true doctrine was beginning once more to be obscured upon the rise of dogma and priesthood.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on June 19, 2015 at 7:51am

Who are the Initiates of ancient Egypt that we know about and whose writings are available to us?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on June 21, 2015 at 11:31am

The story of Apollonius of Tyana is about a member of one of the same ancient orders appearing among men at a descending cycle, and only for the purpose of keeping a witness upon the scene for future generations.

Abraham and Moses of the Jews are two other Initiates, Adepts who had their work to do with a certain people; and in the history of Abraham we meet with Melchizedek, who was so much beyond Abraham that he had the right to confer upon the latter a dignity, a privilege, or a blessing. The same chapter of human history which contains the names of Moses and Abraham is illuminated also by that of Solomon. And thus these three make a great Triad of Adepts, the record of whose deeds can not be brushed aside as folly and devoid of basis.

Moses was educated by the Egyptians and in Midian, from both of which he gained much occult knowledge, and any clear-seeing student of the great Universal Masonry can perceive all through his books the hand, the plan, and the work of a master. Abraham again knew all the arts and much of the power in psychical realms that were cultivated in his day, or else he could not have consorted with kings nor have been "the friend of God"; and the reference to his conversations with the Almighty in respect to the destruction of cities alone shows him to have been an Adept who had long ago passed beyond the need of ceremonial or other adventitious aids. Solomon completes this triad and stands out in characters of fire. Around him is clustered such a mass of legend and story about his dealings with the elemental powers and of his magic possessions that one must condemn the whole ancient world as a collection of fools who made lies for amusement if a denial is made of his being a great character, a wonderful example of the incarnation among men of a powerful Adept. We do not have to accept the name Solomon nor the pretense that he reigned over the Jews, but we must admit the fact that somewhere in the misty time to which the Jewish records refer there lived and moved among the people of the earth one who was an Adept and given that name afterwards. Peripatetics and microscopic critics may affect to see in the prevalence of universal tradition naught but evidence of the gullibility of men and their power to imitate, but the true student of human nature and life knows that the universal tradition is true and arises from the facts in the history of man.

Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on June 26, 2015 at 8:33am

Does this imply that behind mankind's every significant step forward is the silent work of adepts?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on June 25, 2015 at 10:37pm

Next Paragraph in the Chapter

Turning to India, so long forgotten and ignored by the lusty and egotistical, the fighting and the trading West, we find her full of the lore relating to these wonderful men of whom Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Solomon are only examples. There the people are fitted by temperament and climate to be the preservers of the philosophical, ethical, and psychical jewels that would have been forever lost to us had they been left to the ravages of such Goths and Vandals as western nations were in the early days of their struggle for education and civilization. If the men who wantonly burned up vast masses of historical and ethnological treasures found by the minions of the Catholic rulers of Spain, in Central and South America, could have known of and put their hands upon the books and palm-leaf records of India before the protecting shield of England was raised against them, they would have destroyed them all as they did for the Americans, and as their predecessors attempted to do for the Alexandrian library. Fortunately events worked otherwise.

Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on June 26, 2015 at 8:36am

Just who were these "Catholic Rulers of Spain" who were so damaging to the Esoteric Science and Traditions of the Americas?

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on July 1, 2015 at 9:09pm

Leaders of the Inquisition.  Where zealotry and the desire for power inverted the teachings of Love by Jesus.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 6, 2015 at 10:16am

All along the stream of Indian literature we can find the names by scores of great adepts who were well known to the people and who all taught the same story — the great epic of the human soul. Their names are unfamiliar to western ears, but the records of their thoughts, their work and powers remain. Still more, in the quiet unmovable East there are today by the hundred persons who know of their own knowledge that the Great Lodge still exists and has its Mahatmas, Adepts, Initiates, Brothers. And yet further, in that land are such a number of experts in the practical application of minor though still very astonishing power over nature and her forces, that we have an irresistible mass of human evidence to prove the proposition laid down.

And if Theosophy — the teaching of this Great Lodge — is as said, both scientific and religious, then from the ethical side we have still more proof. A mighty Triad acting on and through ethics is that composed of Buddha, Confucius, and Jesus. The first, a Hindu, founds a religion which today embraces many more people than Christianity, teaching centuries before Jesus the ethics which he taught and which had been given out even centuries before Buddha. Jesus coming to reform his people repeats these ancient ethics, and Confucius does the same thing for ancient and honorable China.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on July 7, 2015 at 8:33am

It is very interesting how much things have changed since this was written.  Christianity now has the most adherents with Islam the fastest growing of the major religions.  What hold does Confucius have in today's China?  What support for Buddhism is there in Japan?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 8, 2015 at 9:38am

Moving on further

The Theosophist says that all these great names represent members of the one single brotherhood, who all have a single doctrine. And the extraordinary characters who now and again appear in western civilization, such as St. Germain, Jacob Boehme, Cagliostro, Paracelsus, Mesmer, Count St. Martin, and Madame H. P. Blavatsky, are agents for the doing of the work of the Great Lodge at the proper time. It is true they are generally reviled and classed as impostors — though no one can find out why they are when they generally confer benefits and lay down propositions or make discoveries of great value to science after they have died. But Jesus himself would be called an impostor today if he appeared in some Fifth Avenue theatrical church rebuking the professed Christians. Paracelsus was the originator of valuable methods and treatments in medicine now universally used. Mesmer taught hypnotism under another name. Madame Blavatsky brought once more to the attention of the West the most important system, long known to the Lodge, respecting man, his nature and destiny. But all are alike called impostors by a people who have no original philosophy of their own and whose mendicant and criminal classes exceed in misery and in number those of any civilization on the earth.

It will not be unusual for nearly all occidental readers to wonder how men could possibly know so much and have such power over the operations of natural law as I have ascribed to the Initiates, now so commonly spoken of as the Mahatmas. In India, China, and other Oriental lands no wonder would arise on these heads, because there, although everything of a material civilization is just now in a backward state, they have never lost a belief in the inner nature of man and in the power he may exercise if he will. Consequently living examples of such powers and capacities have not been absent from those people. But in the West a materialistic civilization having arisen through a denial of the soul life and nature consequent upon a reaction from illogical dogmatism, there has not been any investigation of these subjects and, until lately, the general public has not believed in the possibility of anyone save a supposed God having such power.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on July 8, 2015 at 11:26pm

It is important to remember that these characters of history are not dead.  They are very much alive.  They are immortal souls that continue to help humanity in mysterious ways.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on July 12, 2015 at 10:17am

A great soul, mahatma, need not occupy a physical body to be of aid to humanity.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 11, 2015 at 12:45pm

Second to last paragraph

A Mahatma endowed with power over space, time, mind, and matter, is a possibility just because he is a perfected man. Every human being has the germ of all the powers attributed to these great Initiates, the difference lying solely in the fact that we have in general not developed what we possess the germ of, while the Mahatma has gone through the training and experience which have caused all the unseen human powers to develop in him, and conferred gifts that look god-like to his struggling brother below. Telepathy, mind-reading, and hypnotism, all long ago known to Theosophy, show the existence in the human subject of planes of consciousness, functions, and faculties hitherto undreamed of. Mind-reading and the influencing of the mind of the hypnotized subject at a distance prove the existence of a mind which is not wholly dependent upon a brain, and that a medium exists through which the influencing thought may be sent. It is under this law that the Initiates can communicate with each other at no matter what distance. Its rationale, not yet admitted by the schools of the hypnotizers, is, that if the two minds vibrate or change into the same state they will think alike, or, in other words, the one who is to hear at a distance receives the impression sent by the other. In the same way with all other powers, no matter how extraordinary. They are all natural, although now unusual, just as great musical ability is natural though not usual or common. If an Initiate can make a solid object move without contact, it is because he understands the two laws of attraction and repulsion of which "gravitation" is but the name for one; if he is able to precipitate out of the viewless air the carbon which we know is in it, forming the carbon into sentences upon the paper, it is through his knowledge of the occult higher chemistry, and the use of a trained and powerful image making faculty which every man possesses; if he reads your thoughts with ease, that results from the use of the inner and only real powers of sight, which require no retina to see the fine-pictured web which the vibrating brain of man weaves about him. All that the Mahatma may do is natural to the perfected man; but if those powers are not at once revealed to us it is because the race is as yet selfish altogether and still living for the present and the transitory.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on July 12, 2015 at 10:23am

We have portraits of these Mahatmas in the sacred texts of humanity.  We have descriptions in the Dhammapada, Gita, Vedas, Tao Te Ching and other places.  It is wise for us to dwell on these portraits, t helps to draw our lives in that direction.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on July 16, 2015 at 11:30pm

Yes those are treasures of inspiration.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 17, 2015 at 10:57pm

Last paragraph of the first chapter:

I repeat then, that though the true doctrine disappears for a time from among men it is bound to reappear, because first, it is impacted in the imperishable center of man's nature; and secondly, the Lodge forever preserves it, not only in actual objective records, but also in the intelligent and fully self-conscious men who, having successfully overpassed the many periods of evolution which preceded the one we are now involved in, cannot lose the precious possessions they have acquired. And because the elder brothers are the highest product of evolution through whom alone, in cooperation with the whole human family, the further regular and workmanlike prosecution of the plans of the Great Architect of the Universe could be carried on, I have thought it well to advert to them and their Universal Lodge before going to other parts of the subject.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on August 3, 2015 at 8:17am

Our efforts to make Theosophy a living power in our lives, and our efforts to share the ideas are small attempts to aid these ever living Teachers in the Pilgrimage of Humanity.