Theosophy is "derived primarily from the writings" of Blavatsky, however revisions and innovations have also been produced by subsequent Theosophists like Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater.
Blavatsky claimed that these Theosophical doctrines were not her own invention, but had been received from a brotherhood of secretive spiritual adepts whom she referred to as the "Masters" or "Mahatmas". The Masters
Central to Theosophical belief is the idea that a group of spiritual adepts known as the Masters not only exist but were responsible for the production of early Theosophical texts. For most Theosophists, these Masters are deemed to be the real founders of the modern Theosophical movement.
In Theosophical literature, these Masters are also referred to as the Mahatmas, Adepts, Masters of Wisdom, Masters of Compassion, and Elder Brothers. They are perceived to be a fraternity of human men who are highly evolved, both in terms of having an advanced moral development and intellectual attainment.
They are claimed to have achieved extra-long life spans, and to have gained supernatural powers, including clairvoyance and the ability to instantly project their soul out of their body to any other location. These are powers that they have allegedly attained through many years of training.
According to Blavatsky, by the late 19th century their chief residence was in the Himalayan kingdom of Tibet. She also claimed that these Masters were the source of many of her published writings. The Masters are believed to preserve the world's ancient spiritual knowledge, and to represent a Great White Brotherhood or White Lodge which watches over humanity and guides its evolution.
The most prominent Masters to appear in Theosophical literature are Koot Hoomi (sometimes spelled Kuthumi) and Morya, with whom Blavatsky claimed to be in contact. According to Theosophical belief, the Masters approach those deemed worthy to embark on an apprenticeship or chelaship. The apprentice would then undergo several years of probation, during which they must live a life of physical purity, remaining chaste, abstinent, and indifferent to physical luxury. ply decorative images.
The ancient wisdom religion
According to Blavatsky's teachings, many of the world's religions have their origins in a universal ancient religion, a "secret doctrine" that was known to Plato and early Hindu sages and which continues to underpin the center of every religion.
She promoted the idea that ancient societies exhibited a unity of science and religion that humanity has since lost, with their achievements and knowledge being far in excess of what modern scholars believe about them.
Blavatsky also taught that a secret brotherhood has conserved this ancient wisdom religion throughout the centuries, and that members of this fraternity hold the key to understanding miracles, the afterlife, and psychic phenomena, and that moreover, these adepts themselves have paranormal powers.
Theosophy tended to emphasize the importance of ancient texts over the popular ritual and custom found within various religious traditions.
Theology and cosmolog
- Theosophy promotes an emanationist cosmology, promoting the belief that the universe is an outward reflection from the Absolute.
- Theosophy presents the idea that the world as humans perceive it is illusory, or maya, an idea that it draws from Asian religions.
- Accordingly, Blavatsky taught that a life limited by the perception of this illusory world was ignorant and deluded.
- According to Theosophical teaching, each solar system is an emanation of a "Logos" or "Solar Deity", with planetary spirits each overseeing one of the planets.
- According to Blavatsky's teaching, every solar systemin the universe is the expression of what is termed a "Logos" or "Solar Deity".
- Ranked below this Solar Deity are seven ministers or planetary spirits, with each of these celestial beings being in control of evolution on a particular planet.
- In The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky stated that each planet had a sevenfold constitution, known as the "Planetary Chains"; these consist not only of a physical globe but also of two astral bodies, two mental bodies, and two spiritual bodies, all overlapping in the same space.
- According to Blavatsky, evolution occurs on descending and ascending arcs, from the first spiritual globe on to the first mental globe, then from the first astral globe to the first physical globe, and then on from there.
- She claimed that there were different levels of evolution, from mineral on to vegetable, animal, human, and then to superhuman or spiritual.
- Different levels of evolution occur in a successive order on each planet; thus when mineral evolution ends on the first planet and it proceeds on to vegetable evolution, then mineral evolution begins on the second planet.
- Theosophy teaches that human evolution is tied in with this planetary and wider cosmic evolution.
- In The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky advocated the idea of seven "Root Races", each of which was divided into seven Sub-Races.
- In Blavatsky's cosmogony, the first Root Race were created from pure spirit, and lived on a continent known as the "Imperishable Sacred Land".
- The second Root Race, known as the Hyperboreans, were also formed from pure spirit, and lived on a land near to the North Pole, which then had a mild climate.
- The third lived on the continent of Lemuria, which Blavatsky alleged survives today as Australia and Rapa Nui.
- Blavatsky alleged that during the fourth Round of the Earth, higher beings descended to the planet, with the beginnings of human physical bodies developing, and the sexes separating.
- At this point, the fourth Root Race appeared, living on the continent of Atlantis; they had physical bodies but also psychic powers and advanced technology.
- The Atlanteans were decadent and abused their power and knowledge, so Atlantis sunk into the sea, although various Atlanteans escaped, and created new societies in Egypt and the Americas.
- The fifth Root Race to emerge was the Aryans, and was found across the world at the time she was writing. She believed that the fifth Race would come to be replaced by
- the sixth, which would be heralded by the arrival of Maitreya, a figure from Mahayana Buddhist mythology. She further believed that humanity would eventually develop into the final, seventh Root Race.
- At this, she stated that humanity will have reached the end of its evolutionary cycle and life will withdraw from the Earth.
Maitreya and messianism
- Blavatsky taught that Lord Maitreya—a figure she borrowed from Buddhist mythology—would come to Earth as a messianic figure.
- Her ideas on this were expanded upon by Besant and Leadbeater.
- They claimed that Maitreya had previously incarnated onto the Earth as Krishna, a figure from Hindu mythology.
- They also claimed that he had entered Jesus of Nazareth at the time of the latter's baptism, and that henceforth Maitreya would be known as "the Christ".
Personal development and reincarnation
According to Theosophy, the purpose of human life is the spiritual emancipation of the soul.
The human individual is described as an "Ego" or "Monad" and believed to have emanated from the Solar Deity, to whom it will also eventually return.
The human being is presented as composed of seven parts, while operating on three separate planes of being. these seven parts are
- the Body (Rupa),
- Vitality (Prana-Jiva),
- the Astral Body (Linga Sarira),
- the Animal Soul (Kama-Rupa),
- the Human Soul (Manas),
- t he Spiritual Soul (Buddhi), and
- the Spirit (Atma).
According to Theosophical teaching, it is the latter three of these components that are immortal, while the other aspects perish following bodily death.
In The Voice of the Silence, she compared the progress of the human soul to a transition through three halls;
- the first was that of ignorance, which is the state of the soul before it understands the need to unite with its higher self.
- The second is the Hall of Learning, in which the individual becomes aware of other facets of human life but is distracted by an interest in psychic powers.
- The third is the Hall of Wisdom, in which union with the higher self is made; this is then followed by
- the Vale of Bliss.At this point the human soul can merge into the One.
Reincarnation and karma
Throughout her writings, Blavatsky made a variety of statements about rebirth and the afterlife, She introduced the idea of reincarnation into Theosophical doctrine, -
In The Secret Doctrine, she stated that the spirit was immortal and would repeatedly incarnate into a new, mortal soul and body on Earth. According to Theosophical teaching, human spirits will always be reborn into human bodies, and not into those of any other life forms.
Blavatsky stated that spirits would not be reborn until some time after bodily death, and never during the lifetime of the deceased's relatives. Blavatsky taught that on the death of the body, the astral body survives for a time in a state called kama-loka, which she compared to limbo, before also dying.
According to this belief, the human then moves into its mental body in a realm called devachan, which she compared to Heaven or paradise.
Blavatsky taught that the soul remained in devachan for 1000 to 1500 years,
Theosophy espouses the existence of karma as a system which regulates the cycle of reincarnation, ensuring that an individual's actions in one life affect the circumstances of their next one.
This belief therefore seeks to explain why misery and suffering exist in the world, attributing any misfortune that someone suffers as punishment for misdeeds that they perpetrated in a prior life.
In Blavatsky's words, karma and reincarnation were "inextricably interwoven".
Morality and ethics
Theosophy does not express any formal ethical teaching, However, it has expressed and promoted certain values, such as brotherhood and social improvement.