What Is Theosophy?

Theosophy, strictly speaking, is Divine Knowledge or Spiritual Science. The meaning of the original Greek term Theo-sophia, is "Divine Wisdom," or "Wisdom of the gods."  The word comes to us from the 3rd century Alexandrian philosophers but its teachings are as old as humanity itself. Its equivalent can be found in every culture, ancient or modern, where true esoteric wisdom is preserved and initiation into its secrets by great Adepts is made a stimulus to self-discipline, theurgy and the highest virtues. Also called the Philosophia Perrenis, Gupta Vidya or Sanatana-Dharma, it reconciles all religions, sects and nations by articulating the philosophic and moral verities that are their common basis. As the primeval fount and essence of all true knowledge, it has been tested and verified in every department of nature by generations of the most advanced prophets, seers and mystics. The rudiments of this "life giving sacred lore" were gradually introduced to the West over seven centuries through the sacrificial efforts of the Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas who ceaselessly labor for the enlightenment of the whole of humanity.

Ethics are the soul of the Wisdom-Religion, the full awakening of individual conscience the surrest guide to those ethics. This involves the perfect harmonizing of the mind and heart with the divine and the god-like, coinciding with the paralyzing and eventual elimination of all selfishness and purely personal desires. It is the unconditional compassion and non-violence spoken of by Buddha in the Dhammapada, by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, and by Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount. Its chief features are kindness and entire forgiveness, the absence of every ill feeling, unconditional charity, goodwill, and justice to all.

H. P. Blavatsky, What is Theosophy?

H. P. Blavatsky, Is Theosophy a Religion?

William Quan Judge, Theosophy Generally Stated

Raghavan N. Iyer, Spiritual Evolution

What Is Karma?

The word karma literally means ‘action,’ but it includes both cause and effect, action and reaction at every level of existence. It is the Law of Ethical Causation; an exact, immutable and eternal decree that maintains absolute harmony, unity and equilibrium in the world of matter as it is in the world of Spirit. It is the source, origin, and fount of all other laws which exist throughout Nature. As an omnipresent driving force behind cosmic and human evolution, it is inseparable from the highest Deity and no spot in the universe is exempt from its sway. It neither rewards nor punishes but we reward or punish ourselves according to whether we work with the laws of harmony or break them. There is, therefore, no accident, mishap or misfortune we experience that could not be traced back to our own thoughts and actions in this or in another life. At the same time, no man but a sage or true seer can discern another's Karma, for souls continually incarnate into poor surroundings where they experience difficulties and trials which are for the discipline of the Self and result in strength, fortitude, and sympathy.  Karma is both perfectly just and unerring as well as compassionate, as it brings to each soul exactly those circumstances needed to learn the lessons not yet learned, to undo past errors and to build upon the successes. Karma implies reincarnation; together they are sometimes called the twin doctrines.

H. P. Blavatsky,The Key to Theosophy , pg. 201-215

H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol 1, 640-647

William Q. Judge, Aphorisms on Karma

William Q. Judge, Karma

Raghavan N. Iyer, Deity in Action

What Is Reincarnation?

Reincarnation is the cyclic re-embodiment of the soul. The word is derived from the Latin, meaning literally, "entering the flesh again". This is the ancient doctrine of rebirth, or the transmigration of souls, where each drop of the ocean of immortality undertakes a pilgrimage through repeated lives for purposes of experience and evolution. Through self-induced and self-devised efforts, it allows for perfectibility; for the self-conscious transformation of human nature into divine nature, from the Many back to the One. A twin doctrine with that of karma, it explains the justice in the disparity of circumstances and capacity evidenced even at birth, as well as the larger purposes of human evolution. It also provides a right basis for ethics, for true hope and for individual responsibility. The concept has a long history in the exoteric traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and in the Folk Religions of many nations, as well as in Western philosophy through Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus and others. Though denied by the orthodox, it is also found repeatedly in the teachings of Jesus, in the Hebrew Bible, the Torah and the Zohar, as well as in the Koran. Dr. Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) was among the first in modern psychiatry to establish a large body of research data centered on young children all over the world who had spontaneous but verifiable recollections of past lives, thus establishing substantiated empirical evidence suggestive of reincarnation.  

H. P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, esp. chapters 5-10.

William Q. Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy, esp. chapters 8, 9 and 10.

William Q. Judge, Reincarnation in Judaism and the Bible

Robert Crosbie, What Reincarnates?

Raghavan N. Iyer, Reincarnation and Silence

What Is the Secret Doctrine?

The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages. As old as thinking man, it is that bedrock of archetypal Truth which underlies the universe. Also called the Eternal Doctrine, Brahma-Vach, the Wisdom-Religion or Theosophia, “god-knowledge”, it belongs to no special tribe or race but is the inheritance of all humanity. Forming the basis of the Mystery schools of antiquity, from it have arisen many great religious, spiritual and philosophic traditions throughout history. Handed down by higher, enlightened beings who watched over the childhood of Humanity, this reservoir of Wisdom is continually preserved and protected by an unbroken line of Adepts and Masters while being repeatedly tested and verified in every department of nature by generations of Seers and Sages, men and women who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree.

As a book, The Secret Doctrine was written by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a Ukranian born savant and the greatest known occultist of her age, with the aid and guidance of the Mahatmas who stood behind her. Subtitled the Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, it was originally published in 1888 in two remarkable volumes, Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis. Called her “magnum opus”, The Secret Doctrine delineates “all that could be given” in the late 1800s regarding the foundational teachings of Esoteric Philosophy. It is an extended commentary upon fragments from “The Stanzas of Dzyan”, portions of an archaic manuscript written in a secret sacerdotal cipher called Senzar.

The Secret Doctrine was composed in a unique and unfamiliar manner in order to help awaken the higher intuitive faculties in human nature. It establishes three fundamental propositions: 1) An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable Principle on which all speculation is impossible since it transcends the power of human conception. Referred to as the SELF or the Absolute, it is the unitary ground and universally immanent origin of all Life; the deathless basis of Universal Brotherhood. 2) The LAW of Periodicity and of Karma governing all of manifestation. 3) The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, each a microcosm of the macrocosm, and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul — as a ray of the parent sun — through a long series of reincarnations. This upward arc of cyclic evolution is the means whereby each human being may overcome all vice and limitations, perfecting themselves in noetic ideation and sacrificial action in order to self-consciously rejoin that immortal Bodhisattvic radiance which perpetually uplifts, guides and aids all others in the quest.  

H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine.

For introduction and overview see: the “Preface”, “Introductory” and “Proem” (Vol. 1, v-23) and “Summing Up” (Vol 1, 269-282). Then in Volume 2 see “Preliminary Notes” (Vol 2, 1-12), "From the Semi-Divine Down to the First Human Races" (Vol 2, 161-170), “A Panoramic View of the Early Races,” (Vol 2, 263-276)  and “Conclusion.” (Vol.2, 437-446)

Raghavan N. Iyer, The Hermetic Method

What Is a Mahatma?

The word Mahatma combines two Sanskrit words: Maha, meaning ‘great’ and atma, meaning ‘soul’. Thus a Mahatma is a “great soul,” an Adept of the highest order. These exalted beings, having attained to complete spiritual realization and self-mastery over their incarnated personality; they live unimpeded by the “man of flesh.” They have awakened the “third eye” or the faculty of spiritual intuition with which they are able to pierce all the veils of nature and obtain a direct perception of truth. They have also mastered the higher siddhis, by which the normal limitations of time and space are no longer impediments to communication or action. To ‘see’ or know the Mahatma then, requires one to awaken the corresponding spiritual faculties that exist in all human beings and to rise to the higher planes of consciousness upon which they dwell. This can only be done through a rigorous process of ethical and mental self-training and self-evolution. Long known of in the East, it was part of the mission of H. P. Blavatsky to inform the West that such beings have always existed and are ceaselessly working to assist the forward evolution of humanity.

Sri Shankaracharya states that the “very essence and inherent will of Mahatmas is to remove the sufferings of others.” In this regard, they are known as the immortal Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas, those who have attained enlightenment, but have refused the selfish bliss of Nirvana in order to guide, protect and assist all other sentient beings. Often working unknown by history, when known they have been given different designations—Masters, Initiates, Adepts, Magi, Hierophants or Wise Men—those who have assisted in profound spiritual, intellectual, moral and political reforms throughout the ages. For example, seeing an opportunity to aid the freedom of thought from the shackles of religious dogmatism and to bring about a new impulse towards the Brotherhood of Humanity, they helped to inspire Paine, Franklin, Washington and Jefferson at the noble founding of the American experiment. Sometimes inspiring great leaders, sometimes themselves taking birth as great teachers and prophets, always preserving the Wisdom of the Ages to be used for the benefit of aspiring souls, they perpetually nourish the compassionate ideals and unselfish spiritual aspirations of human beings everywhere. 

William Q. Judge, Elder Brothers and Mahatmas

H. P. Blavatsky, Mahatmas and Chelas

Mahatma M., Arcane Knowledge

William Q. Judge, Are We Deserted

Raghavan N. Iyer, Ceaseless Dissolution

Raghavan N. Iyer, The Seventh Impulsion: 1963-2000

What Happens After Death?

The immortal pilgrim soul, a ray of the universal Oversoul journeying through an immense cycle of reincarnations for the sake of evolution, experience and learning, swings on a pendulum we call life and death. Having taken on a series of temporary vestures with each incarnation, the over-brooding thread-soul or Sutratma, engages the ray in a series of after-death states involving processes of assimilation, purification, and rest before returning back to earth life. In the average human being, all this is said to take place over a period of 1500 years, but the length can vary enormously. All post-mortem or pre-birth states are “effect” states, entirely determined by the quality and character of causes generated during life.

The first stage of post-mortem existence is the ‘death vision’ in which every life event is reviewed with perfect lucidity, unadorned by flattery or self-deception. Many documented cases of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) include this transformative and revelatory stage. The karma of our words and deeds is clearly seen from the viewpoint of a detached spectator. In the case of very good and holy men and women, it is said they not only see the entirety of the life just lived, but even several preceding lives in which they understand the causes that made them and their circumstances what they were.

This is followed by a period in which the soul progressively loosens the ties of earthly attachments and desires that keep it chained to the atmosphere of the earth. Called kama-loka, or the ‘desire realm’, it was graphically dramatized in the character of Jacob Marley in Dickens’ famous novella, A Christmas Carol. Just as the physical body eventually decomposes and returns to the elements of nature, so does the more subtle astral desire-body, or kama-rupa. This is the decomposing, soul-less entity often evoked by unwary mediums in séances and so-called “communications with the dead.” Once freed of its influence however, the spiritual ego ascends in consciousness to a very different condition, called Devachan. The literal translation of the word is “land of the gods” and it is the origin of the Christian conception of heaven. In both Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, devachan is of several types and levels depending upon the mental and spiritual aspirations developed by the individual during the life just lived.

Here the soul is given a respite and clothes itself, so to say with the ideal efflorescence of all the abstract and therefore eternal attributes—such as love and mercy, the love of the good, the true and the beautiful—whatever ideals spoke in the heart of the living personality, but which were never able to be realized on earth. Oblivious to the pain and sorrow of the last incarnation, it enjoys an idealized existence in company with those whom it loved on earth and thereby repairs itself and regains strength for the next incarnation. Though necessary for most human beings, the devachanic state is an illusory one, still connected with the evanescent personality of a particular incarnation. It is therefore part of the process of evolution as humanity gradually awakens to the reality of the true, immortal and universal SELF of All, to lessen and eventually eliminate the time spent in both kama-loka and devachan in order to be of better and unbroken service to others who still suffer and struggle. The death of the physical body will then involve a transition, but without any loss of continuity in the immortal and divine, self-conscious awareness in the One Life.

 

H. P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, esp. pp. 101-177

W. Q. Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy, esp. pp 107-116

Robert Crosbie, Can the Dead Communicate?

R.N. Iyer, Death and Immortality

What Is the Absolute?

The Absolute is one of many designations given to the ultimate Reality or Truth, sometimes referred to as God. It is that boundless, unitary and omnipresent potentiality within which an endless series of universes come and go. In Christianity it is the “darkness on the face of the deep” of Genesis. In Buddhism it is called Sunyata, “the Void”; in the Kabala it is Ain-Soph, "the Limitless;" in Sufism, Al-Haqq, “the Real.” In the Upanishads it is variously referred to in the Sanskrit as TAT or THAT which has no name, which is beyond the range and reach of thought; as Brahman, or Parabrahm, that which transcends even the demiurge or logos, the highest creative aspect of deity. It cannot be speculated upon because to define or name it is to limit that which transcends all limitations. It cannot be said to create, for then we ascribe actions to that which cannot be said to act. This Absolute Reality, an omnipresent and eternal, unitary principle, is the first fundamental proposition of Theosophy and the heart of the whole philosophy.  It is also the SELF of each and of all beings called Atman, the highest basis of Universal Brotherhood and our common kinship with all of Nature.

In the Secret Doctrine, because this Absolute Principle embraces both Being and non-Being, both manvantara and pralaya, it is referred to as “Be-ness” and is symbolized under three aspects: absolute abstract Space, absolute abstract Motion and eternal Duration. Abstract Space is bare subjectivity, a divine Plenum akin to Nicholas of Cusa’s circle “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference nowhere.” Absolute Motion is Unconditioned Consciousness, appearing to the finite mind as unconsciousness and immovableness; it is both ceaseless and immutable, as there is nothing other than THAT. The universe is the periodical manifestation and conditioned symbol of this abstract Motion, also called “the Great Breath.” And finally, infinite Duration is not simply the endless extension of time into past or future, but the absence of past or future in an ever-living Eternal Present. In the Upanishads, this Supreme Truth is called “One without a second,” and is revered as the highest form of spiritual knowledge, the knowledge of the non-separateness of the Universe and everything in it, called Brahma-Vidya, Atma-Vidya, the Sanatana-Dharma or Theo-sophia: “God-Knowledge”.

 

H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol 1, pp. 14-20, pp. 54-56

R. N. Iyer, Atma Vidya

What Is Spiritualism?

Spiritualism and it’s immediate off-shoot 'Spiritism' can be simply defined as “a belief in the human capacity for communication of the living with the dead, whether through the mediumistic powers of oneself, or a so-called medium.” It typically involves the practice of séances in which “spirit manifestations” are sought or “trance-speaking”, channeling or astral travel is attempted. As a popular and influential modern movement in the West, beginning in the mid-1800s, Spiritualism had millions of practitioners in the U.S. and Europe and deeply influenced many religious and quasi-religious groups both during and after that period. However, Theosophy asserts that Spiritualism should be more properly defined as a revival of the ancient practice of necromancy also called “bhuta worship” in India”, a branch of the black arts. This is because in the vast majority of cases what the medium is consorting with is the desire-ridden astral remains of former living persons, also called “astral spooks.” These decaying entities are an energetic mass of desires and earthly passions, empty of the nobler soul and empty of real mind and of conscience. They are not, however, without powers and influence. They can present themselves to the medium or channeler as famous figures of history, as the form of a loved one or as the image of any person held even unconsciously, in the memory of the sensitive. They also have a kind of memetic intelligence, like a tape recorder they can play back anything they find in the astral light which is called “the great recording book of nature.” They are the enemy of civilization, for unbeknownst to the psychically passive, they not only mislead, but can arouse and incite in societies and persons still living, the most morally degrading passions and violent, criminal intentions.

H. P. Blavatsky’s involvement with Spiritualistic groups in her early days in America is often misunderstood. On the one hand, she appreciated the fact that Spiritualistic phenomena gave tangible proof of the independence of consciousness from the physical organism, pointing to hidden realities and latent capacities in human nature, thus helping to undermine the rigid assumptions of materialistic science. On the other hand, however, she repeatedly stressed in her writing, how Spiritualistic phenomena was dangerously misunderstood by the Spiritualists themselves. Because the medium fails to discern the true character of unknown foreign influences, they traverse a path of moral and spiritual ruin. This is contrasted with the Adept who, through lifetimes of training in the altruistic practice of the paramitas has achieved self-mastery, has activated the divine will, and awakened the divine eye. United with the eternal purpose and compassionately manifesting the highest discriminative faculties, he or she actively understands, controls and guides all inferior potencies in service to the whole.

H. P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, esp. p. 141-154

William. Q. Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy, esp. Chap. 12, p. 99-108

H. P. Blavatsky, Elementals

William Q. Judge, Elementals and Elementaries

What Is Astrology?

From the most ancient times, far before recorded history, human beings have been fascinated by the stars and the vault of heaven they occupy. Following the rising and setting of certain stars and constellations, mankind could predict the life-giving flooding of the Nile River, determine when to plant seeds for a bountiful harvest, and determine the appropriate times for various religious, social, political and economic activities. Humans quite naturally saw in the whole of Nature a microcosm (each human being) of the macrocosm (the universe as a whole), and they recognized analogies and correspondences between the two.

Astrology is the study of those correspondences. It takes the locations of the planets (the “wandering stars”) at birth as a broad guide to the influences affecting the evolving personality of the newborn. Matching that to their locations at any point in a person’s life can suggest which of those influences may be heightened at that time. And knowing the ongoing movements of the planets can point to future challenges and opportunities. Though these correspondences are often restricted to a particular human being, they can also be invoked to understand tendencies in a society or even the world as a whole.

Traditional Western astrology takes a fixed, ideal zodiac (the circle of constellations the sun passes through each year), beginning on March 21 when the sun enters the sign of Aries, and locates the planets through observation and calculation within that zodiac. This allows the astrologer to interpret the resulting correspondences both by location in that zodiac and in relation to one another. The most significant relations between planets are conjunctions (occupying the same region of the zodiac as observed from one’s location on earth), squares (when the two planets are 90 degrees apart), trines (120 degrees of separation) and oppositions (180 degrees of separation). In very rough terms, conjunctions suggest that two or more planetary influences reinforce one another, squares that they are working at cross purposes, trines that they blend together, and oppositions that they work against one another. In fact, astrology is much subtler than this simple characterization suggests. For example, the zodiacal constellations in which these relationships occur affect how they interact.

Indian astrology has always recognized the precession of the equinoxes, caused by the fact that the earth, like a spinning top, wobbles in is rotation, with the north end of the axis of rotation describing a circle in the sky. This is why the north star has not always been Polaris and will not always be so. Taking precession into account, the sun has slowly backed up through the zodiac, as observed from earth and has just entered the sign of Aquarius on March 21 (hence the famous “Age of Aquarius” slogan). For the last 2000 years, it was in Pisces, the sign of the fish, and so it was natural for early Christians to embrace the fish as one of their symbols.

Chinese astrology uses a different zodiac and different correspondences, though the general principles are the same as other forms of astrology.

Despite the claims of some, the planets do not determine human action, but they do broadly establish influences, conditions in which life, thought and action take place. A person passive to his or her own tendencies will be more directly influenced by the planets than will a thinking and reflective individual who brings intention into his or her thoughts and actions. Newspaper horoscopes are the crudest expression of these correspondences, and street corner astrologers are only one step higher in declaring whether or not one will be rich, marry soon, and so on. Real astrology uses the correspondences discerned through centuries of theory and observation, and its application is as subtle for each human and humanity as a whole as that of medicine for the body and agriculture for the earth. Astrology is an applied science only as effective as the knowledge and competence of the astrologer.

Helen Valborg, Theosophical Astrology

 The seven principles are the elements or basic differentiations from which are built both the cosmos and the human being. In The Key to Theosophy and The Secret Doctrine, H.P. Blavatsky delineates this sub-division as that which is taught in the time-honored "trans-Himalayan Arhat Esoteric School”, which when used as a basis for study will help to show the common meaning or substrate behind the Vedantic, the Brahminical, the Platonic/Pythagorean as well as the Christian and Kabalistic teachings. The seven are divided into three and four, an eternal triad above and a transitory quaternary below, and are given using Sanskrit terminology.

 The higher immortal triad of human nature is composed of Atma-Buddhi-ManasAtma is pure spirit, one with the Absolute; Buddhi, is the vehicle of Atma, the Spiritual Soul, the discriminating faculty and the “storehouse” of divine wisdom; while Manas, the light of individuated self-conscious intelligence, is the thinking principle which becomes dual during incarnation. Called higher and lower Manas, the higher is tied to Buddhi and the lower linked to the transitory, mortal human being. The lower four principles of human nature are those which compose the temporary personality of a given incarnation. They are Kama, the seat of desires; Linga Sharira or astral body, the double and “plan” of the human body; Prana, the vital principle of all life, metaphorically thought of as breath, and essential to the other lower vestures, and, finally, the physical body. Human destiny is dependent upon whether Manas ascends to Buddhi and Atma the “Father in heaven,” or becomes entrapped in identification with the lower vestures, with worldly desires and separative egotism.

 H.P. Blavatsky cautions that these principles can be understood in various ways and are enumerated differently by different Eastern schools, though the underlying teaching is the same in all. She points out that Atma, being the universal, omnipresent spirit, can hardly be considered a human principle and is therefore sometimes eliminated from the enumeration. In addition, some schools consider the physical body as simply a shell or casing of the astral and therefore also not worthy of being considered a separate principle. Therefore the enumeration of principles can be considered preliminary to a deeper study of and reflection upon the Theosophical teachings.

 

The Key to Theosophy, Section VI.

The Secret Doctrine, Vol 1, pp 152-8, Vol 2, pp 590-605

The Theosophical Glossary; See entries:  Astral Light, Faces (Kabbalistic), Hay-yah, Iamblichus, Kamarupa, Manas, Kâma, Nout, Personality.

What Is Nirvana?

The metaphysical and meta-psychological ideas associated with the Sanskrit term Nirvana would require more than a treatise to convey. Etymologically, the word is composed of the Sanskrit root va, meaning ‘to blow’ and the prefix nir, meaning ‘out’ or ‘off’. Its Pali equivalent Nibbana, is made up of the negative particle ni and vana. Vana means ‘selfish desire or craving.’ Hence the traditional explanations of Nirvana point to the ‘blowing out’ of the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion. In Buddhist philosophy, these three root poisons lie at the center of a casual chain that karmically binds consciousness to an ever-revolving wheel of cyclic birth and death called samsara. Through lifetimes devoted to spiritual practice, the full realization of the four noble truths and the noble eight-fold path, this causal chain can be broken, thus bringing an end to unconscious suffering, the production of new karma and the very need or wish for incarnated existence. Here it is said that the thirst for sensuous experience and clinging to existence (tanha) has been “torn out” at the roots. Despite the etymologies, however, the goal of the Buddhist path is not extinction, nor a metaphysical or psychological vacuum, but a plane of elevated spiritual insight and awareness that not only transcends name and form, but time and space and all the limitations and finitizing tendencies of the human mind.

In the Dhammapada, a foundational text for all schools of Buddhism, positive descriptions of Nirvana are no less frequent than the negative ones. It is variously referred to as “supreme freedom from all bondage…the supreme bliss…the highest happiness”, “perception of the “Supreme Truth” or the “Supreme Dharma,” “the Eternal Law.” One who has reached Nirvana is a “Supremely Enlightened One,” a “knower of the Uncreate.”  

Thus even in the Theravada tradition, Nirvana is not simply unmitigated bliss, not only an eternal repose, freedom, equanimity, peace and spiritual joy, but a supreme form of knowledge wherein the knower is fused with the essence of things, the highest Truth or Reality. However, Mahayana scriptures warn us that there are types or levels of Nirvana and that not all such exalted states have the permanence the aspirant might wish for. In addition, we are advised that if such a path is pursued on behalf of individual enlightenment, then it becomes a form of “self-cherishing bliss”, a form of spiritual selfishness that cuts one off from the rest of humanity.

Instead, Mahayana Buddhism considers the Bodhisattva ideal as the embodiment of supreme wisdom, a fusion of theory and practice at the highest level. This highest form of realization which is only possible through pure altruism on the paramita path, is one in which even the dualism of “self” and “other”, as well as of Nirvana and Samsara is transcended. In the Lankavatara Sutra (Chap. 13) for example, this “True Nirvana” is said to manifest as “Pure Love for All”, wherein and by which an endless series of incarnations is effortlessly and compassionately undertaken for the sake of the enlightenment of every being.

A Survey of Buddhism, 10th edition, by Shangarashita

R. N. Iyer, Buddha and the Path to Enlightenment

The Theosophical Glossary: Nirvana, Nirvani.

What Are the Paramitas?

The paramitas are the seed-qualities becoming transcendent virtues or “perfections” which in Buddhism are required to be developed on the path to enlightenment. Tsong-Kha-Pa (1357-1419), the great Buddhist teacher and initiator of the Seven-Century Plan behind the Theosophical Movement, taught that cultivation of the paramitas conjoined with meditation, one-pointedness, and a rigorous dialectical logic can cut the grip of Samsara upon the mind.  Six paramitas are usually given as:

  1. Dāna: immortal, brotherly love and generosity towards all.
  2. Shīla: ethics or morality, harmony in word and deed.
  3. Shānti: peace and patience that naught can ruffle.
  4. Vīrya: vigor or dauntless effort in the search for Truth.
  5. Dhyāna: ceaseless meditative concentration.
  6. Prajña: true knowledge or wisdom.

In The Voice of the Silence, a mystical devotional text of “Trans-Himalayan” origin, rendered into English by H. P. Blavatsky, these paramitas are discussed and elaborated upon at length, and a seventh - virāga - is inserted between 3 and 4 to complete the “golden keys” to the “seven portals”. Virāga, being the fourth, is the fulcrum of the seven paramitas, and is rendered in English as "dispassion" or “detachment from pleasure and pain, illusion conquered, truth alone perceived.” (V.O.S., p 52)

In many schools of Buddhism, four additional paramitas are sometimes added to the original six:

  1. Upâya: “skillful means” or “skill in device”; the means by which difficult teachings are made comprehensible to persons of differing mental capacities.
  2. Pranidhâna: the great vow taken by all Bodhisattvas to save all sentient beings.
  3. Bala: strength or power. The ten powers of the Bodhisattva are also given.
  4.  Jñâna: pure apprehension, direct cognition or pristine awareness.

Sources:

A Survey of Buddhism, by Sangharakshita

The Dhammapada with Udanavarga, Edited by R.N. Iyer

The Voice of the Silence, translated by H. P. Blavatsky

Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, by John Powers

What Is the Kabalistic Tree?

The Kabala (Cabala, Qabalah, from the Hebrew QBL) is the ancient Chaldean secret doctrine; having been much modified in subsequent centuries, the pure truth of that original teaching has been greatly obscured. As developed among Jewish mystics, the Kabala developed as a model both of the universe and the human being -  a Tree of Life (or Tree of Lights), consisting of ten centers or sephiroth (singular, sephira), thought of as centers of reflected light from Ain Soph, the dark Luminous Source of all and beyond comprehension. Each center emanates the subsequent center until the fully formed Tree has ten centers, from Kether (the crown) down to Malkuth (the world). The ancients held that there are various paths between these lights, the same in number as the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and that human consciousness, by contemplating these sephiroth, could travel these paths. As with all true spiritual symbols, its meaning unfolds on at least seven levels. Similar to the Norse Yggdrasil, the Hindu Asvattha and the sacred Tree of many traditions, the aim is not just to provide a model of the universe and of the human being, the macrocosm and the microcosm, but also to open the way to spiritual realization. H.P. Blavatsky discusses the Kabala in many of her works, providing both deep understanding and criticism of its development.

 Isis Unveiled, Vol. II: Chapter V, Mysteries of the Kabala.

The Theosophical Glossary:  See entries Bardesanian (System), Kabalist, Kabalah, Qabbalah, Zohar.

What Are Elementals?

In the Theosophical conception, all forms of matter—from the most gross and dense substances of the physical plane to the most ethereal planes of universal intelligence—are constituted and animated by invisible “lives”, points of energy that have been called Elementals. These "elemental lives" constitute the conscious matrix behind the entire mass of the manifested matter of the Cosmos. Just as both matter and intelligence are said to exist on seven distinct planes of nature, so there are many kinds and classes of elementals, all of which are participating in the evolutionary process. In every culture around the world, one will thus find many names for the various classes. In India they are called Devas, Gandharvas, Pisachas and Bhuts. There are the Menehune of Hawaii, the Leprechauns of Ireland, the Djinns of the desert, and the fairies–satyrs-fauns-elves-dwarfs–pixies, etc., found in the folklore and myth of many nations.  In their grossest manifestations they are the “spirits of the elements.” That is to say, in the language of the alchemists, they are the Undines of the water, the Gnomes of the earth, the Sylphs of the air, and the Salamanders of fire.  We are in constant contact with these elemental lives because they are the animating and superintending factors behind all phenomena.

In their essential nature elementals have no form of their own, but are described as “centers of force” and of undeveloped consciousness. Their action is only good or bad, maleficent or beneficent, depending upon the impulse given them by the guiding intelligence that propels them into action, always governed by the law of that particular class. Their action “being unconscious, automatic, and photographic”, the elemental world assumes the character of the impressions made upon them by humanity. All our thoughts and feelings conjoin with and leave their impress upon the forces of elementals and, therefore, they play a role at every level in the operation of both individual and collective karma. For instance, if our thoughts impress the elementals in our system via harsh judgementalism of others, this will bring back to us the very kinds of qualities that we criticize in others. On the scale of collective humanity, acting over long periods of time, the force of these collective impressions can actually lead to cataclysms and convulsions of nature.

It is with the aid of these elementals that the adept or occultist produces phenomenal results. However, because a true understanding and conscious manipulation of such forces yields tremendous and potentially destructive effects, the deeper aspects of this teaching have not been given out, except through initiation to those who are irrevocably bound by altruistic vows in the service of humanity.

H. P. Blavatsky, Elementals

W. Q. Judge, Elementals and Karma

W. Q. Judge, Forms of Elementals

W. Q. Judge, Elementals – How They Act

W. Q. Judge, Laws Governing Elementals

R.N. Iyer, Elementals

What Is the Antahkarana?

 The term traditionally has various related meanings in different Indian schools of thought. Literally, the word can be translated from the Sanskrit as “inner organ” or “inner cause.” Theosophically, it is the connection, link or bridge between Heaven and Earth, between the immortal and the mortal, between eternity and time. The immortal part of human nature is called the Higher Manas, the reincarnating principle in the human being, turned toward Buddhi, the vehicle of the universal Atman. The mortal part of our nature is the transitory personality governed by Lower Manas, our personal thinking consciousness. Manas conjoined with Buddhi (Buddhi-Manas) is the reincarnating, eternal Monad, while Lower Manas bound to Kama, the principle of desire, is ruled by insatiable desire and self-interest, an astral rupa which dissipates slowly and painfully after the death of the physical body. The antahkarana is the vital passageway between our higher and lower natures. When debased during life, it is “the highway of senations” which co-opts divine energies and intelligence for the sake of personal benefit. When purified and rightly utilized during life, it is the means by which divine inspiration is accommodated by higher reason and synchronized with our deepest intuitive perceptions of higher realities and truths. The purification and right use of this pathway of divine influence in human life is one way to characterize the purpose of the spiritual path. At death, this connection allows Buddhi-Manas to absorb the noblest and most universal elements in the life of the thinking human being. Only such thoughts as resonate with divine truth can be perpetually stored in the reservoir of accumulated wisdom and carried from one incarnation to the next, while the limited, particular, personal thoughts and attitudes perish with the death of the last incarnation. Antahkarana thus links the immortal, spiritual Ego with its evanescent reflection, the personal ego, thereby affording it the chance to learn and grow spiritually in life and through lifetimes.

 

The Theosophical Glossary: See entry - Antahkarana

R.N. Iyer, Between Heaven and Earth

What Are Dreams?

Human beings experience many states of consciousness, but they can be put in three broad categories: waking consciousness (jagrat), dreaming (svapna), and deep, dreamless sleep (sushupti). There is a fourth state, turiya, in which the most spiritual aspect of the human being almost touches Nirvana while still connected to the other three states of consciousness. Humans cannot live without sleep, and so most human beings dream at least from time to time and often nightly. And all experience the deepest forms of dreamless sleep without which serere psychosis would result. Many of our dreams are broken, confused and chaotic experiences that can be brought on by a variety of social activities and physiological conditions. But there are also dreams that are more like visions, in which we understand things at a deeper level of our nature. The latter connect us with our spiritual nature, which expresses itself in meaningful dreams that may or may not be remembered in waking consciousness. Such dreams represent a portion of the near omniscient state of the spiritual individual as it attempts to communicate some of that knowledge to the outer man.  Such dreams intimate our living connection with the highest reality in existence, and so they deserve our careful and deep reflection. However, the clearing of the channel by which such dreams may be recalled and assimilated can only be properly accomplished in the waking state through the purification of motive and the spiritualization of one’s mental and moral character. The more spiritual one is, the more active one’s intuition, the greater is the probability of receiving in clear vision the impressions conveyed by one’s all-seeing, ever-wakeful higher Self.

H. P. Blavatsky, Are Dreams but Idle Visions?

Raghavan N. Iyer, Buddhi Yoga and Svadharma

Robert Crosbie, The Friendly Philosopher