Theosophy - What Is Theosophy - by H.A.V. - as published in Volume 2 of "Theosophical Siftings"
WHAT IS THEOSOPHY?
by H. A. V.
Von jener Macht, die alle Wesen bindet,
Befreit der Mensch sich, der sich überwindet.
So many people
show excessive hostility to the mere word, “Theosophy"' because,
in complete ignorance of its real meaning, they look upon
it as the representative of classical infidelity, and loudly
condemn everyone pursuing studies in that direction.
It may, therefore, not be amiss to direct a few words of
explanation to the general public in the hope that this modest
endeavour to throw some light upon a misunderstood subject
into prejudiced minds may meet with some response.
divide man into his “seen" and “unseen" parts,
viz., his physical and psychical nature, his body and his
soul. We have no concern here with his body or its various
component parts, but his soul we will consider under its
three aspects: —
1. The “animal" soul, comprising our passions
and all lower emotions.
2. The “human" soul, or our intelligent or reasoning
3. The “spiritual" or higher soul, whence arise
the dictates of our conscience, all our aspirations towards
the divine and the general promptings of our religious nature.
Far from these groups representing so many distinct layers
or strata, they must be conceived as interpenetrating and
reacting upon each other, though we must constitute a gradation
from lower to higher, as this forms one of the essential
bases of theosophical teaching.
The “animal" soul is so-called because it is in
close connection with all the wants and desires of the body;
it is under our carnal and sensuous influences, and constantly
yielding to their power, unless controlled by superior checks.
The “spiritual" soul, on the contrary, is farthest
removed from the material plane, ever trying and yearning
for an inward flight in the direction of the ideal or divine,
yet incessantly hampered and weighed down by the powerful
attractions originating in the “animal" soul.
In this struggle between the two, and alternately lending
its help to either, we have the “human" soul,
full of resolve, or hesitating by fits and starts, whether
it is to throw its entire weight into either scale, or allow
itself to be carried along, almost passively, in the swaying
movements of the fight.
Yet it is the “human" soul,
under its aspect of “reasoning mind", which has
to decide in the end, whether or not it is to enlist in the
service of the self-willed [Page 19] lower soul, or whether,
listening to the inner voice of conscience, it will devote
all its energies to the development of our higher nature
and bring it within the borderland of the divine.
In this battle of our various natures, success would mean
the evolution of our higher principles and the crushing out
of our lower ones, for victory can only be achieved when
the powerful influences of our material desires have been
so far conquered, that they can no longer offer any lasting
resistance to the soul's upward progress.
There is no desire to advocate asceticism or seclusion of
a rigid kind to enable the aspirant to reach this stage of
self-conquest; our “animal" soul is not to be
killed, but its powers are to be brought under such complete
subjection to the purified will that they can be used as
active levers for our ascent, though, undoubtedly, before
they can be rendered serviceable for higher purposes, “transmuted" as
it were, their energies for doing harm must be reduced within
the smallest limits, and various methods for achieving this
end will be found best suited to the requirements of different
individuals. The practical lesson to be learnt, above all
others, is the conquest of our selfish desires and the devotion
of our best energies to the services of our fellow-men.
When the hold of matter, or, to use an equivalent, when the
love of self has been sufficiently subdued within us to cause
a state of even temporary balance between our lower and higher
soul, evolutionary progress has reached a stage, when our
consciousness fully realizes the momentous issues placed
within our range, and the occasional victories obtained,
moreover, fill the soul, not only with brighter confidence
in its power, but also with a clearer perception of the methods
of action required for attaining the goal.
The centre of our soul-Iife must, we are told, be made to
gravitate on a steadily rising plane of consciousness, for
thus only, by infusing a higher and purer purpose into every
thought and action of our daily life, can the great aim,
the spiritualization of our soul, be achieved. By this spiritualization
we eventually attain to that inner illumination which reveals “the
Christ within us".
We shall be told that these views
are purely visionary, as proof for such a theory is nowhere
to be found; and undoubtedly it is true, that belief is necessary
at one stage or other of our soul's upward career, for, before
we can choose the road of our pilgrimage leading through
unknown regions, we must trust for guidance to the loving
advice of those who have trodden the path before us.
Yet how small is the amount of blind faith, that is required
of us ! Anyone, by trying earnestly and perseveringly to
take a few steps in the indicated direction and conforming
to the prescribed road, can, step by step, and without difficulty,
verify the fact that the aim he pursues is not an imaginary
will-o'-the-wisp, but that the results of his development,
gradually but surely brought within range of his consciousness,
prove to him the possibility, nay, probability, of attaining
the higher grades. Looking back to his earliest starting [Page 20] point, he will see in vanishing distance
all the obstructions which at the time appeared insurmountable, and
as long as they existed, shut out all further progress from
his view. After such self-gained experience, are we not justified
in trusting to the testimony of saints, the assurances of
initiates, and to the general teachings of Theosophy, that
by steady perseverance on the upward path, the inner light,
whose attraction we already dimly and fitfully feel, will
more and more come within our reach, and eventually make
us partakers of "the eternal life" ?
All religions teach this great truth and proclaim their ultimate
aim to be the complete union of the soul with the Divine
spirit; but Theosophy asserts that, while no single religion
possesses a patent key for opening the heavenly gates, it
is the birthright of every human soul to claim and to receive
admittance, as soon as in the process of its spiritual evolution
it has reached the required standard.
To this stupendous
work many terrestrial lives must be necessary — lives
of incessant struggle, of unselfish strife and high aspiration;
but once the light is kindled in our hearts and steadfastly
kept alive, it is the sure beacon which will safely lead
us through ages of darkness to the eventual “salvation" of
our soul, the glorious goal and end of our pilgrimage.