01.06.2013 Spirituality

Theosophy: Old and New

By Pedro Oliveira

(Acting Education Coordinator, The Theosophical Society in Australia)

By Pedro Oliveira
(Acting Education Coordinator, The Theosophical Society in Australia)

If you google the word 'theosophy' you may get about 1,100,000 search results. Some easily associate this term with the teachings of Madame Blavatsky, or Rudolph Steiner, or Annie Besant, as well as with several other authors. However, Theosophy is not limited by the teachings of any particular person.

In the Western world, the word 'theosophy' comes from the Greek theosophia, 'divine wisdom'. It was first used by Ammonius Saccas, a philosophical teacher in Alexandria, Egypt, in the third century CE. He created the Eclectic Theosophical System and aimed at uniting all the different religions under the same universal principles. His famous disciple was Plotinus who is considered as one of the fathers of Christian Mysticism.

In India, the word used to describe Theosophy is Brahmavidya, 'divine wisdom'. The etymological study of both the Greek and Sanskrit words for Theosophy suggests that, essentially, it is a way of seeing life that is always growing. For this reason it is simply not possible for anyone to say the last word on Theosophy, as it is profoundly non-dogmatic and of universal scope.

Although ancient in terms of time, Theosophy has practical advice for daily life that is always new. First and foremost, it suggests that life, in spite of its astonishing diversity and forms, is essentially one, showing interconnectedness and interdependence as two basic principles of theosophical understanding. Secondly, it views the universe as governed by timeless laws that manifest as order, cyclicity and harmony in the vast field of existence. Thirdly, it sees an essential identity between the human being's innermost nature or Self and universal consciousness, which makes us deeply responsible for what happens in the world.

It has been suggested that the three main ideas mentioned above may lead to a way of life based on service, study and meditation. Service is a natural expression of the realisation that none of us exists for ourselves alone but that we share a common life. The vastness of life and the universe leads us to enquire and investigate into their nature, purpose and meaning. And meditation can be viewed as a response to the deep yearning within us to find our true and essential identity.

So Theosophy is both old and new. As Perennial Wisdom it has existed both as a philosophy and a practice for millennia before us and in many cultures. Yet it is also fresh and new for it throws light on a number of vital questions that have accompanied humanity in its long and arduous evolution. As N. Sri Ram put it, "to discover the law in one's own being and live it is Wisdom".

For more information: Visit Perth Branch of The Theosophical Society, 21 Glendower Street, Perth (08 9328 8104) or www.austheos.org.au to find out about the Society's activities