The Theosophical Society in America

How to Study Theosophy

Our librarian, Marina Maestas, interviewed Pablo Sender about how to study Theosophical literature.

Below, you can find links to the audio portion of each question and answer (MP3 files). To download the audio file, right click on the link "Listen audio," and select "Save link as...." Then select "My Documents" folder and click on "Save."


1- Study in a practical, theosophical context. Listen audio 3:17 min.

2- Some methods we can use to approach various kinds of theosophical literature. Listen audio 4:06 min.

3- Discussion about a quote from HPB describing how to approach our studies. Listen audio 2:37 min.

4- Discussion about a quote from The Secret Doctrine about accessing intuitive faculties through study. Listen audio 2:13 min.

5- Background or environmental aspects of study practices. Listen audio 1:45 min.

6- Discussion about a quote from The Secret Doctrine about the nature of esoteric truth. Listen audio 5:16 min.

7- Studying with a group vs. studying by oneself. Listen audio 1:46 min.

8- Internet activity and study. Listen audio 3:13 min.

9- Some study practices. Listen audio 4:22 min.

10- Varying study practices for various books like the Mahatma Letters and The Voice of the Silence. Listen audio 2:40 min.

Theosophical Worldview

The Theosophical Society, while reserving for each member full freedom to interpret those teachings known as Theosophy, is dedicated to preserving and realizing the ageless wisdom, which embodies both a worldview and a vision of human self-transformation.

This tradition is founded upon certain fundamental propositions:


The universe and all that exists within it are one interrelated and interdependent whole.

Every existent being-from atom to galaxy-is rooted in the same universal, life-creating Reality.  This Reality is all pervasive but it can never be summed up in its parts, since it transcends all its expressions.  It reveals itself in the purposeful, ordered, and meaningful processes of nature as well as in the deepest recesses of the mind and spirit.

Recognition of the unique value of every living being expresses itself in reverence for life, compassion for all, sympathy with the need of all individuals to find truth for themselves, and respect for all religious traditions.  The ways in which these ideals become realities in individual life are both the privileged choice and the responsible act of every human being.


Central to the concerns of theosophy is the desire to promote understanding and unity among people of all races, nationalities, philosophies, and religions.  Therefore, all people, whatever their race, creed, sex, caste, or color, are invited to participate equally in the life and work of the Society.  The Theosophical Society imposes no dogmas, but points toward the source of unity behind all differences.  Devotion to truth, love for all living beings, and commitment to a life of active altruism are the marks of the true Theosophist.

 

 

 

Continue exploring...

 

1- Articles

Some Reflections on a Theosophical World-View by Emily Sellon

A Theosophical View of War and Violence by John Algeo

Theosophy on War and Peace by Robert Ellwood

Theosophical Interpretations of Evil by Robert Ellwood

God: A Theosophical View by Pedro Oliveira

Christian Ritual in Theosophical Perspective by Robert Ellwood

Yoga: A Theosophical Perspective by The Theosophical Society in America

 

2- Audios

A Theosophical View of War and Violence by John Algeo

Theosophy and the Quest for Meaning by Joy Mills

 

3- Videos

Theosophy and the World Religions by Robert Ellwood

Vegetarianism and Spirituality by Pat Davis

Some Theosophical Ideas

Modern Theosophy postulates that the field of existence embraces more than this material and passing reality we perceive through our senses. In fact, the lack of knowledge about the higher aspects of reality makes us see things from a wrong perspective, which is the root cause of suffering. We can gain knowledge of the Real, both in the universe and in human beings, by means of a holistic spiritual practice that includes study, meditation, and service.

Below are some of the basic ideas the Theosophical literature offers for consideration. However, the Theosophical Society does not ask its members to adhere to any of these ideas in particular. Members are only expected to be in agreement with the Three Objects of our organization.

 

  • Behind everything seen or unseen there is an eternal, boundless, and immutable absolute Reality, which is beyond the range of human thought. Both matter and consciousness (or spirit) are the two polar aspects of this Reality.

 

  • Theosophy postulates a cyclic universe. A universe manifests, develops, and dissolves back into the absolute Reality. After a period of cosmic rest, a new universe appears again.

 

  • Since everything proceeds from (or manifests within) this single Reality, there is only one common Life that pervades and sustains the whole universe. Every form of life is an expression of this Unity.

 

  • The visible universe is only its densest part; the whole universe contains also invisible dimensions or planes of exceedingly tenuous kinds of matter-energy interpenetrating the physical.

 

  • Theosophy postulates a universe of purpose. The entire system, visible and invisible, is the scene of a great scheme of evolution, in which life moves to ever more expressive form, more responsive awareness, and more unified consciousness.

 

  • There are no mechanical laws. The universe is pervaded by a non-anthropomorphic intelligence, which is both immanent and transcendent. Therefore, intelligence is at the basis of all laws of nature. At the same time, no super-natural miracles are possible. As H. P. Blavatsky said, "Deity is Law."

 

  • Human consciousness is in essence identical with the ultimate Reality, which Ralph Waldo Emerson called the "Oversoul." This one supreme Reality, being the root of our real Self, is shared by each of our particular beings, thus uniting us with one another.

 

  • The gradual unfolding of this latent divine Reality within us takes place over a long period of time by the process of reincarnation, which is an aspect of the cyclic law seen everywhere in nature.

 

  • The cycle of reincarnation is ruled by the law of cause and effect. As Saint Paul says--whatever we sow, we will inevitably reap. This is the law of karma by which we weave our own destiny through the ages. It is the great hope for humanity, for it gives us the opportunity to create our future by what we do in the present.

 

  • The human pilgrimage takes us from the Source, where we are an unconscious part of the One, leading us through the experience of the many, to finally take us back into union with the One Divine Reality, but now in full awareness. Our goal is thus to complete the cosmic cycle of manifestation through which we attain a fully conscious realization of ourselves as an integral part of the One, no longer polarized between consciousness and matter, or divided into self and other. This realization is enlightenment.

 

 

Continue exploring...

 

1- Articles

Theosophy and Orthodoxy by Pedro Oliveira

You, Theosophy, and the Society by George Arundale

Some Fundamentals of Theosophy by Emily Sellon

What Theosophy does for us by C. W. Leadbeater

Theosophy: Changeless Yet Always Changing by Willamay Pym

Jacob's Ladder by Mary Anderson

Entering the Garden of Theosophy by Mary Anderson

The Pattern and the Law by Christmas Humphreys

Check out our online articles to find out much more about Theosophy

 

2- Books

Theosophy, an Introductory Study Course by John Algeo

The Key to Theosophy by H. P. Blavatsky

The Ancient Wisdom by Annie Besant

A Textbook of Theosophy by C. W. Leadbeater

The Ocean of Theosophy by W. Q. Judge

First Principles of Theosophy by C. Jinarajadasa

Esoteric Buddhism by A.P. Sinnett

Bibliographical list on Introduction to Theosophy by H. S. Olcott Memorial Library

 

3- Audios

How to Study Theosophy by Pablo Sender

Check out our audio library to find out much more about Theosophy

 

4- Videos

The Secret Gateway by Ed Abdill

Watch the Living Theosophy Series on how Theosophical teachings apply to daily life.

Watch lectures on Theosophy and general spirituality in our Media Library.

 

For Further Reading:

The following Quest Books are available from book stores or through the Theosophical Publishing House by ordering online (click a title for more info) or calling 1-800-669-9425:

An Abridgement of the Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky

Ancient Wisdom—Modern Insight, by Shirley Nicholson

Life: Your Great Adventure, by Felix and Eunice Layton

The Secret Gateway, by Ed Abdill

Theosophy, by Robert Ellwood

The teachings of modern Theosophy cover a wide range of subjects, ranging from the manifestation of the universe and the development of life on our planet, to the ultimate aim of human life and the way to fulfill this purpose.

In this section we are providing some of the material we offer under online resources, classified by subjects, to assist you in your exploration of Theosophy. For a general introduction to what Theosophy is click here. You can also watch the Living Theosophy series that explore basic Theosophical topics.

If you want to learn about the Theosophical Society's objects, mission and philosophy, click here.

About Theosophy

The term "Theosophy" comes from the Greek theosophia, which is composed of two words: theos ("god," "gods," or "divine") and sophia ("wisdom"). Theosophia, therefore, may be translated as the "wisdom of the gods," "wisdom in things divine," or "divine wisdom."

The word "theosophy" was first used in writing during the 3rd to the 6th century of our era by the Alexandrian Neo-Platonic philosophers. They used this term to denote an experiential knowledge that came through spiritual, not intellectual, means. In the course of time, several mystics and spiritual movements in the West (mainly Christian-based) adopted the word "theosophy" in their teachings.  Among them we can find Meister Eckhart in the 14th century, Jacob Boehme in the 17th century, and Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century, and others. In the last quarter of the 19th century Mme. Blavatsky, Col. Olcott, and a group of like-minded people, founded the Theosophical Society, thus bringing the term back into light again. They claimed the work of the TS was a continuation of previous Theosophists, especially that of the Greek and Alexandrian philosophers.

In the modern Theosophical movement the word "Theosophy" has been used with several different meanings:

  • a) It is frequently used to describe the body of teachings that were given through Mme. Blavatsky and other Theosophical writers. This body of knowledge is frequently called "modern Theosophy" (with capital T).

  

  • b) It is also used to refer to the universal Ancient Wisdom underlying all religions, which can be found at their core when they are stripped of accretions, deletions, and superstitions. This is sometimes referred to as "ancient" or "timeless" theosophy.

 

These two usages refer to a body of teachings transmitted by different sages, in different parts of the world, and at different times.

  • c) As we have seen, theosophia refers to a Divine Wisdom, that is, a state of consciousness in which the sage or mystic goes beyond his or her mind and gets a direct, supra-conceptual, perception of Truth. This is the primary meaning of Theosophy.

  

It is important to notice that the intellectual study and daily practice of Theosophy is only a means to reach the real theosophia, or inner enlightenment. As we become more mindful of this, we open the door to a flash of insight which comes from the part of us that is Divine. The process of becoming more and more receptive to these theosophical insights is the spiritual path.

 

Some Theosophical Ideas     Theosophical Worldview     Explore the Teachings     How to Study Theosophy

 

Continue Exploring...

 

1 – Articles

What Theosophy is by C. W. Leadbeater

What is Theosophy? by Pablo Sender

Why Theosophy is left Undefined by N. Sri Ram

In the Light of Theosophy by Mary Anderson

Is Theosophy a Religion? by H. P. Blavatsky

Transformative Qualities of Theosophy by Minor Lile

Theosophy and Christianity by The Theosophical Society in America

Cults, the Occult, and Theosophy by The Theosophical Society in America

 

2 – Audios 

Theosophy: Who Can Say What It Is? by Joy Mills

 

3 – Videos

Theosophy: Tradition, Revelation, Innovation by Joy Mills

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