Theosophy, the Wisdom-Religion, has existed from immemorial time. It offers us a theory of nature and of life which is founded upon knowledge acquired by the Sages of the past, more especially those of the East; and its higher students claim that this knowledge is not imagined or inferred, but that it is a knowledge of facts seen and known by those who are willing to comply with the conditions requisite for seeing and knowing.
The theory of nature and of life which it offers is not one that was at first speculatively laid down and then proved by adjusting facts or conclusions to fit it; but is an explanation of existence, cosmic and individual, derived from knowledge reached by those who have acquired the power to see behind the curtain that hides the operations of nature from the ordinary mind. Such Beings are called Sages, using the term in its highest sense. Of late they have been called Mahatmas and Adepts. In ancient times they were known as the Rishis and Mahârishis – the last being a word that means Great Rishis. (“Great” in the moral sense, and Rishi, literally translated, means “bard,” singer, and also walker or guide, one who leads others. HPB.)
It is not claimed that these exalted beings, or Sages, have existed only in the East. They are known to have lived in all parts of the globe, in obedience to the cyclic laws… But as far as concerns the present development of the human race on this planet, they are now to be found in the East, although the fact may be that some of them had, in remote times, retreated from even the American shores.
There being of necessity various grades among the students of this Wisdom-Religion, it stands to reason that those belonging to the lower degrees are able to give out only so much of the knowledge as is the appanage (rightful accompaniment) of the grade they have reached, and depend, to some extent, for further information upon students who are higher yet.
It is these higher students for whom the claim is asserted that their knowledge is not mere inference, but that it concerns realities seen and known by them. While some of them are connected with the Theosophical Society, they are yet above it…
As this knowledge deals with laws and states of matter, and of consciousness undreamed of by the “practical” Western world*, it can only be grasped, piece by piece, as the student pushes forward the demolition of his preconceived notions, that are due either to inadequate or to erroneous theories.
It is claimed by these higher students that, in the Occident especially, a false method of reasoning has for many centuries prevailed, resulting in a universal habit of mind which causes men to look upon many effects as causes, and to regard that which is real as the unreal, putting meanwhile the unreal in the place of the real. As a minor example, the phenomena of mesmerism and clairvoyance have, until lately, been denied by Western science, yet there have always been numerous persons who know for themselves, by incontrovertible introspective evidence, the truth of these phenomena, and, in some instances, understand their cause and rationale.
* In the 21st century we are beginning to do more than just dream of elevated states of consciousness but are taking their examination to heart, both in the labs of neuroscience, in the psychologist’s consulting rooms and more especially in our personal lives through individual meditational practices.
taken from “An Epitome of Theosophy” by William Q. Judge,
extracts from the first 3 pages.