Where to start?
The articles on this page will give you a brief but sound overview of the philosophy in under an hour of reading.
Some help from symbolism
The symbol at the top of the page was chosen to tell the story of human evolution in two parts. The top element, the radiant AUM! represents the creative power of the Universal Mind, which although eternal in its essence – part of AUM is purely subjective – its other elements actively and periodically emanate what over time and on the lower planes aggregates as nebulous matter, forming eventually Suns and planets, men and animals, down to the smallest flora and conscious microscopic life.
This is the metaphysical “Doctrine of Emanations” spoken of in the Secret Doctrine.
The second part, the Winged Soul, comes as a result of these emanations having taken life and form. They become at length and over vast periods of time a new humanity, but are in a higher reality the always-journeying and incarnating Souls. These Souls – who are ourselves – live on, from one era to another, in an almost endless series of lives. So we find ourselves on this collective pilgrimage on earth being helped, as far as we accept it, by the older and wiser who went before us.
Of these, some have become “the gods, heroes and saviours” we read about in our history and mythos. They are the well-known sages, the “Mahatmas” (lit. great souls) who have fulfilled their destiny and consciously made their own link to the Mind in Nature and – so long as they do not go against the purposes of evolution – become a beneficent, guiding force for the good of mankind.
Snakes have dual symbology, in this form they are the snakes of Uraei, the “rearing cobras” of ancient Egypt, a symbol of sovereignty, royalty, wisdom and divine authority.
They were also used in the East, such as by the Buddhists (their Naga-serpents or wise men); but esoterically they are the Lodge of Adepts and Initiates (also nâgas, “the Serpents of Wisdom”), Nagal being “the name in Mexico of the chief medicine men to this day, and was that of the chief adepts in the twilight of history.” (Theosophical Glossary entry for ‘Kauravya’).
Of their second meaning, it was in the later Christian times they began to only represent lower, physical energies, therefore becoming an apparent ‘evil.’ But Theosophy teaches the true origin of goodness, or its absence, in the world is almost wholly due to man and his intent and heart; it does not come from the forces themselves which, like electricity, operate automatically and according to law and have little inherent tendency for good or ill. This is well described in articles by H. P. Blavatsky such as The Origin of Evil.
When taken together resulting this pictographic image, according to the traditional use of sacred symbols, forms an emblem telling the story of the subject presented for consideration. In this case it is of the relationship of man to the cosmos within the great scheme of their jointly progressing evolution.
It is an illustration of the ancient axiom “As above so below.”
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The radiant AUM! above was used by William Q. Judge as the symbol for his Path magazine in the 1890s; the Winged Soul or Globe by his pupil and friend Robert Crosbie in his magazine Theosophy, from 1912.
- Outlines of Theosophy
PROEM: PAGES FROM A PRE-HISTORIC PERIOD. AN Archaic Manuscript—a collection of palm leaves made impermeable to water, fire, and air, by some specific unknown process—is before the writer’s eye. On the first page is an immaculate white disc within a dull black ground … continue reading
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 … continue reading
- The key doctrine of Reincarnation
- Theosophy and other spiritual teachings
Having read these articles and wishing to continue an exploration of the philosophy, it is suggested you can continue reading “An Epitome of Theosophy” by William Q Judge, which – although only 30 pages long – is still widely regarded as one of the most instructive and accessible overviews of the Wisdom Tradition for those newly enquiring.
- Books for further reading
After the Epitome, two books are recommended, the Key to Theosophy and the Ocean of Theosophy.
The classic by H. P. Blavatsky written to explain some essential principles, especially on the aims, history and ethics of Theosophy, in a question and answer dialogue. The Key is being taken up in the Tuesday online class and in the Wednesday meeting at Queens Gardens, see Weekly Study Classes)
The Ocean is the “The Secret Doctrine” in miniature, an outline of Theosophy’s main ideas but in a short and very accessible form.
Hardback or paperback copies can be purchased from the ULT on the ‘Library’ page.
The above course gives a wide ranging and reliable treatment that will guide future studies. However it is predominantly on the intellectual aspects, the Movement’s raison d’être, its long history over many millennia, its philosophy and altruistic aims.
Now the study method the ULT follows is to balance an intellectual approach (head learning) with its complementary aspect of the ‘Heart Doctrine.’ A balance of head and heart will correspondingly develop rational and accurate thought as well as intuition and a sense of responsibility, the first step in practical altruism.
Two of the best known classics of the heart or devotional Path are the Voice of the Silence (H. P. Blavatsky’s translation of the ancient esoteric Buddhist text “The Book of the Golden Precepts“), and The Bhagavad Gita translated by William Q. Judge from the Sanskrit.*
Another recommended text is Light on the Path. All these appeal to “the inner faculties rather than to the ordinary comprehension of the physical brain” as Mme Blavatsky wrote in the Secret Doctrine; when the reader’s intuition and higher faculties are engaged they become able fathom their allegories.
ULT meetings are generally started with a 5 minute reading from one of these books so as to strike notes of universality, dispassion, and skill in action.
* Do not be discouraged by the Indian names at the start of the Gita, the majority of these characters appear only in the first two chapters even if their presence forms the backdrop to the narrative. William Judge’s introduction is clear and insightful and will give what’s needed. Remembering also that its story is allegorical, these characters become symbols for the complex aspects of our mind and character, whose nature becomes clear as we understand it.
For instance, all the events Arjuna and his four brothers, the Pandu Princes, are taken through are emblems for the journey of discovery common, if not identical, to every seeker. The pilgrimages of old times were similar analogues for an inner journeying through new lands (“states of evolutionary consciousness” in modern terms) leading to fresh visions and world views.
Man is principally a mind-being whose outer physical landscape becomes on close inspection increasingly a metaphor for his inner state, which can – whether quickly or slowly according to our nature – largely come to rule our outer conditions.
The Notes on the Gita by W. Q. Judge and Robert Crosbie has been written to show how to read between the lines and decode the Gita’s layers of meanings, so its commentaries are especially helpful for Western students.
As Esoteric Psychology – primarily a knowledge of our inner life and being – is studied, its significance becomes self-evident, and most importantly in the Kali Yug (famed for illusionary appearances) it is made reliable by being checked against the experiences of other well-regarded sources).
It then quietly speaks with wordless but resounding meaning of a reformation that asks us to harmonise our outer nature to our true and ultimately divine, innermost nature, the place of safety and a pure, impersonal divinity.
The promise that is made is that all this is seen from a reading of both head and heart texts when studied together and rightly interpreted.