Master Choa Kok Sui emphasised the concept of study as a key pillar of Arhatic Yoga practice. One of the reasons for the same is to develop the mental faculties of the soul. Additionally, study helps us develop a deeper understanding on esoteric subjects in additional to helping students understand their inner experiences. Also, study is itself is a an approach to achieve union with the higher soul. This is known as Jnana Yoga (you may read about the different types of Yoga in a previous article available here).
MCKS emphasised that not all books are worth reading, and therefore recommended specific books. The recommended reading and study list provided by MCKS includes books from the Lucius Trust (via Alice A Bailey), Astara Lessons, the Agni Yoga series (via Nicholas and Helena Roerich), and books on Theosophy (especially the works of Blavatsky, Besant and Leadbeater).
The objective of this article is to provide a brief overview of what Theosophy teaches.
It is also important to note that books (included the ones recommended by MCKS) are seldom 100% accurate. Hence there is a need to exercise intelligent evaluation and discernment.
The term “Theosophy” comes from the Greek theosophia, which is composed of two words: theos (or “divine”) and sophia (“wisdom”). Theosophia, therefore, may be translated as the “divine wisdom.” In the last quarter of the 19th century the Theosophical Society was formed by Madam HP Blavatsky, Colonel HS Olcott, WQ Judge and a group of like-minded people. The aim of the Theosophical Movement was to present to the world universal Ancient Wisdom underlying all religions which can be found at their core when they are stripped of their later additions, deletions, and superstitions.
The writing of Madam Blavatsky, especially her magnus opus The Secret Doctrine, comprises of the foundation for the later Thesophical writers (including Annie Besant and CW Leadbeater). The core teachings of Theosophy, specifically the writing of Madam Blavatsky, are as follows.
Theosophy teaches – an ABSOLUTE Infinite Omnipresent Divine PRINCIPLE which is the source and basis of all. It is the Causeless Cause (not been caused or brought about by anything) and the Rootless Root (while everything is rooted to it, it in itself is not rooted to anything) of all. The ABSOLUTE is described as impersonal (not a person), immutable (doesn’t change), and unconditioned (it can have no thought nor idea). The ABSOLUTE It is not a Person or Being of any kind. It is therefore referred to as a PRINCIPLE. To call the ABSOLUTE a being is to imply that it is finite – which negates the entire Theosophical philosophy. The ABSOLUTE is the “One and Only” eternal Reality. It is really beyond all definition and description but is that which is referred to in Hinduism as Brahman or Parabrahm or Sat, in Buddhism as Adi-Buddhi, and in the Kabbalah as Ain-Soph. Theosophy in general refers to this PRINCIPLE as the infinite and eternal energy and consciousness which in all. It should be noted that Blavatsky’s Theosophy uses terms such as “Deity,” “The Divine,” and “The Absolute” but generally avoids the “God” word given that different people have a different conception of God.
Theosophy teaches – the divinity and unity of all life. Every living thing is divine and spiritual in its innermost essence. In the higher-most part of our being, our Higher Self, each one of us literally is the ABSOLUTE referred to above. In everything is the ABSOLUTE and the ABSOLUTE is everything.
Theosophy teaches – there is no dead matter. Everything has life and consciousness.
Theosophy teaches – that there are many souls but only ONE SPIRIT. We are all individual souls, yet in the higher-most part of our being we are all literally one and the same. We do not have individual spirits. The spirit is like the sun, while the soul are rays of light from the sun.
Theosophy teaches – that the Universe is a cyclic and periodical manifestation. It comes forth into existence from the ABSOLUTE by means of evolution (not creation) and remains and evolves over an incredibly lengthy period of time. Then it gradually disintegrates and disappears, everything being reabsorbed into the ABSOLUTE. Eventually, after the same duration of time for which it had existed, it is reborn, on a higher level than before. This process has been going on from all eternity, and our present universe is but one of an infinite series, which had no beginning… and will have no end. This is one of the reasons that the Universe (and everything in it) is referred to as maya or illusion. The illusion does not mean that the Universe is not real. It instead implies that the Universe is impermanent and temporary – and will therefore dissolve and subsequently reappear.
Theosophy teaches – that the Universe and everything in it is in the constant process of evolution. Evolution means the gradual unfoldment, advancement, and development of the unseen inner entities (or souls) through multiple material and objective forms and bodies. Man descended as a “Divine Spark” into matter and has worked his way up into the human kingdom by passing through the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms in long ages past. Now man is evolving back up towards the consciousness of his true spiritual nature. The pivotal doctrine of Theosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in Man, save those won by his (or her) own personal effort and merit throughout a long series of reincarnations.
Theosophy teaches – that all of life is governed by the Law of Karma. Everything in the Universe is under the sway of Karma. This is the unfailing, unerring, incredibly far reaching Law of cause and effect, action and reaction, sequence and consequence. What we sow, we will eventually reap. What we reap, we have previously sown. This is the way, the means, and the method whereby the Universe maintains its harmony, balance, and equilibrium. Universal equilibrium would be impossible unless the Great Law was constantly adjusting action to reaction and reaction to action. It is a perfect and unalterable Law, impersonal and just. In reality there is no injustice. Each one of us gets exactly what we deserve, for good or bad. The Law of Karma is the law of self-created destiny. Karma and reincarnation are inextricably linked…you can’t have one without the other.
Theosophy teaches – that reincarnation is the means for the evolution of the human soul. The physical body and personality we have today is only one of many which we have occupied throughout our long evolutionary journey. In the whole scheme of things, this life we are living now amounts to only a chapter, or even only a page, in the whole “book of lives” of our soul. The circumstances, situations, and conditions of each lifetime were formed by our own previous actions, whether we were aware of it or not. In the past we created our present and in the present we are creating our future. No-one can avoid or escape reincarnation, since it is the Law of Nature. The cycle of birth, death, and rebirth only comes to an end when the individual has attained to true spiritual perfection, freedom from all desire, and conscious reunion with the Divine. This is called Nirvana, Moksha, or being reabsorbed in the ABSOLUTE. Moksha is again not the end given that there would be yet another cyclic and periodical manifestation of the Universe. Our present universe is but one of an infinite series, which had no beginning and will have no end.
Theosophy teaches – that the Universe is worked and guided from within outwards. As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth. Man in itself is a miniature copy of the macrocosm.
Theosophy teaches – that all of creation (including humans) have a sevenfold nature. Everything follows the sevenfold pattern. Every group, division, or representation of seven is always comprised of a higher three and a lower four. Also, each of those Seven Principles is itself sevenfold, being comprised of seven sub-principles. Even humans are each comprised of seven “principles” or components. The upper principles are immortal and endure from lifetime to lifetime, while the other four last only for the duration of one lifetime and are new with each successive birth. In Theosophy, the Higher Triad consists of (1) Our Divine Self; pure eternal Spirit – called Atman in Theosophy; (2) Our Spiritual Soul; the vehicle for the radiation of the light of the Spirit – called Buddhi in Theosophy and the Divien Spark by MCKS; and; (3) Our individual human soul, which is the same thing as the Higher Soul according to the teachings of MCKS. This our permanent individuality, the part of us which reincarnates – called Manas in Theosophy. The Lower Quaternary consists of (1) Our passional nature; the element of desire figuratively described as the “animal soul” – called Kama in Theosophy; (2) Our vital nature; the life force or life energy which actually keeps us alive and in physical incarnation – called Prana in Theosophy (and in Pranic Healing); (3) Our astral body; the subtle and unseen blueprint, framework, and mould upon and around which the physical body is built; it can be described as our “energy body” or the “etherial body” the vehicle through which Prana flows to the physical body – called Linga Sharira or the Etheric Double in Theosophy; and; (4) Our physical body; which is really nothing more than our outer shell and the vehicle during life for the manifestation of all the other principles – called Sthula Sharira in Theosophy.
Theosophy also talks about the Seven Rays, Seven Planes, Seven Rounds, Seven Chains, Seven Hierarchies of Beings, Seven Root Races, Seven Sacred Planets etc. Possibly this is one of the reasons why humans have also classified aspect of the natural world in septenates, such as the seven days in the week, the seven colors in the rainbow, and the seven main musical notes.
Theosophy teaches – that what we call “death” is actually only a transition, a change of state. Our true being can never die. When so-called death occurs, we leave behind on earth our various bodies and lower principles. We then enter into what could be called the “astral plane,” the psychic atmosphere which most closely surrounds the physical plane. Theosophy calls it Kama Loka. We are unconscious there, in a type of dazed and sleeping state, and undergo the process of separation of our lower and mortal nature from our higher and immortal nature. When this is completed we say that the “second death” has occurred. The principle of Kama and the lower, earthly, and sensual elements of Manas remain behind in Kama Loka as a type of senseless and soulless shell and eventually fade out and disintegrate. Meanwhile, the soul enters into the “gestation state,” a period of profound unconsciousness and inaction, before eventually waking into the Heaven state. This is called Devachan in Theosophy. This is not a place or location but a state. It is the Heaven of the individual’s dreams, created unwittingly out of their own consciousness, and perfectly representing the type of afterlife they had believed in, thought about, and expected, during life. The Devachanic state lasts in exact accordance with the amount or force of positive Karma accrued by the individual during the last lifetime. Then reincarnation inevitably takes place. Very materialistic and sensually oriented souls often reincarnate quite quickly but for others the period of Devachan may last decades, centuries, or even thousands of years. We would cover this topic in more detail in a subsequent article.
Theosophy teaches – that practices such as spiritualism, mediumship, and channelling are dangerous and detrimental to both the living and the dead. Departed souls cannot see us. Apart from a very small number of exceptions, it is impossible for a departed soul to communicate with those left behind on earth through a medium or even to see or have any knowledge whatsoever of what is going on here.
Theosophy teaches – the vital importance of altruism, unselfishness, compassion, and living to help and serve others. All is one because the ONE is All. Therefore it is selfish if we live unto ourselves alone. We are all part of the whole and there is no separation in the Universe. Personal desire, ambition, greed, and lust are all misguided forms of selfishness and it is selfishness which is the great curse of humanity and the cause of human suffering. The Bodhisattva ideal – self-sacrifice and renunciation of eternal bliss in order to always remain on earth as a selfless and effective server and helper of the human race, seeking no personal reward – is viewed very highly in Theosophy.
Theosophy teaches – that all religions are the same in their esoteric essence. There is one esoteric Teaching, a universal philosophy, a Secret Doctrine, which underlies all the world’s religions. It actually predates and transcends all religions. It is THE TRUTH itself. All religions contain some portion of the Truth, some to a greater degree than others. The purpose of the Theosophical Movement is to teach Truth as it is, free from all limitations and restrictions of religious dogma, creed, and theology. Truth in itself is UNIVERSAL and no one tradition has the monopoly over the truth.
The ideas presented in this article could be considered the core theosophical ideas. But there is of course much much more detailed over the years by several Theosophists. If one were to compare the essence of the concepts detailed in Theosophy, you would notice that these are fairly consistent with the teachings of MCKS as provided in his books and workshops. The objective of book study is to understand the teachings from different perspectives and therefore deeper and broaden our understanding of deeper spiritual truths.
Please do note that MCKS only recommended the study of other spiritual books – and not the practice of the techniques (if any) provided in the books. Mixing techniques from different schools can be dangerous and is strictly not recommended.
[Acknowledgements: Portions of this article have been researched via BlavatskyTheosophy.com. The website is maintained by the United Lodge of Theosophists, UK].