Originally published 1907
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These manuals are not written in a controversial spirit, nor as an addition to the stock of theories awaiting public approval. Their message is for those who desire to know -- those who are seeking for something that will solve their doubts and remove their difficulties. For such, all that is needed is a clear exposition of the theosophical teachings; for they will judge of the truth of a teaching by its power to answer the questions they ask.
Theosophy strikes unfamiliar ground in modern civilization because it does not come under any particular one of the familiar headings of religion, science, philosophy, etc. into which our age has divided its speculative activities. It dates back to a period in the history of mankind when such distinctions did not exist, but there was one gnosis or knowledge embracing all. Religion and science, as we have them today, are but imperfect growths springing from the remnants of that great ancient system, the wisdom-religion, which included all that we now know as religion and science, and much more. Hence theosophy will not appeal to the same motives as religion and science. It will not offer any cheap and easy salvation or put a premium upon mental inactivity and spiritual selfishness. Neither can it accommodate itself to the rules laid down by various schools of modern thought as to what constitutes proof and what does not. But it can and does appeal to reason. The truth of doctrines such as theosophy maintains can only be estimated by their ability to solve problems and by their harmony with other truths which we know to be true. But in addition to this we have the testimony of the ages, which has been too long neglected by modern scholarship.
Since the days when the wave of materialism swept over the world, obliterating the traces of the ancient wisdom-religion and replacing it by theological dogmatism, our religions have had nothing to offer us in the way of a philosophical explanation of the laws of being as revealed in man and in nature. Instead we have only had bare statements and dogmatic assertions. The higher nature of man is represented by such vague words as spirit and soul, which have little or no meaning for the majority. The laws of the universe are briefly summed up under the term God, and all further consideration of them shut off. Then came a reaction against the dogmatism of religion, and man pinned his faith to knowledge gained by study and reflection, limiting his researches however to the outer world as presented by the senses, and fearing to trench upon the ground which dogmatic theology had rendered the field of so much contention. The result of this has been that neither in religions nor sciences have we any teaching about the higher nature of man or the deeper mysteries of the universe. This is a field which is left entirely unexplored, or is at best the subject of tentative and unguided conjectures. Theosophy undertakes to explain that which other systems leave unexplained, and is, on its own special ground, without a competitor. It can issue a challenge to theology, science, and other modern systems to surpass it in giving a rational explanation of the facts of life.
As the founder of the Theosophical Society, H. P. Blavatsky, predicted, there are persons who have sought to pervert the genuine teachings of theosophy and turn them into a source of profit to themselves. The true teachings do not lend themselves to such purposes; their ideals are of the purest and most unselfish. As these pseudo-theosophists have gained a certain amount of notoriety by using the names of the Theosophical Society and its Leaders, it is necessary to warn the public against their misrepresentations. Their teachings can easily be shown, by comparison, to be directly contrary to those of H. P. Blavatsky, whom they nevertheless profess to follow. Instead of having for their basis self-sacrifice, self-purification and the elevation of the human race, these teachings too often pander to ambition, vanity and curiosity. In many cases they are altogether ridiculous. The writers of these manuals have no personal grievance against any such people. Inspired by a profound love of the sublime teachings of theosophy, they have made it their life-work to bring the benefits which they have thereby received within the reach of as many people as possible.
Above all, it is sought to make these manuals such that they shall appeal to the heart and not merely to the head; that they shall be of practical service to the reader in the problems of daily life and not mere intellectual exercises. As H. P. Blavatsky so frequently urged, the message of theosophy is for suffering humanity; and the great teachers, whose sole purpose is to bring to mankind the light of truth and the saving grace of real brotherliness, can have no interest in catering for the mental curiosity of merely a few well-to-do individuals. Even soulless men, said H. P. Blavatsky, can be brilliantly intellectual; but for those who are in earnest in their desire to reach the higher life, intellectual fireworks alone will have little attraction. We intend, therefore, to keep the practical aspect of the teachings always to the front, and to show, as far as possible, that they are what they claim to be -- the gospel of a new hope for humanity.
These booklets are not all the product of a single pen, but are written by different students at the International Headquarters of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society at Point Loma, California. Each writer has contributed his own quota to the series. For further explanations on theosophy generally, the reader is referred to the booklist published below.
Theosophical Manuals Menu
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Books with links go to full-text online editions in the separate Theosophical University Press Online site (www.theosociety.org). For more information on various theosophical topics, see also Topics in Depth in the current site.
Sunrise: Theosophic Perspectives magazine
For a complete listing of books available through Theosophical University Press, go to the TUP Online Catalog site.