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The Key to Theosophy  – Book Study 4

“Theosophy… is the essence of all religion and of absolute truth, a drop of which only underlies every creed.”

~ The Key to Theosophy

This week we cover the questions/topics:

  • What is the explanation of Theosophy/Secret Wisdom/Divine Essence?
  • Is Theosophy some new-fangled fad?
  • How has Theosophy remained so secret?
  • What is the cause of this secrecy?
  • Theosophy is NOT Buddhism and the differences between.

Anyone can be a Yogi Theosophist – which to me simply means ~ a student of Theosophy. The ancient wisdoms are not all solely classified as Theosophical. These timeless truths can be recognised in the teachings of the early Philosophers, the soothing verses of the Sufi poet Rumi, in Jewish Mysticism … of which the Kabbalah is only one form… the ancient Upanishads and Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita… their glowing embers still recognisable beneath the foundation of all the world’s religions.


Theosophical study isn’t just a one time read through accomplishment, the teachings seem other-worldly as when read then re-read, new information continues to be revealed, like the peeling of an onion with infinite layers.

With genuine effort and selfless desire a student’s life organically begins to change and evolve for the better, including what I call, for lack of a better term, “the falling away”, anxiety makes way for a calm sense of being, a lack of fear, a lack of concern of self and the world of the senses, occasional feelings of overwhelming joy, a desire to learn more, to share more and to be of service. A feeling that finally answers can be found and one at long last, can answer the all-encompassing call of love and compassion. There is a deep sense of connection with all of Humanity and all beings and an elementary, yet expanding understanding begins… of the origin of things like the astral plane, the planets and stars, Nature, the sleep state, and even what we call “ghosts”.

The first object of the Theosophical Society is:

  1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.

From my understanding, the word “Nucleus” means “heart or core within” not an elite group of Theosophists who pontificate with one another and dole out memberships. Unfortunately, the word “Brotherhood” has been hijacked and tarnished, especially over the last century and frequently invokes prejudice, caution, and fear … and still reeks of the stigma of division and bigotry.

Behind the societies and organisations that gather within man-made buildings are leaders who consciously or subconsciously, are looked to as gurus/teachers and sages, some sitting as Chairman of the Board or President etc… Our modern world of technology allows for instant connection and communication across the globe, we have many of the Earth’s libraries literally at our fingertips. Perhaps the physical gathering in lodges was necessary in days of yore as there was need for a place to go to find like-minded individuals and to access Theosophical texts. The study, application and implementation of true Theosophy is a personal journey ~ the “Brotherhood” not meaning a “members only” club… but rather the organic and powerful energy of kindness, compassion, and understanding that originates with you and from you, from right where you stand, outward into your daily life and the world around you.


“The Key to Theosophy – Book Study 4

(Pages 10 – 14 in original text)


“ENQUIRER. What is your explanation of it?

THEOSOPHIST. Real ecstasy was defined by Plotinus as “the liberation of the mind from its finite consciousness, becoming one and identified with the infinite.” This is the highest condition, says Prof. Wilder, but not one of permanent duration, and it is reached only by the very very few. It is, indeed, identical with that state which is known in India as Samadhi. The latter is practised by the Yogis, who facilitate it physically by the greatest abstinence in food and drink, and mentally by an incessant endeavour to purify and elevate the mind. Meditation is silent and unuttered prayer, or, as Plato expressed it, “the ardent turning of the soul toward the divine; not to ask any particular good (as in the common meaning of prayer), but for good itself — for the universal Supreme Good” of which we are a part on earth, and out of the essence of which we have all emerged. Therefore, adds Plato, “remain silent in the presence of the divine ones, till they remove the clouds from thy eyes and enable thee to see by the light which issues from themselves, not what appears as good to thee, but what is intrinsically good.” *

ENQUIRER. Theosophy, then, is not, as held by some, a newly devised scheme?

THEOSOPHIST. Only ignorant people can thus refer to it. It is as old as the world, in its teachings and ethics, if not in name, as it is also the broadest and most catholic system among all.

ENQUIRER. How comes it, then, that Theosophy has remained so unknown to the nations of the Western Hemisphere? Why should it have been a sealed book to races confessedly the most cultured and advanced?

THEOSOPHIST. We believe there were nations as cultured in days of old and certainly more spiritually “advanced” than we are. But there are several reasons for this willing ignorance. One of them was given by St. Paul to the cultured Athenians — a loss, for long centuries, of real spiritual insight, and even interest, owing to their too great devotion to things of sense and their long slavery to the dead letter of dogma and ritualism. But the strongest reason for it lies in the fact that real Theosophy has ever been kept secret.

ENQUIRER. You have brought forward proofs that such secrecy has existed; but what was the real cause for it?

THEOSOPHIST. The causes for it were: Firstly, the perversity of average human nature and its selfishness, always tending to the gratification of personal desires to the detriment of neighbours and next of kin. Such people could never be entrusted with divine secrets. Secondly, their unreliability to keep the sacred and divine knowledge from desecration. It is the latter that led to the perversion of the most sublime truths and symbols, and to the gradual transformation of things spiritual into anthropomorphic, concrete, and gross imagery — in other words, to the dwarfing of the god-idea and to idolatry.


ENQUIRER. You are often spoken of as “Esoteric Buddhists.” Are you then all followers of Gautama Buddha?

THEOSOPHIST. No more than musicians are all followers of Wagner. Some of us are Buddhists by religion; yet there are far more Hindus and Brahmins than Buddhists among us, and more Christian-born Europeans and Americans than converted Buddhists. The mistake has arisen from a misunderstanding of the real meaning of the title of Mr. Sinnett’s excellent work, “Esoteric Buddhism,” which last word ought to have been spelt with one, instead of two, d’s, as then Budhism would have meant what it was intended for, merely “Wisdomism” (Bodha, bodhi, “intelligence,” “wisdom”) instead of Buddhism, Gautama’s religious philosophy. Theosophy, as already said, is the WISDOM-RELIGION.

ENQUIRER. What is the difference between Buddhism, the religion founded by the Prince of Kapilavastu, and Budhism, the “Wisdomism” which you say is synonymous with Theosophy?

THEOSOPHIST. Just the same difference as there is between the secret teachings of Christ, which are called “the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven,” and the later ritualism and dogmatic theology of the Churches and Sects. Buddha means the “Enlightened” by Bodha, or understanding, Wisdom. This has passed root and branch into the esoteric teachings that Gautama imparted to his chosen Arhats only.

ENQUIRER. But some Orientalists deny that Buddha ever taught any esoteric doctrine at all?

THEOSOPHIST. They may as well deny that Nature has any hidden secrets for the men of science. Further on I will prove it by Buddha’s conversation with his disciple Ananda. His esoteric teachings were simply the Gupta Vidya (secret knowledge) of the ancient Brahmins, the key to which their modern successors have, with few exceptions, completely lost. And this Vidya has passed into what is now known as the inner teachings of the Mahayana school of Northern Buddhism. Those who deny it are simply ignorant pretenders to Orientalism. I advise you to read the Rev. Mr. Edkins’ Chinese Buddhism — especially the chapters on the Exoteric and Esoteric schools and teachings — and then compare the testimony of the whole ancient world upon the subject.

ENQUIRER. But are not the ethics of Theosophy identical with those taught by Buddha?

THEOSOPHIST. Certainly, because these ethics are the soul of the Wisdom-Religion, and were once the common property of the initiates of all nations. But Buddha was the first to embody these lofty ethics in his public teachings, and to make them the foundation and the very essence of his public system. It is herein that lies the immense difference between exoteric Buddhism and every other religion. For while in other religions ritualism and dogma hold the first and most important place, in Buddhism it is the ethics which have always been the most insisted upon. This accounts for the resemblance, amounting almost to identity, between the ethics of Theosophy and those of the religion of Buddha.

ENQUIRER. Are there any great points of difference?

THEOSOPHIST. One great distinction between Theosophy and exoteric Buddhism is that the latter, represented by the Southern Church, entirely denies (a) the existence of any Deity, and (b) any conscious post-mortem life, or even any self-conscious surviving individuality in man. Such at least is the teaching of the Siamese sect, now considered as the purest form of exoteric Buddhism. And it is so, if we refer only to Buddha’s public teachings; the reason for such reticence on his part I will give further on. But the schools of the Northern Buddhist Church, established in those countries to which his initiated Arhats retired after the Master’s death, teach all that is now called Theosophical doctrines, because they form part of the knowledge of the initiates — thus proving how the truth has been sacrificed to the dead-letter by the too-zealous orthodoxy of Southern Buddhism. But how much grander and more noble, more philosophical and scientific, even in its dead-letter, is this teaching than that of any other Church or religion. Yet Theosophy is not Buddhism.

* Footnote This is what the scholarly author of “The Eclectic Philosophy,” Prof. A. Wilder, F. T. S., describes as “spiritual photography”: “The soul is the camera in which facts and events, future, past, and present, are alike fixed; and the mind becomes conscious of them. Beyond our every-day world of limits all is one day or state — the past and future comprised in the present.” . . . Death is the last ecstasis on earth. Then the soul is freed from the constraint of the body, and its nobler part is united to higher nature and becomes partaker in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the higher beings.” Real Theosophy is, for the mystics, that state which Apollonius of Tyana was made to describe thus: “I can see the present and the future as in a clear mirror. The sage need not wait for the vapours of the earth and the corruption of the air to foresee events. . . . The theoi, or gods, see the future; common men the present; sages that which is about to take place.” “The Theosophy of the Sages” he speaks of is well expressed in the assertion, “The Kingdom of God is within us.”


Original 1889 PDF of “Key to Theosophy”

A correct way to pronounce Buddha 🙂

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“Catholic” doesn’t mean what you think it does… 2012 Huffington Post article by Daniel P Horan – OFM