The word theosophy along with its work and purpose may be unknown to the vast majority of people and yet its timeless principles have invisibly but radically re-shaped human consciousness over the past century and a half. Since its inception 145 years ago the Theosophical Society has never been a big hitter in terms of its members or supporters. But its influence on world thought has been incalculable. And largely unseen.
Prevailing theosophical ideas and key concepts drawn from a timeless wisdom tradition have mysteriously seeped into human thought very rapidly indeed. These ideas once far beyond the grasp of the Western mind and its imprisoning rationality are now becoming mainstream. And they’re gradually beginning to pose a major challenge to the supremacy of a dominant materialistic paradigm which has had a stranglehold on human affairs and behaviour for the past few centuries.
Those initial seeds planted in the last quarter of the nineteenth century by the early pioneers of the Theosophical Society finally began to sprout a century later. They had a prolonged gestation. The environmental movement which first appeared in the late 1960s echoed the Ageless Wisdom teachings by showing more and more people just how inter-connected the natural world, its kingdoms and processes actually were.
Initially the independent scientist James Lovelock was scorned by the scientific establishment for suggesting (and thereby reasserting the teachings of the ancient Greek philosophers) that the Earth itself was a living, breathing organism – not a lump of inert rock spinning around the sun. Despite his Gaia Theory being mocked as pseudo-science by mainstream materialists, his ideas gained huge traction and are now firmly lodged in a sizeable minority of people.
Theosophy has also acted as the secret agent in infiltrating other formerly occult ideas into popular consciousness.
Concepts of reincarnation and karma – once regarded as exotic Eastern superstitions – have graduated into a coherent philosophy of life and death for many people. Immediately after World War II in the West these ideas were virtually unknown and were the preserve of a few supposedly cranky mystics and adherents or scholars of Oriental religions.
Despite being outlawed as anathema by the Catholic Church in the middle of the sixth century (and by the Greek Orthodox Church under the rein of the Emperor Justinian), reincarnation is making a comeback. Recent surveys in the West show that between a quarter and a third of people now embrace belief in some kind of re-birth.
Perhaps the dissident superstar John Lennon did as much to popularise the idea of karma or cause and effect as much as anyone in his song Instant Karma. The Beatles generally also acted as messengers of Eastern ideas in the late 1960s. The word karma is now common parlance although the ideas underpinning it are still misunderstood because although essentially a simple idea its workings are extraordinarily complex.
This fresh interest in these twin cosmic laws seems to directly challenge not only the powerfully entrenched views of the three Judaeo-Christian religions which deny reincarnation but also mainstream science itself which tends to view all non-physical processes as somehow unproveable and therefore bogus. However, those untainted by narrow ecclesiastical or scientific thinking seem to believe otherwise and they can’t all be victims of primitive superstition or wishful thinking.
Even more universally accepted is the core theosophical idea that everything is intimately inter-connected and nothing is separate. Affect one small part of this whole and you affect the entire system.
In the West large swathes of the population have given up on religion because of its dogmatism, inflexibility and inability to answer the most basic questions of life: Who are we? Why are we here? Where have we come from? And where are we going? Millions of people now describe themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’ and they have more flexible ideas about deity. Notions of a universal mind or over-arching divine intelligence are replacing crude notions of a personified and often vengeful God. And the underpinnings of this are entirely theosophical.
The hylozoic principle outlined by Madame Blavatsky that life and consciousness exist everywhere has not been so widely accepted. Many find it impossible to ascribe consciousness to rocks or accept the existence of elemental kingdoms of beings operating below the mineral kingdom. Nevertheless, there is a much greater respect for other departments of nature than previously existed. De-forestation, pollution and the exploitation and killing of animals haven’t vanished but attitudes have changed markedly. The animal and vegetable kingdoms enjoy a respect that was once entirely absent. That acceptance of these kingdoms as part of the whole can only increase.
One day the majority view will be that life does indeed exist everywhere – even in those apparently frozen and ‘dead’ regions of space once regarded as lifeless cosmic wastelands. And even in the stones, crystals and other apparently ‘dead matter’ beneath our feet.
The cyclic nature of evolutionary existence is also more widely appreciated than it used to be. Large numbers of people are convinced that we are indeed transitioning into a new era of some kind and that this entry into the Aquarian Age may explain much of the trouble and torment engulfing our world.
Possibly a greater appreciation and understanding of karma and re-birth provokes intuitive feeling that they have experienced calamity and chaos during earlier lives – especially those who lived in the Atlantean civilization. Maybe the notion that history repeats itself via a constant dance of creation-destruction-renewal is becoming hard-wired into more and more psyches.
This is far from a comprehensive list of theosophical ideas which have permeated into wider consciousness but these are all big ideas with the power to create a paradigm shift in the way we think.
It’s often observed that many of today’s young people and those coming into incarnation now seem to intuitively understand many of these ideas in ways that neither I, my parents or grand-parents would have contemplated. The inter-connectedness of everything and the fact that human beings enjoy a cyclic continuum of life in and out of physical bodies are increasingly understood and accepted. So is the power of human consciousness and its ability to create and destroy.
The Theosophical Society quietly introduced these ideas in often obscure ways but they interlocked with other minds and often influenced great ones. Albert Einstein, for example, was a regular reader of The Secret Doctrine. And he wasn’t alone.
The society made no attempt to be aggressively evangelistic or send out missionaries to ignorant heathens in far flung places. It stuck to its core ideas. And I’ve no doubt at all that despite its many conflicts and convulsions the organisation has endured, it has been the chief conduit for these step-change ideas to percolate into the wider collective human mind.
We’re told that the society was guided into existence by advanced adepts and highly evolved individuals who guide the development of Earth. Some claim that these exceptional beings deserted the society but I believe the opposite is true –these Masters of Wisdom have never deserted their creation. Quietly, covertly and consistently they’ve ensured that the seeds planted eventually blossomed.