1st 2nd 3rd
THE Three Fundamental
Propositions of Theosophy may be regarded as postulates for individual use in
study of the three most important and comprehensive philosophical questions
1. What is the origin of man, and, in the light of that origin, what is his actual relationship to other beings and finally to the whole of life? What is “the Highest,” and what may he come to know of It?
2. What are the laws and processes of interaction between the Whole, or the universe, and the part, man? Is “justice” a cosmic fact?
3. Is the individual man, immortal, as an individual, and if so, what should be his conscious purpose in selecting and weighing life’s experiences? What goal may be reached?
Every religion or philosophy is based, in the last analysis, upon attempted answers to these three questions. More important, the thought and action of each individual are profoundly influenced by his opinions concerning them, whether consciously adopted or unconsciously absorbed from church background or general environment. This is not to say that every thoughtful man must employ the terms of intellectual philosophy, nor that he is to be identified by his ability to state the fundamental questions in just the way above suggested. The actual question usually first asked, which bears a clear relationship to the “Fundamentals,” is one occasioned by intense suffering—less frequently by intense joy:
“Why does this happen to me ?“ For the personal consciousness of the individual man, the essential elements of human experience are simply happiness and suffering. Yet when man seeks to understand these states, which he alternately passes through, when he strives to find some measure of control over them, he needs perspective and orientation—basic orientation. Here he arrives at the doorway of the great, impersonal, fundamental questions, and is driven to find answers complete enough to provide at least a temporary working basis for integration.
‘Fundamentals” may be considered to be realities, not intellectual phrasings, yet it is through the natural disciplines of the reflective mind that one can expand his perception of the reality within himself and in the world around him. Though philosophy is, of itself, but a means to the end of intelligent, right, and satisfying action, it is an all-important means. It is through the medium of self-conscious mind that human evolution proceeds. Formulation of the great universal principles which inhere in life carries with it the essence of Theosophical intent—to help individual men to find a greater measure of conscious control over their own inner lives.
As Madame H. P. Blavatsky puts it in Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge:
Apparently, the whole basis of occultism lies in this, that there is latent within every man a power which can give him true knowledge, a power of perception of truth, which enables him to deal first hand with universals if he will be strictly logical and face the facts. Thus we can proceed from universals to particulars by this innate spiritual force which is in every man.
Theosophy is unique in its suggestion that the path to the good life is the path of philosophy. The fundamental principles of the philosophy of Theosophy have a direct bearing upon ethical attitudes. The implication of the First Proposition is that there is That, in every self-conscious being, capable of reaching beyond any present degree of knowledge, or relative perfection of behavior. As a corollary of this, one may assume that the presence within each human form of “the Higher Self, unsectarian, colorless, sexless, and cosmopolitan,” means that the man of perverse beliefs or habits may at any time see beyond them.
The Second Proposition of the Secret Doctrine, in declaring the universality of periodicity, suggests that the tides of growth in individual humans bring alternations of obscurity and clarity regarding the purposes of soul. The man of destructive influence is destructive now, not forever, and he becomes a law unto himself in the sense that he and he alone can “manifest” higher capacities as his cycle permits.
The Third Proposition, “the pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric Philosophy,” combines the implications to be derived from the First and Second. For if the aim of evolution be defined as the acquirement of individuality, and if that individuality grows only to the extent that one perceives the significance of his interrelationships with other beings, man’s destiny involves the disciplines of philosophy. The educative aim in life is not so much to prevent oneself from thinking or doing evil, as commonly classified, but to understand the ingredients of evil and of good, and to see in both good and evil the ties which bind the destiny of one “soul” to that of all others.
Every uplifting doctrine is a blending of the gnosis with some particular stage of man’s capacity to perceive it, and while, for this very reason, each specific doctrine must ultimately be transcended by self-knowledge, a doctrine may also contain psychological truths which one can begin to sense. It is in this context that the Doctrines of Theosophy, as presently delineated, may be considered by an inquirer. But there are intermediate steps which may be taken between “study of doctrine” and the inspiration provided by one’s own intuition. These steps will be immensely aided by such philosophical propositions as are provided in Madame Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine, under that heading, and repeated in other of her writings.
The work of Theosophical education is, of necessity, an endeavor to bring order and consistency to one’s application of Theosophy principles. To see that the inspiration, behind every ennobling and religious philosophy, has derived from a grasp of Theosophic principles requires that those principles be studied, discussed in new relationships, and expressed in countless ways. The student of H. P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine and her Key to Theosophy cannot but be made aware that the phrases in which she couches her Three Fundamental Propositions are never exactly the same. To learn one or all of her statements is manifestly not enough; the essence is that which breathes in all of them and which must be apprehended by each individual for himself, before the full worth of any phrasing of Madame Blavatsky’s can be appreciated.
Guidance along this path of self-instruction was the greatest gift of Madame Blavatsky to those who were to become disciples of the wisdom to which she gave access. A studious comparison of the Bhagavad-Gita, the Dhammapada, the Vedas, and the esoteric portions of the New Testament may result in little more than erudition. The key which unlocks the meaning of such works resides in their embodiment of principle, and is most easily turned by one who comprehends that Theosophy begins or ends with the ability to perceive a basic principle when encountered.
The following statements on the three basic philosophical conceptions of Theosophy are collated exclusively from the writings of H. P. Blavatsky, in her Secret Doctrine, the Key to Theosophy, and Isis Unveiled.