By Sophia Wadia
The text of this article is from p. 1-4, 6-7, 163-166, of “The Brotherhood of Religions” by Sophia Wadia. The latest edition was published in 1996 by Theosophy Company (India) and Asian Book Trust on behalf of the United Lodge of Theosophists. It contains forewords and official endorsements from both Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama.
The excerpts chosen for this article are from the first and last chapters of “The Brotherhood of Religions,” titled “The Brotherhood of Religions” and “Theosophy – The Summation” respectively. The first chapter of the book is an edited transcript of a talk given at the Bombay (Mumbai) Lodge of the United Lodge of Theosophists in October 1933 and the last is of a talk given at the Parliament of Religions hosted by the Ramakrishna Mission in Calcutta in March 1937. All that follows is closely related to the article Unity of the World’s Religions which we recommend reading.
Sophia Wadia (1901-1986) was born in Colombia, South America, and was educated in Paris, New York, and London. In 1928 she married B. P. Wadia, who was an influential figure in the United Lodge of Theosophists and greatly responsible for the spread and establishment of the ULT in both his native India and numerous other countries of the world. In contrast with the various Theosophical Society organisations, the ULT took seriously H. P. Blavatsky’s important statements that after her there would be no further teachings given to the world from her Adept-Teachers (the Masters) until the period 1975-2000.
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The fact that opposing religions flourish must be taken as a sign of decadence in our civilization. Along two lines of activity it is sought to remove this defect.
One is the rejection of every form of religious belief; materialistic science shows the way of rejection, a perilous way, for in clearing the jungle of superstitious belief and fanaticism, it also destroys the ancient trees which give knowledge and which make sacrifices possible. The way of science is the way of destruction – with the evil the good also is wiped out.
Then there is the second method: one which some of our friends in Bombay want to adopt, the way of friendliness to all religions, the method of bringing them together, the popularizing of the idea that all religions are great and good. That certainly is a noble method, and yet it too has its limitations. The real success of any movement for the fellowship of faiths will depend upon the depth of perception of all who mould and shape it.
The danger of this second method lies in permitting, under the guise of tolerance, in all religions, the very crass and superstitious beliefs which are one of the main causes of the difficulty our civilization is facing.
Claims of an exclusive nature are the very life-force which keeps many religions going; and therefore all such claims, which pit creed against creed, and religion against religion, have to be rejected, not connived at. There is a great deal of hypocrisy, conscious and unconscious hypocrisy, in matters of religious belief, and the great task of any movement for the brotherhood of religions is to emphasize that such hypocrisy leads to danger, and defeats peace and enlightenment. . . .
We must begin by stating the fundamental position of Theosophy in the matter. Theosophy says that the source of all religions is one, which source is divine; but it adds that all religions without exception are overlaid with evil, and are full of corruption. All are true at the source; all are false on the surface.
In this statement two opposing factors must be noticed. If one says: “All religions are true because all have a divine source, and therefore I accept any and every thing from any and every religion,” one will be preparing oneself for the lunatic asylum! On the other hand, if one says: “All religions are corrupted, let us throw them all out,” one is ready for spiritual suicide. To be rational – and every student of Theosophy is a true rationalist – one must accept, after study and reflection, the fact that all religions have truth but that all religions, without exception, are full of evil and are saturated with corruption.
Let us proceed then to examine the process by which the truth of Religion gets overlaid with the falsehood of religions. Perhaps the Theosophical position will become clear if we draw your attention to the fact that Theosophy is not a religion, but that it is the one Religion, the Divine Source which underlies that which is true in any religion. Theosophy is the Ageless Wisdom; Sanatana-Dharma, the Eternal Religion; Bodhi-Dharma, the Wisdom-Religion. It has been known on this earth ever since man became a thinking man, and though the mighty art becomes lost to the world from time to time, there are always the few elect who practise it. In its practical bearing this art is purely divine ethics.
That is why students of Theosophy seek the fountainhead, go to the source, and are at once the friends and the enemies of all differing religions.
The enemies? Yes, for Theosophy does not desire ever to sail under false colours. It refuses to compromise. Therefore it fearlessly declares that it rejects every claim to superiority made by the Pope or the Patriarch, by the Mobed or the Maulana. Theosophy does not accept Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, any more than it accepts Muhammad as the only supreme Prophet. Theosophy rejects the claim that the Dharma of the Hindus is superior to other religions, or that Zoroastrianism is the only creed that teaches purity. Theosophy thus does away with every exclusive claim which results in creating and maintaining many religions, all mutually hostile and contradictory to each other. . . .
May I here just say that much harm has been done by a pseudo-theosophical teaching on the subject, as you will notice when you realize the inwardness of the real Theosophical position. What is that Theosophical position? This: No Rishi, no Buddha, no Mahatma, no Christ, no Prophet, ever tried to establish a religion. Each and every one of them was a reformer. Each and every one of them was a Protestant, i.e. he protested against the falsehood of prevailing religious views. Each and every one of them exposed the vagaries and lies and corruption of religions; each and every one of them taught a Way of Life, a Way to Wisdom, a Way to Brotherhood.
It is entirely untheosophical to say that all Rishis and Prophets came out of Their Occult World of Light, into our mortal world of darkness, in order to establish a new religion. On the contrary, They came to restore the one Eternal Religion. . . .
Then how did these many religions come to exist? How did the Way of Life and of Wisdom become a religious creed? If you study the history of any religious movement you will trace three stages, three periods, during which the true becomes corrupted, the good becomes vicious.
The first period is the period of the Teacher, the Reformer, the Prophet. The function of every spiritual Teacher is a twofold one: first, to expose the corruption of religious creeds and, secondly, to teach the way of the Inner Soul Life. Then comes the second period: after His death, the true disciples, apostles, pupils, try to systematize the teachings and to promulgate them as faithfully as possible by repeating what the Teacher gave or recorded. In the third period the priest comes to the fore, and organizes out of the teachings another religious creed! You will find that every spiritual movement has suffered thus, and that the priest of every creed is the enemy of the Prophet.
Therefore many sane and wise and pure Christians look upon the Christian church today as anti-Christ. And of course it is true, for the church indulges in those very practices which Jesus tried to overthrow. Our own Theosophical Movement, alas! has suffered and is suffering from the same corruption and degradation. That is why with so many of you Theosophy is in disfavour. There are thousands upon thousands in India who do not yet know the difference between Theosophy and pseudo- or false theosophy, between the period of the Teacher, H. P. Blavatsky, and the period of the priests. Our U.L.T. Movement has among its missions the very task of re-establishing the Way of Life. . . .
Theosophy is the fountainhead from which all great religions have sprung. But when we say that Theosophy is the common source, we do not mean that all that is in the various religions assembled together would represent Theosophy; a mistaken notion to that effect prevails.
Theosophy is not an assemblage of doctrines culled from various creeds: Theosophy is the Sacred Womb of Wisdom Itself, from which in all ages and yugas, on every continent now lost or still extant, Religion was born – Religion, not religions. Religions which differ one from the other are corrupted versions of the one Eternal Religion, Sanatana Dharma. Wisdom-Religion, Bodhi-Dharma, was, is, and ever will be one and indivisible, and it antedates the Vedas themselves.
Theosophy, as the Mother of all Knowledge – religious, scientific, philosophic – knowledge verified and re-verifiable, is as old as thinking man. It teaches that man is not descended from the ape, but is a descendant of Divine Humanity. Our Teacher, H. P. Blavatsky, in her monumental work, the two volumes of The Secret Doctrine, not only traces the eventful story of ancient Aryavarta, but going still further back unveils for us the age when the Mind-Born Sons of Prajapati, the great Brahma, incarnated bodily on earth and taught the arts and sciences to early child-humanity. Theosophy is that Primeval Wisdom-Religion taught by the Divine Ancestors, the Manasa-putras and the Agnishwatta Pitris of the Puranas. The early Teachers of humanity were the Devarishis, the Brahmarishis, and the Rajarishis of Hindu lore.
The direct return to that Primeval Wisdom is possible in this cycle when the first five thousand years of the Kali Yuga are behind us. Our world has become international, and is on its way to becoming cosmopolitan: that internationalism is superficial, and the real cosmopolitan spirit cannot be born of modern knowledge. A unifying force is necessary and Wisdom alone can bring to birth a United World.
This Primeval Wisdom-Religion has, and always has had, two divisions: the Exoteric and the Esoteric. Using Indian terminology, the Exoteric is represented by the Shaddarshanas, the Six Schools, each of which offers but one point of view. The Esoteric is the seventh point of view. The Six Schools are like the six cardinal points of East, West, South, North, Zenith, and Nadir; the seventh is the Centre of the six-sided cube, and is known as Brahma-Vidya or Gupta-Vidya, the hidden or esoteric science.
It is to that seventh view, the synthesized complete view, that Theosophy calls us. But this seventh view is not only Aryan. In the past, distant and near, much of the Primeval Wisdom-Religion was taught in other lands – among the peoples who originally lived on the continent which now we call the North, Central, and South Americas; in Greece by Pythagoras and Plato; in Judaea by Jesus, the Anointed One; in Alexandria by God-Instructed Ammonius Saccas. Hence, while it is true that Aryan India possesses in a very full measure this Primeval Theosophy, we must not overlook the Sufi mystics of Arabia, or Iran, the land of the Zarathushtras, or, in more recent times, such Europeans as Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme, Claude de St. Martin, the Comte de St. Germain, and others, who lit their torches of Wisdom at the Fire kindled by Tsong-kha-pa in Tibet.
The modern presentation of Theosophy, exoteric and esoteric, is to be found in the recorded Message of H. P. Blavatsky. That much-maligned, lion-hearted spiritual lady should not be judged by you on hearsay; on what others – friends and followers or enemies and strangers – think of her.
Nor should her Teaching be appraised by reading the many interpretations and commentaries made after her death by those claiming to be her students. Many are the false and fantastic notions that have circulated under the name of Theosophy, and at the outset a sincere seeker must distinguish between the Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky and the speculative theories of pseudo-theosophy.
If you want to judge of the Teachings of Jesus you must go to His Sermon on the Mount; you cannot expect to learn of His exalted code of ethics by listening to the various preachers of the many Christian denominations, or by examining the mode of life adopted by those who call themselves His followers. Similarly, if you wish to know the doctrine expounded by Shri-Krishna, it is useless to go to the numerous commentaries on the Bhagavad-Gita. It is best and wisest to go directly to the Gita itself.
And likewise, if you really wish to know what the Teachings of Theosophy are, you must go to the original source, to the books written by the founder of the present Theosophical Movement, that is, to the books and writings of H.P. Blavatsky. “From the Teaching to the Teacher.” It is only through a study of her own books that you can judge of Madame Blavatsky as a teacher.
And what are her books? They are four in number. First, Isis Unveiled, in two volumes, which shows what is wrong in theology, in science, and in spiritism, while it offers the explanations of abnormal psychical and psychological phenomena. Second, The Secret Doctrine, also in two volumes, which gives in constructive form an account of cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis. Third, The Key to Theosophy, which answers all enquiries likely to occur to any of you, and in a simple form outlines the synthesis of science, philosophy, and religion which Theosophy is. Last, but not the least, The Voice of the Silence, a small book, smaller even than the Gita, dedicated to the few – a book which enables the aspirant to the Higher Life to begin his arduous labours. The Way to Theosophic Life is enshrined in it.
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