What Does Theosophy Say About God?

Theosophy on God


“To say that the ABSOLUTE CONSCIOUSNESS is Unconscious of its consciousness, hence to the limited intellect of man must be “ABSOLUTE UNCONSCIOUSNESS,” seems like speaking of a square triangle. . . . We will then prove, perhaps, to the satisfaction of the non-prejudiced that the Absolute, or the Unconditioned, and (especially) the unrelated is a mere fanciful abstraction, a fiction, unless we view it from the standpoint and in the light of the more educated pantheist. To do so, we will have to regard the “Absolute” merely as the aggregate of all intelligences, the totality of all existences, incapable of manifesting itself but through the interrelationship of its parts, as It is absolutely uncognizable and non-existent outside its phenomena, and depends entirely on its ever-correlating Forces, dependent in their turn on the ONE Great Law.”

~ H. P. Blavatsky, “The Universe in a Nutshell” ~

Below are a number of statements which help to provide insight and explanation into what Theosophy has to say on the subject of God. It will be seen that the term “God” is generally rejected in Theosophy – as is any notion of an anthropomorphic, personal, or semi-personal God – but that the Divine Itself is never denied but insistently and emphatically affirmed to be the One and Only Reality, the One Life everywhere and in everything, and the True Self of each and all.

For those who may wish to further explore the philosophical basis which underlies the Theosophical teachings on these matters, the articles The “God” Question and The Impersonal Divine are both recommended to be read together.

There is a tendency on the part of some Theosophists to entirely demonise the word “God,” so that even fellow Theosophists who might happen to sometimes use the word “God” when speaking of the impersonal Absolute may get branded as “untheosophical.” But that censorious attitude itself is what is untheosophical. While it’s true that the “God” word is indeed only rarely used for the Absolute, or for the Logos, in the authentic Theosophical literature, the fact remains that it is sometimes used, including, for example, throughout H. P. Blavatsky’s first book “Isis Unveiled” and particularly in some of the writings of her closest colleague William Q. Judge.

Even after HPB expressed regret that she’d used the term “God” so much in “Isis Unveiled,” she still occasionally did so throughout the remainder of her life. What is most important for us as students of Theosophy is to understand the metaphysical principles and philosophical concepts, rather than develop a reactive aversion to certain words. Besides which, Theosophists appreciate such sacred texts as the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, and the word “God” often appears throughout English translations of those. However, even if some of us who are not yet Adepts may still sometimes use the “God” word, it cannot be denied – for it is demonstrated below – that for the Adepts (the Trans-Himalayan and Tibetan ones, at least) there is no God, for what imperfect human language calls “God” the Adepts see and understand in Its bare, unconditioned REALITY.

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“The high Initiates and Adepts . . . believe in “gods” and know no “God,” but one Universal unrelated and unconditioned Deity.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 295)

“Deity is not God. It is NOTHING, and DARKNESS. It is nameless, and therefore called Ain-Soph – “the word Ayin meaning nothing.”” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 350)

“The Parabrahm of the Vedantins is the Deity we accept and believe in.” (HPB, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 222)

“Parabrahm is not “God.”” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 6)

“It is to avoid such anthropomorphic conceptions that the Initiates never use the epithet “God” to designate the One and Secondless Principle in the Universe.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 555)

“The idea of God and Devil would make any chela of six months smile in pity. Theosophists do not believe either in the one or in the other. They believe in the Great ALL, in Sati.e., absolute and infinite existence, unique and with nothing like unto it, which is neither a Being nor an anthropomorphic creature, which is, and can never not be.” (HPB, “Misconceptions” from “Theosophy: Some Rare Perspectives” p. 12)

“Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of all in one whose pronoun necessitates a capital H. . . . Our doctrine knows no compromises. It either affirms or denies, for it never teaches but that which it knows to be the truth. Therefore, we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists. . . . we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal. Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law . . . we are in a position to maintain there is no God . . . The idea of God is not an innate but an acquired notion, and we have but one thing in common with theologies – we reveal the infinite.” (Mahatma K.H.)

[NOTE: It is worth pointing out here that while the above quotations may be said to be true as regards the Initiates, Adepts, or Masters of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, they do not apply to all the Masters within the entirety of the Great (worldwide) Brotherhood of Masters of Wisdom. The Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, adhering to the real Esoteric Buddhism, is – like all Buddhists – distinctly non-theistic in its approach, avoiding any identification of the Ultimate Reality with the term “God.” This is the Brotherhood of Masters most directly and closely involved with H. P. Blavatsky and the modern Theosophical Movement. But it would be incorrect for us to imply that this applies to all the Masters. This is evidenced, for example, by letters from the Master Serapis (apparently associated with the Egyptian branch of the Brotherhood) to Colonel Olcott in the 1870s, which often include such expressions as “God’s blessing upon thee, Brother mine,” “May the benediction of Truth and the Divine Presence of Him the Inscrutable be upon thee,” “God lead thee, Brother mine, and may He crown thy noble efforts with success,” etc. Wording used by this Master suggests that he and his associates preferred a sort of Kabbalistic and Gnostic approach to esoteric Truth. This does not make them any the less true Masters than those of the Trans-Himalayan Lodge. Provided that the teachings are in essence the same, differences in language and even the use of pronouns are largely superficial.]

“The INFINITE cannot be known to our reason, which can only distinguish and define; – but we can always conceive the abstract idea thereof, thanks to that faculty higher than our reason, – intuition, or the spiritual instinct of which I have spoken. Only the great initiates, who have the rare power of throwing themselves into the state of Samadhi, – which can be but imperfectly translated by the word ecstacy, a state in which one ceases to be the conditioned and personal “I,” and becomes one with the ALL, – only those can boast of having been in contact with the infinite: but no more than other mortals can they describe that state in words.” (HPB, “Le Phare de L’Inconnu” or “The Beacon-Light of the Unknown” from “H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles” Vol. 1, p. 432-433 and HPB Pamphlet #33 “Transcendental Theosophy”)

“This ONE SELF, absolute intelligence and existence, therefore non-intelligence and non-existence (to the finite and conditioned perception of man), is “impartite, beyond the range of speech and thought and is the substract of all” teaches Vedantasara in its introductory Stanza.

“How, then, can the Infinite and the Boundless, the unconditioned and the absolute, be of any size? . . . To the (philosophically) trained Pantheist, the abstraction, or the noumenon, is the ever to be unknown Deity, the one eternal reality, formless, because homogeneous and impartite; boundless, because Omnipresent – as otherwise it would only be a contradiction in ideas not only in terms; . . .

“Theosophy objects to the masculine pronoun used in connection with the Self-existent Cause, or Deity. It says IT – inasmuch as that “cause” the rootless root of all – is neither male, female, nor anything to which an attribute – something always conditioned, finite, and limited – can be applied. The confession made by our esteemed correspondent that he “cannot think of anything of nature, Spirit (!) Soul or God (!!) without the ideas of size, form, number, and relation,” is a living example of the sad spirit of anthropomorphism in this age of ours. It is this theological and dogmatic anthropomorphism which has begotten and is the legitimate parent of materialism.” (HPB, “Theosophical Articles and Notes” p. 196-197)

“To render these ideas clearer to the general reader, let him set out with the postulate that there is one absolute Reality which antecedes all manifested, conditioned, being. This Infinite and Eternal Cause – dimly formulated in the “Unconscious” and “Unknowable” of current European philosophy – is the rootless root of “all that was, is, or ever shall be.” It is of course devoid of all attributes and is essentially without any relation to manifested, finite Being. It is “Be-ness” rather than Being (in Sanskrit, Sat), and is beyond all thought or speculation.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 14)

“We believe in a Universal Divine Principle, the root of ALL, from which all proceeds, and within which all shall be absorbed at the end of the great cycle of Being.” (HPB, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 63)

“For to be one [i.e. a Theosophist], one need not necessarily recognize the existence of any special God or a deity. One need but worship the spirit of living nature, and try to identify oneself with it. To revere that Presence, the invisible Cause, which is yet ever manifesting itself in its incessant results; the intangible, omnipotent, and omnipresent Proteus: indivisible in its Essence, and eluding form, yet appearing under all and every form; who is here and there, and everywhere and nowhere; is ALL, and NOTHING; ubiquitous yet one; the Essence filling, binding, bounding, containing everything, contained in all. . . . Be what he may, once that a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought – Godward – he is a Theosophist; an original thinker, a seeker after the eternal truth with “an inspiration of his own” to solve the universal problems.

“With every man that is earnestly searching in his own way after a knowledge of the Divine Principle, of man’s relations to it, and nature’s manifestations of it, Theosophy is allied.” (HPB, “What are the Theosophists?” from “H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles” Vol. 1, p. 51-52 and HPB Pamphlet #3 “Basic Questions about Theosophy”)

“As to the Absolute Essence, the One and all – whether we accept the Greek Pythagorean, the Chaldean Kabalistic, or the Aryan philosophy in regard to it, it will lead to one and the same result. The Primeval Monad of the Pythagorean system, which retires into darkness and is itself Darkness (for human intellect) was made the basis of all things; and we can find the idea in all its integrity in the philosophical systems of Leibnitz and Spinoza. Therefore, whether a Theosophist agrees with the Kabala which, speaking of En-Soph propounds the query: “Who, then, can comprehend It since It is formless, and Non-existent?” – or, remembering that magnificent hymn from the Rig-Veda (Hymn 129th, Book 10th) – enquires:

“Who knows from whence this great creation sprang?

“Whether his will created or was mute.

“He knows it – or perchance even He knows not;”

“or again, accepts the Vedantic conception of Brahma [i.e. Brahman, not Brahmā], who in the Upanishads is represented as “without life, without mind, pure,” unconscious, for – Brahma is “Absolute Consciousness”; or, even finally, siding with the Svabhavikas of Nepaul, maintains that nothing exists but “Svabhavat” (substance or nature) which exists by itself without any creator; any one of the above conceptions can lead but to pure and absolute Theosophy – that Theosophy which prompted such men as Hegel, Fichte and Spinoza to take up the labors of the old Grecian philosophers and speculate upon the One Substance – the Deity, the Divine All proceeding from the Divine Wisdom – incomprehensible, unknown and unnamed – by any ancient or modern religious philosophy, with the exception of Christianity and Mohammedanism. Every Theosophist, then, holding to a theory of the Deity “which has not revelation, but an inspiration of his own for its basis,” may accept any of the above definitions or belong to any of these religions, and yet remain strictly within the boundaries of Theosophy. For the latter is belief in the Deity as the ALL, the source of all existence, the infinite that cannot be either comprehended or known, the universe alone revealing It, or, as some prefer it, Him, thus giving a sex to that, to anthropomorphize which is blasphemy. True, Theosophy shrinks from brutal materialization; it prefers believing that, from eternity retired within itself, the Spirit of the Deity neither wills nor creates; but that, from the infinite effulgency everywhere going forth from the Great Centre, that which produces all visible and invisible things, is but a Ray containing in itself the generative and conceptive power, which, in its turn, produces that which the Greeks called Macrocosm, the Kabalists Tikkun or Adam Kadmon – the archetypal man, and the Aryans Purusha, the manifested Brahm, or the Divine Male.” (HPB, “What is Theosophy?” from “H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles” Vol. 1, p. 42-43 and HPB Pamphlet #3 “Basic Questions about Theosophy”)

“En-Soph, the unrevealed forever, who is boundless and unconditioned, cannot create, and therefore it seems to us a great error to attribute to him a “creative thought,” as is commonly done by the interpreters. In every cosmogony this supreme Essence is passive; if boundless, infinite, and unconditioned, it can have no thought nor idea. It acts not as the result of volition, but in obedience to its own nature, and according to the fatality of the law of which it is itself the embodiment.” (HPB, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 2, p. 212-213)

“It is idle to speak of “laws arising when Deity prepares to create” for (a) laws or rather LAW is eternal and uncreated; and (b) that Deity is Law, and vice versa.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 152)

“That which is infinite and unconditioned can have no form, and cannot be a being, not in any Eastern philosophy worthy of the name, at any rate. . . . Will you bind the infinitude you claim for your God to finite conditions?” (HPB, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 107)

Real Theosophy – i.e., the Theosophy that comes to us from the East – is assuredly Pantheism and by no means Theism. Theosophy is a word of the widest possible meaning which differs greatly in Eastern and Western literature. Moreover, the Theosophical Society being of Eastern origin, therefore goes beyond the narrow limits of the mediaeval Theosophy of the West. Members of the T. S. can, therefore, subscribe to this Western idea of Theosophy. But as the vast majority of these members accept the Eastern ideas, this majority has given us the right of applying the term Theosophist only to those members who do not believe in a “personal” God. Therefore, again, it would be better, in order to avoid confusion, that a member believing in such a God should qualify the term “Theosophist” by the adjective “Western.”” (HPB, “Theosophical Articles and Notes” p. 205-206)

“We reject the idea of a personal, or an extra-cosmic and anthropomorphic God, who is but the gigantic shadow of man, and not of man at his best, either. The God of theology, we say – and prove it – is a bundle of contradictions and a logical impossibility. Therefore, we will have nothing to do with him. . . . if infinite – i.e., limitless – and especially if absolute, how can he have a form, and be a creator of anything? Form implies limitation, and a beginning as well as an end; and, in order to create, a Being must think and plan. How can the ABSOLUTE be supposed to think – i.e., to have any relation whatever to that which is limited, finite, and conditioned? This is a philosophical, and a logical absurdity. Even the Hebrew Kabala rejects such an idea, and therefore, makes of the one and the Absolute Deific Principle an infinite Unity called Ain-Soph. In order to create, the Creator has to become active; and as this is impossible for ABSOLUTENESS, the infinite principle had to be shown becoming the cause of evolution (not creation) in an indirect way . . . It is an eternal and periodical law which causes an active and creative force (the logos) to emanate from the ever-concealed and incomprehensible one principle at the beginning of every maha-manvantara, or new cycle of life.” (HPB, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 61, 62)

“It is quite true that the origin of every religion is based on the dual powers, male and female, of abstract Nature, but these in their turn were the radiations or emanations of the sexless, infinite, absolute Principle, the only One to be worshipped in spirit and not with rites; whose immutable laws no words of prayer or propitiation can change, and whose sunny or shadowy, beneficent or maleficent influence, grace or curse, under the form of Karma, can be determined only by the actions – not by the empty supplications – of the devotee. This was the religion, the One Faith of the whole of primitive humanity, and was that of the “Sons of God,” the B’ne Elohim of old.” (HPB, “Buddhism, Christianity and Phallicism” from “H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles” Vol. 3, p. 33 and HPB Pamphlet #34 “Theosophy and the Western Mind”)

“Mr. Sinnett and Hume are exceptions. Their beliefs are no barriers to us, for they have none. They may have bad influences around them, bad magnetic emanations, the result of drink, society, and promiscuous physical associations (resulting even from shaking hands with impure men), but all this is physical and material impediments which with a little effort we could counteract, and even clear away, without much detriment to ourselves. Not so with the magnetic and invisible results proceeding from erroneous and sincere beliefs. Faith in the gods or god and other superstition attracts millions of foreign influences, living entities and powerful Agents round them, with which we would have to use more than ordinary exercise of power to drive them away. We do not choose to do so. We do not find it either necessary or profitable to lose our time waging war on the unprogressed planetaries who delight in personating gods and sometimes well-known characters who have lived on earth. There are Dhyan Chohans and Chohans of darkness. Not what they term devils, but imperfect intelligences.” (Master M., The “Prayag Letter,” published in “A Mahatma’s Message To Some Brahmans”; from “William Q. Judge Theosophical Articles” Vol. 2, p. 321)

“When, years ago, we first travelled over the East, exploring the penetralia of its deserted sanctuaries, two saddening and ever-recurring questions oppressed our thoughts: WhereWHOWHAT is GOD? Who ever saw the IMMORTAL SPIRIT of man, so as to be able to assure himself of man’s immortality?

“It was while most anxious to solve these perplexing problems that we came into contact with certain men, endowed with such mysterious powers and such profound knowledge that we may truly designate them as the sages of the Orient. To their instructions we lent a ready ear. They showed us that by combining science with religion, the existence of God and immortality of man’s spirit may be demonstrated like a problem of Euclid. For the first time we received the assurance that the Oriental philosophy has room for no other faith than an absolute and immovable faith in the omnipotence of man’s own immortal self. We were taught that this omnipotence comes from the kinship of man’s spirit with the Universal Soul – God! The latter, they said, can never be demonstrated but by the former. Man-spirit proves God-spirit, as the one drop of water proves a source from which it must have come. Tell one who had never seen water, that there is an ocean of water, and he must accept it on faith or reject it altogether. But let one drop fall upon his hand, and he then has the fact from which all the rest may be inferred. After that he could by degrees understand that a boundless and fathomless ocean of water existed. Blind faith would no longer be necessary; he would have supplanted it with KNOWLEDGE. When one sees mortal man displaying tremendous capabilities, controlling the forces of nature and opening up to view the world of spirit, the reflective mind is overwhelmed with the conviction that if one man’s spiritual Ego can do this much, the capabilities of the FATHER SPIRIT must be relatively as much vaster as the whole ocean surpasses the single drop in volume and potency. Ex nihilo nihil fit [i.e. “nothing comes from nothing”]; prove the soul of man by its wondrous powers – you have proved God!” (HPB, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 1, Preface, p. vi)

“. . . in Isis Unveiled . . . If I erred in making too little distinction between an Impersonal God, or Parabrahm, and a Personal God, I scarcely went to the length of confounding the one with the other completely. . . . A sceptic in my early life, I had sought and obtained through the Masters the full assurance of the existence of a principle (not Personal God) – “a boundless and fathomless ocean” of which my “soul” was a drop. Like the Adwaitis, I made no difference between my Seventh Principle [i.e. Atma or Atman] and the Universal Spirit, or Parabrahm; nor did, or do I believe in an individual, segregated spirit in me, as a something apart from the whole. . . . My mistake was that throughout the whole work I indifferently employed the words Parabrahm and God to express the same idea: a venial sin surely, when one knows that the English language is so poor that even at this moment I am using the Sanskrit word to express one idea and the English one for the other!” (HPB, “Isis Unveiled and The Visishtadwaita” from “H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles” Vol. 3, p. 264-265 and HPB Pamphlet #32 “Kabalah and Kabalism”)

Atman or the “Higher Self” is really Brahman, the ABSOLUTE, and indistinguishable from it.” (HPB, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 174)

“The infinite cannot associate with the finite; the unconditioned ignores the conditioned and the limited. The absolute “Intelligence-Wisdom” cannot act in the restricted space of a small globe. It is omnipresent and latent in the Kosmos, infinite as itself. We find its only truly active manifestation in humanity as a whole, composed as it is of stray sparks, finite in their objective duration, eternal in their essence, issuing from that Hearth without beginning or end. Therefore, the only God whom we should serve is Humanity, and our only cult should be the love of our fellow man. Doing evil towards him, we wound God and make him suffer. When we deny our brotherly duties and refuse to consider a pagan as well as a European as our brother, we deny God. This is our religion and our dogmas.” (HPB, “Misconceptions” from “Theosophy: Some Rare Perspectives” p. 21)

~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~

“Cognition of the Absolute must, by its inherent nature, only be possible owing to that core in us which itself is unconditional and capable of conceiving to the point where we transcend the limits of conceiving. . . . It is only by developing a taste for silence in sound, for the unmanifest within the manifest, for the unspoken within the spoken, the unrecorded within a world of frail and fugitive and often false recordings – that we come closer to the heartbeat that makes us human. The Absolute is characterized as the Sacred Heart of all existence because, although it is ever-present, it is at the same time unfathomable by thought or speech. It is closer to us than anything we can ever say or think, just as there is nothing more fundamental than the beating of the heart, and there is nothing around us that is more palpable, if only we would listen, than the beating of the cosmic heart.”
(Raghavan Iyer, “The Self-Existent,” “The Gupta Vidya” Vol. 1)

SOME RELATED ARTICLES: The “God” Question, The Impersonal Divine, Atman – The Higher Self, Understanding The Logos, The Three Logoi, The Secret of Daiviprakriti – The Light of The LogosParabrahm, Brahman, and Brahma – Why The Confusion?, Theosophy – An Explanation and Overview, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, Original Theosophy and Later Versions, Why does Theosophy deny the Miraculous and Supernatural?, Is Theosophy a Religion?, Theosophy Generally Stated, Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?, Praise for H. P. Blavatsky and Theosophy, and Books on Theosophy.