Founded in New York City in 1875 by Russian-born spiritual seeker and student of ancient wisdom Helena Blavatsky, theosophy is not a religion but a philosophical approach to religious belief that draws on a wide range of spiritual doctrines, including those of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sufism. One of its central beliefs is that there is some aspect of the truth found in every religion.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, theosophy is a system that "bases the knowledge of nature upon that of the divine nature." When Blavatsky and others formed the Theosophical Society, three key principles underpinned the organization's aims: to form a universal brotherhood that included everyone irrespective of gender, race or religion; to provide a forum for the comparative study of religion, philosophy and science; and to research the unexplained elements of the natural world and hidden human powers, such as telepathy. Theosophical beliefs tend to blend ideas about man, nature and the spiritual realms from various traditions in order to provide a universal philosophy that appeals to anyone who wants to go beyond the limitations of following only one spiritual path.
Universal Laws and a Higher Self
According to theosophy, nothing in the world happens by chance. Everything that occurs in the world or in a person's life is determined by universal laws, such as karma. Theosophists also believe that every person has a 'higher self' that is immortal and eternal; they also believe that many people are unaware of this higher spiritual aspect of their being, and that the lower aspects of the self end at death, such as the physical body and the mind.
Reincarnation is another important theosophical belief that plays an important role in human evolution, for example, through a series of lives in plant, mineral and animal forms before manifesting in the human form. However, compared with the reincarnation beliefs of some Buddhists and Hindus, theosophists don't agree that once a higher self or soul has manifested in human form that it can ever return to what is considered a lower form, such as animal or plant. They also believe that humans are only the current highest form of life on the planet and that further evolutionary stages in the physical manifestation of the higher self are yet to come.
Karma and Universality
Theosophy teaches that the key to a person freeing himself from the effects of negative karma is by performing dharma — good works — for every living thing, a concept from both Buddhism and Hinduism. Following the as you sow, so shall you reap thinking, theosophists hold that the laws of the universe determine the results of each person's actions. Theosophists believe that every living thing, whether it is human, animal, plant or mineral is connected in one universal, single life, which they call radical unity. They also believe that planets, galaxies and other parts of space have consciousness and an evolutionary path.
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