The Campbell Library Newsletter

The Campbell Theosophical Research Library

An Educational Resource of The Theosophical Society in Australia

No 14 — September 2006

Theosophical Eclecticism

The word ‘eclectic’ derives from the Greek eklego, ‘pick out’. One of the dictionary meanings for it is “selecting one’s beliefs etc. from various sources; attached to no particular school of philosophy.” The collection housed in the Campbell Theosophical Research Library resonates to these ideas. Perhaps one might say that there is even an Alexandrian spirit to the Library, which welcomes to its shelves not just one school of Theosophical thought but many.

In her work The Key to Theosophy (1889), Madame Blavatsky comments on the foundations of Theosophical eclecticism:

ENQUIRER. What is the origin of the name [Theosophy]?

THEOSOPHIST. It comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth, Philaletheians, from phil "loving," and aletheia "truth." The name Theosophy dates from the third century of our era, and began with Ammonius Saccas and his disciples, who started the Eclectic Theosophical system.

ENQUIRER. What was the object of this system?

THEOSOPHIST. First of all to inculcate certain great moral truths upon its disciples, and all those who were "lovers of the truth." Hence the motto adopted by the Theosophical Society: "There is no religion higher than truth." The chief aim of the Founders of the Eclectic Theosophical School was one of the three objects of its modern successor, the Theosophical Society, namely, to reconcile all religions, sects and nations under a common system of ethics, based on eternal verities.

Although historical developments helped to create different ‘schools’ of Theosophical thought, they seem to share in their specific approaches some core ideas that have survived differences of opinion: the unity of all life, the cyclic order of the universe and the essential identity between the human consciousness and universal intelligence.

The very nature of the Theosophical teaching is eclectic because it consists of what is at the very core of religious, philosophical and spiritual traditions. Theosophy, as N. Sri Ram once pointed out, is a comprehensive synthesis. And as a tool to explore such eclectic Wisdom teachings we follow a policy of freedom of thought, which states that “there is no doctrine, no opinion, by whomsoever taught or held, that is in any way binding on any member of the Society, none which any member is not free to accept or reject.”

By making available to students and researchers a representative collection of literature, we hope to continue to work in the direction of Theosophical Eclecticism as suggested by our Founders.

From our eclectic bookshelves:

The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky (two volumes, originally published in 1888)

Widely recognised as the source-text of modern Theosophy, this work bears as its subtitle ‘The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy’. It consists of two volumes, the first on Cosmogenesis and the second on Anthropogenesis. The author states in the Preface that “the aim of this work may be thus stated: to show that Nature is not "a fortuitous concurrence of atoms," and to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the Universe; to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of all religions; and to uncover, to some extent, the fundamental unity from which they all spring; finally, to show that the occult side of Nature has never been approached by the Science of modern civilization.”

The Ocean of Theosophy by William Q. Judge (originally published in 1893)

A concise and clear exposition of Theosophical doctrines by one of the founding members of the Theosophical Society. As the author states in the Preface, “an attempt has been made in the pages of this book to write of Theosophy in such a manner as to be understood by the ordinary reader. Bold statements are made in it upon the knowledge of the writer, but at the same time it is to be distinctly understood that he alone is responsible for what is therein written.”

A Study in Consciousness by Annie Besant (originally published in 1907)

The author states in her Foreword that “this book is intended as an aid to students in their study of the growth and development of consciousness, offering hints and suggestions which may prove serviceable to them. It does not pretend to be a complete exposition, but rather, as its subtitle states, a contribution to the science of psychology.”

First Principles of Theosophy by C. Jinarajadasa (originally published in 1921)

“This book”, says the author, “is the result of a series of lectures delivered in Chicago in 1909. An attempt was then made to expound Theosophy to large audiences with the help of diagrams.” In his Introduction he says that “Theosophy is the wisdom arising from the study of the evolution of life and form. This wisdom already exists, because the study has been pursued for long ages by properly equipped investigators into nature’s mysteries.”

The Chakras by C. W. Leadbeater (originally published in 1927)

A study of the force-centres known as chakras in Indian yogic tradition and as perceived by the author’s clairvoyant observations. It includes colour plates of the different chakras, considerations on the ‘Serpent-Fire’ (kundalini) and the dangers of its premature awakening. An entire chapter is devoted to a study of Laya Yoga.

The Esoteric Tradition by G. de Purucker (two volumes, originally published in 1935)

“Every Theosophical book must stand on its own ground of merit, and if it have demerit greater than its merit, by that demerit it will fall — and the sooner it falls the better for all concerned.” This is stated by the author in his note ‘To the Reader.’ This book is an in depth exploration of core theosophical teachings by an admired exponent of the Theosophical tradition.

Life’s Deeper Aspects by N. Sri Ram (originally published in 1968)

Chapters include ‘Life, Death and Immortality’, ‘Activity of the Mind’, ‘Newness in Oneself’ and ‘The Significance of Each Present Moment’, among others. The author explores the philosophical — and practical — implications of Theosophical principles.

This Newsletter is published in March, June, September and November. Editor: Pedro Oliveira

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