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We come now to what is, for us, a most interesting and important and well known part of the work of the mahatmas: the Theosophical Movement. The word "movement" is used here instead of the word "society" for the reason that the Theosophical Society is only one phase of the immense and ancient Theosophical Movement itself. The Theosophical Society dates but from 1875.
Quoting H. P. Blavatsky:
I must tell you that during the last quarter of every hundred years an attempt is made by those "Masters," of whom I have spoken, to help on the spiritual progress of Humanity in a marked and definite way. Towards the close of each century you will invariably find that an outpouring or upheaval of spirituality — or call it mysticism if you prefer — has taken place. Some one or more persons have appeared in the world as their agents, and a greater or less amount of occult knowledge and teaching has been given out. If you care to do so, you can trace these movements back, century by century, as far as our detailed historical records extend. — The Key to Theosophy, p. 306.
Some indication of these different aspects of the Theosophical Movement in each century has already been given in Chapter 3. One interesting chapter in mystical history began in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in the third century a with Ammonius Saccas and the Neoplatonists. It was then that the word theosophy was first applied to the teachings of the secret doctrine or wisdom-religion. H. P. Blavatsky calls Ammonius Saccas "a saintly adept." He seems to have been the first of the public agents of the mahatmas to what we know as Western civilization. (See the opening chapters of The Key to Theosophy for an interesting account of this era and its great theosophists.)
We must remember that in every ancient civilizations the work of the great teachers of the Brotherhood of Compassion was well understood, for all of them had their Mystery schools, and the teachers connected with these had been initiates of the Brotherhood and taught its age-old system of ethics and spiritual science. Unfortunately, in the early years of our Christian Era the Mystery schools in Greece, which had been the chief source of all spiritual light in the antique world around the Mediterranean, had been gradually deteriorating. Their teachers had lapsed from their high calling, becoming faithless to the teachings and were no longer true initiates of the secret doctrine. Among them spiritual self-discipline and selfless devotion to truth and impersonal love had been replaced by love of power and privilege. He who would know the doctrine must first live the life, a fundamental principle of occultism. The influence of these Schools was therefore waning, and a little later in the sixth century AD the last of them was closed in Athens, at the request of its own teachers, by the Emperor Justinian.
After the termination of the Mystery schools the Theosophical Movement was obliged, because of the prevailing religious bigotry of the times, to follow more or less concealed channels, becoming almost completely hidden. From the sixth century to the nineteenth, there was a period of thirteen hundred years during which only a few teachers and some secret societies, such as the true Rosicrucian Order, could be used by the Lodge of mahatmas as their agents to keep the doctrines alive in the Western world. The last of these agents we know of were Count Saint-Germain and the celebrated Cagliostro near the close of the eighteenth century. The latter, who was called by H. P. Blavatsky the "last of the Rosicrucians," made an attempt to found a Mystery school through his work with occult Masonry, but was more or less defeated by the bigotry of his day.
We come now to the founding of the Theosophical Society in New York City in 1875. Ostensibly it was started by H. P. Blavatsky herself, assisted by a group of students whom she drew around her, including Henry Steel Olcott and William Q. Judge. But she has often told us how she was sent to New York by her teachers a little in advance of the opening years of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. She was told by them to start an organization through which could be restated in a form suited to the type of intelligence and to the needs of our modern world the ancient truths of the wisdom-religion. The mahatmas themselves say:
One or two of us [the Brotherhood or Lodge of mahatmas] hoped that the world had so far advanced intellectually, if not intuitionally, that the Occult doctrine might gain an intellectual acceptance, and the impulse given for a new cycle of occult research. . . . We sent her [H. P. Blavatsky] to America . . . and the trial began. — The Mahatma M. in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 263
H. P. Blavatsky tells us:
Orders received from India direct to establish a philosophico-religious Society and choose a name for it — also to choose Olcott. July 1875. — From one of her Scrapbooks, Blavatsky's Collected Writings, 1:
"From India direct" meant in her case but one thing — from the mahatmas.
The evidence showing their work in connection with the founding and progress of the young Theosophical Society can be read in their own letters as published in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. Here the student can find a complete and detailed picture, and also, scattered among these records of their activities are found hints on other lines of work — what we may call their more esoteric lines of spiritual activity behind the scenes of human affairs.
As time went on and H. P. Blavatsky established in 1888-9 with the active help of W. Q. Judge her Esoteric Section, the first step was taken towards the revival of the Mystery schools. As exoteric theosophy for the public brought back to humanity the long forgotten wisdom-religion of the ages, so the renewal of the ancient Mystery schools restored the ethical-scientific study of occultism, and established that study as a living force in the modern world. The old sacred relationship of spiritual teacher and his disciples pledged to live and work for the spiritual welfare of humanity became once more a vital factor in mankind's spiritual education.
Evidence that the mahatmas were behind H. P. Blavatsky's work in establishing the Esoteric Section can be found in abundance in H. P. Blavatsky's Collected Writings.. A brief, comprehensive and interesting account of the history of the modern Theosophical Movement where the above mentioned facts are more fully described can be found also in Charles J. Ryan's H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement.
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