Malakhov P. - Unity and diversity of theosophists

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Unity and diversity of theosophists[1]

by Pavel Malakhov

People are different.

And yet all the difference in them is united by a notion “a human being”.

Theosophists, being ordinary people, belong to different systems of beliefs, divide into different groups, get influenced by different contradictions, follow different gurus, live in different countries, speak different languages but nevertheless they are all united in their aspiration toward theosophy.

H. P. Blavatsky emphasized this feature of theosophical movement many times. For example, in The Key to Theosophy we read:

“While from the very nature of their position as Theosophists the members of the T. S. are agreed on the principles of Theosophy, or they would not belong to the society at all, it does not thereby follow that they agree on every other subject. As a society they can only act together in matters which are common to all — that is, in Theosophy itself; as individuals, each is left perfectly free to follow out his or her particular line of political thought and action, so long as this does not conflict with Theosophical principles or hurt the Theosophical Society.”[2]

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky has also urged to overcome all contradictions in outlook and widen our way of thinking by letting other people to express the truth with their own words, symbols and images. She highlighted that the world in its great diversity nevertheless is based on finding the balance or harmony between the contradictions, it is penetrated by the idea of unity, where every phenomenon has its own place in the whole system.

Let us consider several contradictions in order to examine the question of unity and diversity in detail. We will do it from the point of view of the theosophist who is able to see lots of dilemmas but wants sincerely to implement his ideal into life.

Aspiration to ideal and tolerance to imperfections

The theosophy teaching is the teaching of high ethic. It is so high that it’s almost unachievable for the majority of us. Let us recall the description of the true theosophists, which H. P. Blavatsky gives in response to a question whether those, who are engaged in esoteric studying of theosophy can be recognized as such:

“Not necessarily, until they have proven themselves to be such. They have entered the inner group and pledged themselves to carry out, as strictly as they can, the rules of the occult body. This is a difficult undertaking, as the foremost rule of all is the entire renunciation of one's personality―i. e., a pledged member has to become a thorough altruist, never to think of himself, and to forget his own vanity and pride in the thought of the good of his fellow-creatures, besides that of his fellow-brothers in the esoteric circle. He has to live, if the esoteric instructions shall profit him, a life of abstinence in everything, of self-denial and strict morality, doing his duty by all men.”[3]

But such a strong requirement should not oppress us. On the contrary it shows the way to become better, it serves as a beacon which guides us in our spiritual journey, and the fact that we have not reached our ideal yet should give us the strength to practice tolerance to other people.

So, if we have created an ideal in our imagination which we want to reach and if we have realized the value of tolerance, we thereby have stepped on a path of spiritual self-improvement. There are many realizations of such a path, and in fact the number is equal to number of people steps on it, because the nature doesn't repeat itself. As there are no two identical grains of sand in boundless dunes of deserts, so there are no two identical ways of persons' evolution also. But all these numerous ways lead to the universal divine source, where every person has originated from before becoming a human, and where everyone will eventually returns having passed a human stage of evolution.

What is the spiritual path of self-development? Isn’t it an improvement of our inner nature in order to be able to perceive the highest ideas and vibrations? Because of the upward spiritual evolution of consciousness a human-being conceives more subtle laws of the highest levels of the Universe, more subtle types of matter, more abstract ideas, reaching eventually the Plane of the Uniform Element (as for a matter) and merging the individual mind or Manas with Uniform Mind or Mahat.

Our will gives the strength for the improvement and the tolerance provides the movement by expanding our consciousness firstly by admitting other person's opinion, and later by inclusion of such opinions in own outlook. In fact on the way to the Universal Oneness only the assimilation is possible. Any disagreements, quarrels, and rejections misguide us making our way longer.

Independent opinion and recognition of an authority

The independent opinion of a person is a consequence of a free will possession. The need of the recognition of an authority follows the comprehension of endless evolution process and (as a result of it) the existence of much more skilled and wiser people who have begun their way long before us.

As we reach some knowledge the haughty and the condescending manner may appear towards someone who doesn't possess it yet (in our opinion). We accept the existence of people surpassing us in evolutionary development, we adopt karma and transformation laws, but in spite of these facts the egoism sometimes doesn't allow us to assume that the one who is considered to be on the lower position than we are could be more spiritually advanced in comparison with us. This might not be obvious for us because that person could be younger or has not had an opportunity to show himself, or he is modest or careful, but most likely, it is just too difficult for us to admit in other people the qualities surpassing us.

It may seem that when we acknowledge the other person’s opinion we turn down from our own or even betray it. In such a case we show our ignorance, i.e. our selfness which thinks that we are more competent than others. Such self-admiration over self-superiority acts as a brake to our development, bounds it and thus does not help to widen our consciousness.

However, the one who has chosen a spiritual path should possess the ability to learn new things.

We often wait for our guru to speak directly to us, we expect him to confirm his status every time otherwise we will challenge his knowledge and spiritual experience. We often forget that a direct guiding is a very high level in training at which a student has already got rid of his flaws. Mostly the process of acquiring spiritual knowledge goes indirectly – every day we become involved into various situations, we communicate with people who differ from us. The ability to prove gained knowledge, to progress in it is being given every moment of our life. Every person we meet is a valuable source of something new and unknown. Not only a man but every event or even natural phenomenon could become our teacher. We need to learn to recognize and accept such worldly teachers before we will be worthy to meet personally our spiritual teacher or guru. To do that we ought to acquire a habit of being patient in order to transform this trait into tolerance and then tolerance into sympathy, latter into compassion to achieve the final goal of the true Brotherhood.

Equality of a brotherhood and hierarchic subordination

Those who posses theosophical outlook (no matter how they call themselves) are always inspired by the idea of global unity and an all-human brotherhood.

The brotherhood is a three-dimensional concept, it doesn't approve identity of one person to another in their rights or opportunities or in any other parameters, unless in potentiality. Considering the fact that every human-being is a unique creature, the brotherhood joins together people of the same intelligence (so-called horizontal relationship or basis) and so people of different intellectual capacity and background (vertical relationship). Those who have achieved higher levels in the evolutionary process help the younger brothers and sisters rise their level of consciousness, the latter in return give to the first an opportunity to strengthen their spiritual traits through the practice of compassion, beneficence and sacrifice. Having in mind horizontal and vertical basis of brotherhood we may speak about one more important characteristic of it – its depth. The depth indicates a relationship quality, its reliability.

Thus, we see that the concepts of "equality" and "hierarchy" are easily fit into the concept of "brotherhood". Certainly, when the talk comes to hierarchic subordination the question may arise: “Whether some person or organization is a link of hierarchical chain?” It is a natural question for the person whose opinion is not prejudiced, but there is more fair and necessary question: "Whether I can consider MYSELF as such a link? Am I worthy?"

To answer this question honestly we have to understand that a link in a chain is not the top of it. It is a matter of some median position where all the other links joined in a unit with many elements before and behind it. The main point here is to admit the next element in a hierarchic chain as superior, for it defines our following step.

We often strive for the highest ideal, considering everything below as unworthy for our attention, but a human way has to be passed by the human feet! And people beside us are those who help us to take sequentially these quite certain small human steps. Before we begin to communicate with our heavenly teacher, we have to recognize earthy ones, and to recognize them in all people around. That recognition may become a demonstration of the Brotherhood in our everyday life.

An independent theosophist and The Theosophical Society

The Theosophical Society is an attempt to realize the idea of the Universal Brotherhood in the world of forms, restrictions, various divisions and classifications. That is how H.P.Blavatsky says about it in “The Key to Theosophy”:

“The Society can be regarded as the embodiment of Theosophy only in its abstract motives; it can never presume to call itself its concrete vehicle so long as human imperfections and weaknesses are all represented in its body... Theosophy is divine nature, visible and invisible, and its Society human nature trying to ascend to its divine parent. … It was formed to assist in showing to men that such a thing as Theosophy exists, and to help them to ascend towards it by studying and assimilating its eternal verities.”

“...It is simply the storehouse of all the truths uttered by the great seers, initiates, and prophets of historic and even pre-historic ages; at least, as many as it can get. Therefore, it is merely the channel through which more or less of truth, found in the accumulated utterances of humanity's great teachers, is poured out into the world.”[4]

Every social structure has vitality of the impulse which was given by its founders. T.S. was founded by chelas of Mahatmas under their protection and therefore it has sufficient margin of safety and stability, at least until its members conduct the ideas that high inspirers gave them.

For the ones who does not want to become a TS member for some reason, we can answer that a membership is not the end in itself, but practical attempt to make the contribution to formation of the Universal Brotherhood. Some of those who are not willing to become a TS member think that they can create the organization without the flaws they found in TS. But any society is formed by people, and they are imperfect. It would be great if these people will be able to show an example of brotherhood with long and productive group work. But the problem is that the hidden reason of such unwillingness to become a member of any society is the unwillingness to unite with others. It is much simpler for a person to remain alone, because in case of collaboration with others, the conflicts will arise undoubtedly. And to overcome them a great internal work is has to be done, which could be very difficult and unpleasant.

Should we blame the theosophists not willing to become TS members? No, we really should not.

Should we urge anybody to join our Society? I don't think so.

I just want to draw attention on the fact that on our way to the Universal Brotherhood it is necessary to learn how to unite, how to accept each other, how to forgive, to help. It is necessary to get many useful positive traits which are to be approved in us via practice only. No theoretical studying of this topic will instill such traits.

It is a good practice for every theosophist (with or without TS diplomas) to find common interest with others and unite upon it. Theosophy provides a wide field of activity. It covers the whole area of life. It can be shown in any profession, at any time, in any nation, at any age. It can serve as a core in a set of various beginnings.

We (as TS members) welcome everybody who will decide to join us. But to be honest we have to warn those wishing to join us that the same requirements will be demanded from everybody as we require it from ourselves: to try to correspond to theosophy ideals as close as we can, to be active, positive and (first of all) to try to be tolerant to flaws of each other. Considering these, even the most modest of our contribution will be useful.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the Theosophical Society founder, stated:

“And, as each – the great ones as well as small – have trodden the royal road to knowledge, we listen to all, and take both small and great into our fellowship. For no honest searcher comes back empty-handed, and even he who has enjoyed the least share of popular favor can lay at least his mite upon the one altar of Truth.”[5]


Centripetal and centrifugal forces make a basement of the Universe. These forces direct cohesion and separation of elements. They appear as sympathy and antipathy or friendliness and hostility as for human relationship, and as tolerance and rejection as for knowledge. They make us wish to have our own opinion and to look for like-minded persons at the same time. The world is multifarious because of interaction of these two forces. Each creature in it is unique, nevertheless the law of universal unity is still fair, the law which states that despite a visible variety we are internally one.

Our aspiration to study the variety is a comprehension of the material world, the appeared one, the differentiated one, but the aspiration to study the unity is a comprehension of the spiritual world, the hidden one, the world of the causes.

Theosophy as the integral outlook covers both approaches, but there was a reason why TS founders, giving to the world the most profound knowledge about the Universe and human in it, put the foundation of Universal Brotherhood as the first goal, having placed emphasis on the unification. Obviously, it should be a right time for such an emphasis in current stage of evolution.

There are a lot of people in the world and only a few of them call themselves theosophists, but even such a small group of people looks rather multicolored. It isn't necessary to be a seer to guess that the quantity of tints will only increase in future. So let's make a rainbow out of this diversity, having harmoniously connected our personal uniqueness!


  1. This article is the speech addressed to the all-Russian theosophical conference in Kemerovo in February 2014
  2. H. P. Blavatsky – The Key to Theosophy, section XII
  3. H. P. Blavatsky – The Key to Theosophy, section II
  4. H. P. Blavatsky – The Key to Theosophy, section IV
  5. H. P. Blavatsky – What Are The Theosophists?