Theosophy and Jnana Yoga: Disdain for Armchair Occultists and Intellect
The Theosophical system is essentially a “Jñāna yoga,” as Blavatsky explains in How to Study Theosophy, “Theosophy is for those who can think.” Jnana is a state of deep contemplation and meditation, by which one produces true concentration, purifies the heart and attains mystical union. Jnana is considered the science of the Raja-Yogin. Hence, also the connection of the teaching to the aim of Raja Yoga, the use of mental power and control of life-force. It encourages our inclination wisely, “to investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in humanity.”
Blavatsky sat in her chair alot, but she had a meditative practice of her own, and certain mental exercises she wrote about, much like Gurdjieff, e.g., being capable of expanding our attentiveness to numerous action or phenomena simultaneously by sensory within our environment, or in proximity.
Contemplation on metaphysical concepts and cosmogony in relation to life brought the laws and the abstract into motion in ways we do not ordinarily pay attention to. It brings us into harmony with the eternity of time itself. It inspires greater intrigue about the nature of space all-surrounding us. We should expand our understanding of what constitutes “practice,” and the means by which we discover our hidden magical potential. For the theosophist, it is understood that three factors constitute our development, or evolution: the mental, psychic and monadic.
When the two (meditation and contemplation) become one, or in the combination of fixation on both, then comes samadhi, or illumination. Jnana Yoga, one of the three classical paths to liberation (or moksha) means, the “path of knowledge,” or of wisdom and intuitive development. Theosophy therefore, as a Jnana Yoga appeals to intellectual faculties, or rather the ways we use our intelligence. Be careful however, and understand the limitations of intellect.
Every theosophist has heard of the works of Patanjali. It is impossible for any such person to be ignorant, that there lies pitfalls and limitations in our over-reliance on intellect, but it should not be abandoned. Never assume all theosophists are just “intellectual,” because they’re reading alot of books.
It appears, certain people are not knowledgeable of this fact about Theosophy, particularly if one highly emphasizes practical occultism, but disdains intellectual study and traditional philosophy. This has already been brought up, regarding Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Theosophical teachings elaborate on the difference between the doctrine of the eye and the doctrine of the heart. So what soul would go on defining Theosophy as merely intellectual, as book or “head-knowledge?” Lastly, why is “book-knowledge” treated like it is a disease? There are limits to book learning, but some have taken criticism of book reading too far, in the sense it reflects their insecurities, or their own mental capacities.
There happens to be many paths and methods developed thousands of years ago in East Asia and Indian Philosophy, and a path that appeals to the intellectual faculties happens to be the manner in which Theosophy is conveyed, and suited for the Western mind. So, why should any Western occultists complain and bemoan extensively detailed book material? Very odd. It is the flip-side of theosophists, Blavatsky criticized who in name, or as due-paying members, called themselves theosophists, but refused to live the life, judging people for clinging to traditions of hoary past.
In Western Occult circles, the term “armchair occultist” is used quite abit to refer to those — who as Aleister Crowley said of Theosophists — talk and contemplate, but do not practice. Theosophy is not a religion to replace one’s practice, rituals, or obligations. It is not the task of Theosophy to provide you with yoga positions, prayers, ceremonial practices and magical spells.
Any ceremonialism, or gradation system of ritual initiation, although considered, was inadvisable on the organizational level by the early sponsors involved with co-founders H.S. Olcott, H.P. Blavatsky and co. Perhaps, this bores people, but then again, if they are unsympathetic to their mission, no wonder. A ceremonial magician can still yet be a theosophist, or theosopher. A Kabbalist can be, e.g. Jewish, and yet also a theosophist. They have such associations of Jewish theosophists active in Israel in this day. There is immediate contradiction if one is devoted to a practice of ill intent and causing harm to others, ignorant of the effects one’s actions (or doings) cause. If so, then there is conflict.
This equivalent of Jnana Yoga can be found in Vedanta, Kabbalism, and other systems, hence, the higher metaphysics of Theosophy must not be underestimated. If the theosophist is “talking about yoga but doing no yoga,” let them. Yes, perhaps you meet an ordinary theosophist. They are a person. So why project any fantasy about their knowledge? How can one possibly know what knowledge, or abilities they possess, because they are constantly reading books?
Disregarding those who focus more on the fundamental and theoretical side of Occult Philosophy is a mistake. Consider the use of faculties and abilities in the case of the great Tamil mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan. Much can be done with one’s mental altitude in a chair.
One must see that the new meaning given to “theosophist” by the movement that sprung in 1875, which I explained in Aleister Crowley and Thelema critiques of Theosophists, is also its Buddhistic philanthropic connotation. In addition to this, like Stoicism and Daoism, Theosophy is very much concerned with ethics; but there is also intent laid on facing the great problem of suffering, and harmonizing our lives.
From this, it becomes a means to get us to work alongside each other, to solve, study, and disseminate our findings about the Mysteries of life. Theosophy may seem dead, as one put it to me. If its implications were grasped more clearly, we’d see, that it most certainly cannot die, until the day all humanity’s yearning and mystical inclinations were to itself entirely cease.