Talk:Theosophy

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Philosophy[edit]

DO NOT Archive this section Check out http://www.iep.utm.edu/submit/100-most/ this is a Philosophy subject. Please do not edit the banner to remove these from Philosophy. JEMead (talk) 17:24, 29 December 2011 (UTC) This article has a lot more expansion to come. I set it to Start, not C. JEMead (talk) 21:43, 1 January 2012 (UTC) I expanded items and decided that a C might be ok here now.

Start talk page JEMead (talk) 08:57, 9 May 2012 (UTC)

Original research[edit]

It seems to me that a good part in the traditional theosophy part of the article and the template is original research. It mixes Gnostics, Christian priests, Kabblists, Christian fundamentalists (Ambrose?), freemasons, and so into a Traditional theosophy section, without really explaining why they are theosophists. In many cases, it seems to be just because some 20th century writer compared them offhandedly with theosophical thought or offhandedly called them theosophists. The Theosophy template included thelemic organisations as "theosophic". I can understand that someone like Böhme is explained in the Traditional theosophy section, but many of the other writers may be better discussed in articles like Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Catholicism, Esotericism and Western occultism.

Is it possible to define what and who exactly is discussed in the traditional Theosophy section? To be discussed in "Traditional Theosophy", there should be some criteria. They should self-identify as theosphists or be commonly (and not just offhandedly in some publication) be called theosophists. --Trinity9538 (talk) 23:18, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

Examples, please. Qexigator (talk) 10:58, 15 January 2015 (UTC)
The problems with the Traditional Theosophy section are many.
  • There is an overreliance on Faivre who is quoted over 15 times. (He is a great source...for Esotericism. Applying it to Theosophy would be OR; the two are clearly not identical, though there are certainly commonalities. )
  • Much of the material actually belongs to the Western Esotericsm, Christian mysticism, Kabbalah, or related articles. (All forms of gnosis and western esotericism are not theosophy. The focus of this article must be theosophy because of the name of the article. )
  • For example, why is this sentence in the article: Hellenistic Alexandrian culture expressed religion through a syncretism that included influences from Egypt, Chaldea, Greece etc. It became a "philosophizing and systematizing" culture containing mythology, theosophy and gnosis of the East.
  • Theosophy was not a word commonly used in Judaism prior to modern times, yet we have a full paragraph on it.
  • The template listed Thelemic organisations as Theosophy, and includes Christian fundamentalists (Ambrose), and topics like Tarot and Astrology which belong to Esotericsm rather than Traditional theosophy.--Trinity9538 (talk) 23:14, 16 January 2015 (UTC)
@Trinity9538: you are confusing the concepts of theosophy with the brand marketing of word theosophy itself. You are, again conforming the content to a particular type of theosophy. —BoBoMisiu (talk) 00:02, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
Agree with BoBoMisiu's above comment (0:02, 17 January). Qexigator (talk) 13:21, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
No. Faivre himself says that in his 2000 book that large parts of the book are studies on esotericism (the subtitle of the book is Studies in Western Esotericism). He only acknowleges that the term "Theosophy" is practically absent throughout the entire eighteenth century in dictionaries and encyclopedias, and that It only appeared more and more frequently beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century. And he wrote: [Classical theosophy] is an under-researched area, a general history of it has never been written.
Large parts of the section are original research, because it just talks about religious or mystical writers who never called themselves Theosophists. That sort of material should be in articles like Esotericism. And with the exception of the Boehme article, none of the other articles mention anything about theosophy in their articles.
What the section should do is explain the who history and meanings of the term instead of drawing up a list of all people to whom the word was applied retroactively. --Trinity9538 (talk) 00:54, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
I also propose to move the six characteristics of esotericism to the esotericism or to the Faivre article, since this article is about Theosophy (we can keep the three characteristics of theosophy, wich in Faivre's 2000 book are listed without those six of esotericism). --Trinity9538 (talk) 12:46, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
Does anybody object to this? --Trinity9538 (talk) 20:02, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
It sidesteps the fact that Blavatsky's theosophy was called esoteric buddhism by Sinnett and others. Esotericism is explicitly part of it and also changed after the Blavatsky died. So ossifying, in the article, to Blavatsky's works removes all of the 20th century. That seems very odd to me. —BoBoMisiu (talk) 23:33, 20 January 2015 (UTC)

Bold, but feel free to change or revert this edit[edit]

I have archived most of the material under discussion to User:Hgilbert/Theosophical Society. Feel very free to add, subtract, and alter the result here, and to work with the archived material as you see fit. Or to revert if this was too bold a change. HGilbert (talk) 07:32, 16 January 2015 (UTC)

Looks like an improvement. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 07:36, 16 January 2015 (UTC)
Seconded. Qexigator (talk) 08:18, 16 January 2015 (UTC)
definitely an improvement JEMead (talk) 15:42, 16 January 2015 (UTC)
This was not helpful and such drastic changes such as this with less than four days discussion are usually considered vandalism. I'm reverting back, but will work on the article in the next days. There is indeed some material that can be easily moved to other articles (but it shouldn't be just moved to HPB, as Theosophy was developed by other persons as well). --Trinity9538 (talk) 21:59, 16 January 2015 (UTC)
Far from vandalism, it was, as agreed by others, a constructive step towards rectifying this article by way of removing unsuitable content (for reasons given above) and letting that be redistributed to other articles more suited to it. It would be easier to let that proceed from User:Hgilbert/Theosophical Society. Please leave the version as at 18:09, 16 January 2015[1], and let us know where you are proposing to redistribute the text now at User:Hgilbert/Theosophical Society. This will help to avoid confusion. It is not helpful simply to reimport it. Qexigator (talk) 23:26, 16 January 2015 (UTC)
It was a drastic removal of content outside of article space for which a longer discussion than just 3-4 days is needed. I have begun moving some of the material to other articles and will continue to work on this article. --Trinity9538 (talk) 23:37, 16 January 2015 (UTC)
It is unfortunate that Trinity9538 disregards others. This shuffling seems like a WP:POVSPLIT. I think using draft pages, like User:Hgilbert/Theosophical Society and Talk:Theosophy/16-January-2015-draft-further-reading-section, would have been better. —BoBoMisiu (talk) 00:18, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
I have now moved some material to more appropriate articles and the modern Theosophy part is now down to a reasonable size (will continue on working on it). As I explained on this talkpage, there needs to be a page on Theosophy, like there is also a page for Anthroposophy. You cannot just move the material in Anthroposoophy to Rudolf Steiner or to the A. Society. --Trinity9538 (talk) 00:58, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
There is an important difference; anthroposophy is unambiguous, so the article is only about that. Theosophy is about two diverse themes, and neither should overwhelm the other. For exactly the reasons you raise, I think a separate article on Theosophy in the Blavatskyian sense would be helpful. This could then be quite extensive. Do you perhaps agree? (If so, what should this be titled?) HGilbert (talk) 17:30, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
Since Theosophy is commonly and integrally linked to Blavatsky in reference texts (the 18th century notions of theosophy, if mentioned, are cast as background information to the much larger theosophy of Blavatsky), it follows that it is clearly the much more common usage of the term, so it would be more appropriate to use this article as the main article for the more common usage term, with links to the theosophical current.
As User:Binksternet said: "This article, with its global title, must be about all of Theosophy—the gamut, including your "plethora of types of Theosophy". All the significant belief systems that have been called "Theosophy" must be represented. This article with its global title cannot only be about one type of (perhaps) idealized Theosophy, to the exclusion of other forms of Theosophy." And: "The above list of tertiary sources shows that the Blavatsky version is the most important, everything else relegated to also ran status. Basically, this article should talk about everything that has been called theosophy, primarily covering Blavatsky's version."
I see two ways forward which should be acceptable to both views. We split it in roughly 50:50 (additional material can be moved to specialized articles), or we make a disambiguation, which is done when a single term is ambiguous, which seems to be the case here. Do you agree on one of these two? --Trinity9538 (talk) 18:32, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
I continue to believe that this article must be about the main belief systems that have been called Theosophy. All of them, not just one of them. The global title forces the issue. Binksternet (talk) 21:33, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
I agree. Almost all references indicate that Blavatsky's version is the most common usage, so it makes no sense to remove or drastically reduce that section. Currently, the split is approx. 50:50, which is generous to the Traditional Theosophy side (given that this form of theosophical esotericism is not in as common usage). --Trinity9538 (talk) 01:22, 18 January 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I agree completely and think that the current situation is pretty good. HGilbert (talk) 12:30, 18 January 2015 (UTC)

The article is now getting into better shape. Qexigator (talk) 19:47, 24 January 2015 (UTC)

Definitions redux[edit]

The article "Theosophy" in Dagobert D. Runes' 1942 edition of The dictionary of philosophy, was written for the 1902 edition and left unaltered in the 1942 edition, by a modern Theosophist, Fritz Kunz, Charles Webster Leadbeater's companion and later Dora Van Gelder's husband, and displays a syncretism and use of Theosophical Society jargon and structure that is not found in other philosophical reference works. I think it adds insight about what 20th century Theosophists believed, but also think it conflates and equivocates the sense of meaning that many scholarly works convey. The entire article broken down into individual details is:

  • Theosophy "is a term introduced in the third century by Ammonius Saccas, the master of Plotinus, to identify a recurring tendency prompted often by renewed impulses from the Orient, but implicit in mystery schools as that of Eleusis, among the Essenes and elsewhere."
  • "Theosophy differs from speculative philosophy in allowing validity to some classes of mystical experience as regard soul and spirit, and in recognising clairvoyance and telepathy and kindred forms of perception as linking the worlds of psyche and body."
This contradicts the common definition that theosophy is direct knowledge and not mentalism.
"Theosophy differs from speculative philosophy in allowing validity to some classes of mystical experience" is misguided since a metaphysical subject cannot be verified by sensory experience of the world (i.e., empirical evidence) and is by definition speculative. Is there a deviant definition of psyche (psychology) implied? Is there an implication that "some classes of mystical experience" are not speculative? Is there an implication that "clairvoyance and telepathy and kindred forms of perception" are not mentalism?
  • Theosophy's "content describes a transcendental field as the only real (approximating to Brahman, Nous, and Pleroma) from which emerge material universes in series, with properties revealing that supreme Being."
The term "transcendental field" is undefined jargon.
The incomplete phrase "as the only real" what? Was a word left out intentionally (like in the incomplete phrase "the transcendent supreme" found below) to not specify a theistic being or atheistic concept?
  • "Two polarities appear as the first manifesting stage, consciousness or spirit (Brahma, Chaos, Holy Ghost), and matter or energy (Siva, Logos, Father)."
It is unclear if the word "Brahma" means Brahma (Hinduism) or Brahmā (Buddhism).
It is unclear if the word "Chaos" means Chaos (cosmogony) or Chaos (mythology).
It is unclear if the word "Holy Ghost" means Holy Spirit (Christianity), Holy Spirit (Judaism), or Spirit of God (disambiguation) in some other sense such as Paramatman.
I think the word "Siva" means Shiva.
It is unclear if the word "Logos" means Logos or Logos (Christianity).
It is unclear if the word "Father" means God the Father
  • "Simultaneously, life appears clothed in matter and spirit, as form or species (Vishnu, Cosmos, Son)."
It is unclear if the word "Cosmos" means Cosmos (opposite of Chaos) or Universe
It is unclear if the word "Son" means God the Son, Son of God, Sons of God, or Solar Logos (the solar deity of Theosophy).
  • "In a sense, life is the direct reflection of the transcendent supreme, hence biological thinking has a privileged place in Theosophy."
The incomplete phrase "the transcendent supreme" what? Was a word left out intentionally (like in the incomplete phrase "as the only real" found above) to not specify a theistic being or atheistic concept?
The term "biological thinking" is undefined jargon.
  • Thus, cycles of life are perceived in body, psyche, soul and spirit."
  • "The lesser of these is reincarnation of impersonal soul in many personalities."
From reading other works, I understand this is not the Egyptian type reincarnation (which believes in a resurrection of the body) which posits a transmigration of a soul from humans into animals followed by a return into a human. What type of reincarnation is described?
  • "A larger epoch is 'the cycle of necessity', when spirit evolves over vast periods."
This is not the Platonic or Pythagorean "cycle of necessity".

Is this source worth including? Is it just too much of an incoherent mess? —BoBoMisiu (talk) 18:57, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

Perhaps, BoBoMisiu, you would let us know whether we should read your comment as adverse to one or more of Runes, Kunz or the content of the present version of the article? Qexigator (talk) 14:06, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
No, the comment is not adverse to anyone. I am saying it needs more than just my opinion because it may be just poorly written with inadequate editorial oversight, but still include the details that were considered important in a mid 20th century definition.
The current version of the article is missing much of what that mid 20th century definition, by a prominent Theosophist, describes. These details are not found in the public domain sources that I have been compiling to add to the article. From what I have read so far in public domain sources before reading Kunz's description, I think a good article would answer the following questions:
  • Is Theosophy a type of mystery school?
  • What role does clairvoyance and telepathy have in Theosophy?
  • Is clairvoyance and telepathy described in Theosophy as mentalism or something else?
  • What is the term "transcendental field"?
  • The incomplete phrase "as the only real" what? Defined as "the only real", the subject seems important to describe.
  • The incomplete phrase "the transcendent supreme" what? Defined as "the transcendent supreme", the subject seems important to describe.
  • What is the term "biological thinking"?
  • What type of reincarnation is accepted and what types of reincarnation are rejected?
  • Is the "cycle of necessity" as a unit of time? Does it vary from monad to monad?
Some of public domain sources I have compiled are commentaries by philosophers, about philosophical questions addressed by theosophy and Theosophy, but do not comment about the details included in Kunz's description. —BoBoMisiu (talk) 15:08, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
Given that it was not "mid-20c." but stemmed unaltered from 1902, written by a person not considered notable in his own right, and that we have in EB 1911 (see above, "Oriental Theosophy") a better source, what is the purpose of cluttering the article with an "incoherent mess"? Qexigator (talk) 15:59, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
You are right, I am assuming that it remained the description because because it was not changed in the 2nd edition. Even if he lacks notability (he was principle of Ananda College during the first world war), I think what he described is what was being developed at the time. He may not be the source of these details but he was close to a key figure, Leadbeater, and could discern what was being developed by just communicating with Leadbeater. Nevertheless, his article was included in the Runes' 1st and 2nd editions does bring up what I think are interesting details. I wonder if he expounded more about these in his book:
I have the entire EB1911 article compiled on that draft page, but it does not explicitly answer any of the questions I asked above. —BoBoMisiu (talk) 17:01, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
And how, avoiding SYN and OR, can that "incoherent mess" be turned into something that improves the article? Qexigator (talk) 17:13, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
It is not SYN and OR because it was done by Kunz. I think finding other sources that either support or refute Kunz's details is nothing original. It is coming from Leadbeater's secretary. —BoBoMisiu (talk) 17:36, 7 February 2015 (UTC)