I- Introduction: Theosophy Through the Ages
2.) Historical Traces – Ancient Archetypes
(HPB, Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, page 273.)
"The truths of the Secret Doctrine are not the result of one person's opinion. Rather they have been preserved and extended according to a "scientific method" employed over long long centuries by adepts "testing, checking, and verifying" the results of fellow adepts.
"The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages ... such is the mysterious power of Occult symbolism, that the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, to set down and explain in the bewildering series of evolutionary progress, are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs. The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there ... It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the "Wise Men" of the Fifth Race, of the stock saved and rescued from the last cataclysm and shifting of continents, had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions - so obtained as to stand as independent evidence - of other adepts, and by centuries of experience."
William Q. Judge, the very close student and colleague of Blavatsky, summarized the source of Theosophy:
(Wm. Q. Judge, Articles, "Theosophy and The Theosophical Society")
Theosophy is not a new invention but the essential underlying truth of all philosophies; it is a body of doctrine in philosophy, science, and ethics, principally derived from the Eastern archaic sacred Theories, which were worked out by a brotherhood of devotees and initiates who used every method of scientific investigation known to us, as well as their own highly developed practices of observation, experiment, concentration, and meditation to reach the truth. They traced all phenomena by every possible means from their significance to their source, and by comparison of their independent searches and observations recorded their conclusions and accepted such results only as could stand the test of applicability and verification from every point and in every conceivable direction. This slowly accumulating body of facts furnished the basis for these great universal doctrines, and the psychic development of these devotees and students gave them great power over nature and insight into the mystic side of the universe and man. These doctrines were handed down from generation to generation since time immemorial, and were guarded by the most sacredly pledged disciples, who had devoted their whole lives to the development of their psychic and spiritual faculties. The reason why these doctrines had been so strenuously guarded from the profane and unripe is because the possession of their knowledge gives great power for use or abuse. It embraces the science of the finer forces in nature, their relation and correspondences in themselves, and the knowledge of their uses an application for the benefit or destruction of humanity.
Although this transcendental knowledge was accessible at all times to those who were ripe and who felt the craving for it strong enough to make the unremitting sacrifice, it would be acquired only by those whose supreme intensity of excitement and enthusiasm made it possible in those times to incur the self-denial and renunciation of worldly concerns necessary to initiation. Nor is it any different now, and never will be, except that portions of the doctrine are given out from time to time, such as may be safely trusted to an advancing age, because to penetrate into the mystery of nature requires a state of the greatest purity and perfection, and this final perfection is not a gift to be expected from without, but is to be worked for by those who desire.
Blavatsky was taught by two of the Masters who were part of this body of initiated seers referred to above. So, she once answered a question as follows: (HPB, Articles, "What Shall We Do For Our Fellow-Men?")
What I do believe in is (1), the unbroken oral teachings revealed by living divine men during the infancy of mankind to the elect among men; (2), that it has reached us unaltered; and (3) that the MASTERS are thoroughly versed in the science based on such uninterrupted teaching.
(Wm. Q. Judge, An Epitome Of Theosophy)
Theosophy, the Wisdom-Religion, has existed from immemorial time. It offers us a theory of nature and of life which is founded upon knowledge acquired by the Sages of the past, more especially those of the East; and its higher students claim that this knowledge is not imagine or inferred, but that it is a knowledge of facts seen and known by those who are willing to comply with the conditions requisite for seeing and knowing.
Theosophy, meaning knowledge of or about God (not in the sense of a personal anthropomorphic God, but in that of divine "godly" wisdom), and the term "God" being universally accepted as including the whole of both the known and the unknown, it follows that "Theosophy" must imply wisdom respecting the absolute; and, since the absolute is without beginning and eternal, this wisdom must have existed always. Hence Theosophy is sometimes called the Wisdom-Religion, because from immemorial time it has had knowledge of all the laws governing the spiritual, the moral, and the material.
The theory of nature and of life which it offers is not one that was at first speculatively laid down and then proved by adjusting facts or conclusions to fit it; but is an explanation of existence, cosmic and individual, derived from knowledge reached by those who have acquired the power to see behind the curtain that hides the operations of nature from the ordinary mind. Such Beings are called Sages, using the term in its highest sense. Of late they have been called Mahatmas and Adepts. In ancient times they were known as the Rishis and Maha-rishis -- the last being a word that means Great Rishis.
(Wm. Q. Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy, Ch. 1) Theosophy and the Masters
The Theosophist agrees with Prof. Huxley in the assertion that there must be beings in the universe whose intelligence is as much beyond ours as ours exceeds that of the black beetle, and who take an active part in the government of the natural order of things. Pushing further on by the light of the confidence had in his teachers, the Theosophist adds that such intelligences were once human and came like all of us from other and previous worlds, where as varied experience had been gained as is possible on this one. We are therefore not appearing for the first time when we come upon this planet, but have pursued a long, an immeasurable course of activity and intelligent perception on other systems of globes, some of which were destroyed ages before the solar system condensed. This immense reach of the evolutionary system means, then, that this planet on which we now are is the result of the activity and the evolution of some other one that died long ago, leaving its energy to be used in the bringing into existence of the earth, and that the inhabitants of the latter in their turn came from some older world to proceed here with the destined work in matter. And the brighter planets, such as Venus, are the habitation of still more progressed entities, once as low as ourselves, but now raised up to a pitch of glory incomprehensible for our intellects.
The most intelligent being in the universe, man, has never, then, been without a friend, but has a line of elder brothers who continually watch over the progress of the less progressed, preserve the knowledge gained through aeons of trial and experience, and continually seek for opportunities of drawing the developing intelligence of the race on this or other globes to consider the great truths concerning the destiny of the soul. These elder brothers also keep the knowledge they have gained of the laws of nature in all departments, and are ready when cyclic law permits to use it for the benefit of mankind. They have always existed as a body, all knowing each other, no matter in what part of the world they may be, and all working for the race in many different ways. In some periods they are well known to the people and move among ordinary men whenever the social organization, the virtue, and the development of the nations permit it. For if they were to come out openly and be heard of everywhere, they would be worshipped as gods by some and hunted as devils by others. In those periods when they do come out some of their number are rulers of men, some teachers, a few great philosophers, while others remain still unknown except to the most advanced of the body.
It would be subversive of the ends they have in view were they to make themselves public in the present civilization, which is based almost wholly on money, fame, glory, and personality. For this age, as one of them has already said, "is an age of transition," when every system of thought, science, religion, government, and society is changing, and men's minds are only preparing for an alteration into that state which will permit the race to advance to the point suitable for these elder brothers to introduce their actual presence to our sight. They may be truly called the bearers of the torch of truth across the ages; they investigate all things and beings; they know what man is in his innermost nature and what his powers and destiny, his state before birth and the states into which he goes after the death of his body; they have stood by the cradle of nations and seen the vast achievements of the ancients, watched sadly the decay of those who had no power to resist the cyclic law of rise and fall; and while cataclysms seemed to show a universal destruction of art, architecture, religion, and philosophy, they have preserved the records of it all in places secure from the ravages of either men or time; they have made minute observations, through trained psychics among their own order, into the unseen realms of nature and of mind, recorded the observations and preserved the record; they have mastered the mysteries of sound and color through which alone the elemental beings behind the veil of matter can be communicated with, and thus can tell why the rain falls and what it falls for, whether the earth is hollow or not, what makes the wind to blow and light to shine, and greater feat than all -- one which implies a knowledge of the very foundations of nature -- they know what the ultimate divisions of time are and what are the meaning and the times of the cycles.