The Long Transition From Maya to Wisdom
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
“One must study to know, know
to understand, understand to judge.”
[An ancient philosopher, quoted by H.P. Blavatsky]
There may be deep, challenging layers of meaning, in the apparently simple idea expressed by the motto of the theosophical movement. Perhaps the phrase sums up the long-term purpose of the movement. Its careful consideration may help the student see from a broader perspective some old obstacles and mechanisms of spiritual ignorance, both individual and collective.
In order to better understand the movement’s motto, one must study the theory of Maya or Illusion. If the learner wants to go further and live up to the motto, he will have to take practical steps to find his own way out of Maya. It will be a long journey. Yet the very fact of keeping the motto alive in the temple of his mind and heart will help him get to the steep and narrow, uphill path to truth.
Borrowed from the Maharajah of Benares, the motto is originally Sanskrit: “Satyat Nasti Paro Dharma”. It was famously translated by H.P. Blavatsky as “There is no religion (or law) higher than Truth”.
Included in parenthesis, the word “law” indicates that “dharma” has a wider meaning than just “religion”. In fact, “Dharma” means religion, law, sacred scriptures, doctrine, science, duty, right conduct, virtue, equity, justice and philosophy.
The other term of the occult equation present in the motto is “Satyat”, which also has a relatively wide meaning. It is synonym not only to truth, but to supreme reality, being and essence. “Satyat” suggests “Sat”, the one ever-present Reality, the essential Be-ness which corresponds to the first fundamental proposition of the Secret Doctrine. 
The motto is a multidimensional axiom.
If we preserve the two main Sanskrit concepts in it, we will have the phrase “There is no Dharma Higher than Satyat” which can also be read as “There is no Duty Higher than Truth”, and “There is no Scripture higher than Direct Realization”, among other possible meanings. Hence the way we see the motto may get deeper and dynamic.
The changing aspects of the search for Truth are essential to the esoteric philosophy. They question the established mayavic routines. They lead the focus of one’s consciousness to the realm of the higher self, where true stability is to be found.
As one’s spiritual soul not only lives in the territory of truth but also exists in inner communion with all beings, it follows that truth cannot be found in separativeness. It is only natural, then, that the first object of the theosophical movement is to create a collective environment where the law of karmic solidarity among all beings can be lived as a conscious experience. Truth and brotherhood are the two inseparable terms, or poles, of another occult equation.
Although the search for truth may be a supreme and transcendent goal for any individual, it must begin with the simple elements of our life. Truth has to be sought in big as in small things, and for this reason Theosophy is inseparable from Ethics. In every aspect of life, we must gradually become the truth we look for.
H.P.B. comments that the name “Theosophy” was first used by the Alexandrian philosophers, called “lovers of truth” or Philaletheians. She adds that the goal of that theosophical system was, first of all, “to inculcate certain great moral truths upon its disciples, and all those who were ‘lovers of truth’. Hence came the motto adopted by the Theosophical Society....” 
So the motto and its homage to truth has an Eastern origin in Benares, India, and a Western origin in Alexandria, Egypt. Like the movement, the motto itself is a bridge between East and West.
When truth and brotherhood meet, they do so in the common territory of Ethics, and H.P.B. wrote, in one of her messages to the North-American theosophists:
“...The Ethics of Theosophy are more important than any divulgement of psychic laws and facts. The latter relate wholly to the material and evanescent part of the septenary man, but the Ethics sink into and take hold of the real man - the reincarnating Ego.”
Ethics allows us to directly tune in with Satyat or Truth. There is no blessing higher than getting in harmony with the supreme truth. In order to achieve this goal, it is not enough to have a noble object at the conscious level of one’s mind. Karma law will inevitably see that every altruistic decision is thoroughly tested. One’s noble intentions will be attacked not so much from the outside. They will be challenged especially by one’s own ignorance, and by the unconscious habits and patterns nurtured by such ignorance. Unsuspected layers and aspects of the student’s lack of wisdom will surprise him in a number of different ways and occasions. H.P.B. wrote:
“The first necessity for obtaining self-knowledge is to become profoundly conscious of ignorance; to feel with every fibre of the heart that one is ceaselessly self-deceived. The second requisite is the still deeper conviction that such knowledge - such intuitive and certain knowledge - can be obtained by effort.” 
The process of self-delusion is not only individual. It is also collective. Nations, groups and families are all confronted by karma. Since the 1890s, for instance, the theosophical movement has been trying and largely failing to go along the uphill way which leads to fraternity and truth. Generation after generation, theosophists must keep trying again and again, until the growth in the margin of success of their efforts starts to accelerate by its own dynamics.
One can be always sure the way to truth won’t be easy. Yet the reason for the existence of so many obstacles along the road is perhaps surprisingly simple. It lies in the fact that truth is a hard thing to find, and to transmit, but that is not all. Truth is often difficult to accept, and above all to live up to, even after it is put in front of us in no uncertain terms. H.P.B. reproduced in more than one occasion these sobering words by Sergeant Cox:
“There is no more fatal fallacy than that the truth will prevail by its own force, that it has only to be seen to be embraced. In fact the desire for the actual truth exists in very few minds, and the capacity to discern it in fewer still. When men say that they are seeking the truth, they mean that they are looking for evidence to support some prejudice or prepossession. Their beliefs are moulded to their wishes. They see all, and more than all, that seems to tell for that which they desire; they are blind as bats to whatever tells against them. The scientists are no more exempt from this common failing than are others.” 
In fact, perception of truth is not a mental process only. It involves more than one level of consciousness. Our ability to see reality depends on our actual way of life. An open mind and a clear spiritual perception can only emerge from a pure heart and a clean life, among other factors. In its famous “twin verses”, the Buddhist “Dhammapada” explains:
“Those who live in the pleasure-ground of fancy see truth in the unreal and untruth in the real. They never arrive at truth. Those who abide in the world of right thought see truth in the real and untruth in the unreal. They arrive at truth.” 
Right thought is deeply linked to right memory, right word and right livelihood, among other factors. The search for truth is therefore no easy or short term enterprise. It is also not an individual or small group process only. It has a planetary dimension. It constitutes a central factor in the long term preparation for the sixth sub-race of the fifth root-race, of which the real theosophical movement (not the nominal one) is to be a long-standing preparatory initiative and instrument. The sixth sub-race will emerge with a stronger and more active focus of consciousness at the level of Buddhi-Manas. It will possess a much better “unveiled spiritual perception”, but that cannot be prepared in haste, and the forerunners of the next set of civilizations must have the courage, spirit of sacrifice and patience to open room for a broad ideal which the world cannot fully understand yet.
If the theosophical movement was once described by a Mahatma as a “forlorn hope”, that was due to the special strength of Maya in the present cycle. H.P.B. wrote:
“The profoundest and most transcendental speculations of ancient metaphysicians of India and other countries, are all based on that great Buddhistic and Brahmanical principle underlying the whole of their religious metaphysics - illusion of the senses. Everything that is finite is illusion, all that which is eternal and infinite is reality. Form, color, that which we hear and feel, or see with our mortal eyes, exists only so far as it can be conveyed to each of us through our senses. (...) We all live under the powerful dominion of phantasy. Alone the highest and invisible originals emanated from the thought of the Unknown are real and permanent beings, forms, and ideas; on earth, we see but their reflections; more or less correct, and ever dependent on the physical and mental organization of the person who beholds them.” 
Elsewhere, H.P.B. quotes from a hermetical text:
“ ‘Truth alone’, says Pimander, ‘is eternal and immutable; truth is the first of blessings; but truth is not and cannot be on earth; it is possible that God gifts a few men together with the faculty of comprehending divine things [and] with that of rightly understanding truth; but nothing is true on earth, for everything has matter on it, clothed with a corporeal form subject to change, to alteration, to corruption, and to new combinations. (...) Truth, then, is that only which is immaterial and not enclosed within a corporeal envelope, that which is colorless and formless, exempt from change and alteration; that which is ETERNAL’.” 
The great distance between true reality and the average perception of people creates the unchartered territory of illusions where the followers of ethical relativism can deceive themselves and mislead other people. For over a century now, a great part of the Adyar Society has been imitating the Vatican Church in producing pious lies for the public to believe in.
Some Adyar Society leaders try to avoid responsibility for the political and “spiritual” frauds committed in the period 1894-1934. They use the relativity of human truths as an excuse to the absence of ethics in their institutional policies. They seem to believe that the relativity of truth is absolute. If one shows them proofs that Charles Leadbeater’s books are untrue, they will calmly answer:
“It may be so; it all depends on one’s point of view.”
If one shows them that even today there is a false and fabricated image of Jiddu Krishnamurti as a saint and a great thinker, one will be fraternally accused of being “too hard” and even “unbrotherly”, but the subject will be quietly avoided.
Often with the best of intentions, ethical relativism combines lies and facts, fraud and loyalty, and hides the result under a cloud of deliberate uncertainty. According to this sophistic viewpoint, “there are no real truths or falsehoods, for truth entirely depends on how one looks at it, and we can always choose whatever we prefer to think”.
This may seem a clever way of floating above karma in the short term, but it can’t be said to be too original. While H.P.B. was describing the work of the Jesuits in India, she showed that one of their central tactics, in their effort to eliminate Eastern wisdom traditions, was to “to throw upon the history of ancient India a cloud of uncertainty and darkness”. 
There is also a theological reasoning behind the production and preservation of pious frauds. It was formulated by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, iii, 4-11. In a surprisingly direct style, the text anticipates the jesuitical viewpoint:
“Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written. (...) For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner? (...) Let us do evil, that good may come. (...) As it is written, there is no one righteous, no, not one.”
In this chapter of the Epistle, human beings are described as sinners and liars. Once this viewpoint is accepted, it seems only natural to think that religious people should lie and make frauds for the good of their Churches and Societies. Karma law is then apparently abolished, and man is not justified by his deeds, but by his blind faith, as Paul imagines:
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law”. (Romans, iii, 28.)
The statement, of course, directly contradicts the thoroughly theosophical viewpoint held by Jesus in the New Testament:
“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14)
As to H.P.B., she says, with Jesus:
“Theosophist is, who Theosophy does”. 
H.P.B. wrote that it was the idea of devotional lies present in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans that inspired a maxim later adopted by the Roman Church, according to which it is an act of virtue to deceive and lie, when by such means the interests of the Church might be promoted. 
Yet the problem did not start with Paul. Since Protagoras - the sophist who was directly challenged by Plato in ancient Greece - there has always been a current of thought in the West which defends the idea that truth is but a matter of convenience. That is the intellectual foundation of the attacks made against Theosophy, both outside and inside the modern theosophical movement.
Henry Sidgwick, the founder of the Society of Psychical Research (SPR) in London, was a clever man. He did much more than just helping fabricate the fraud against the theosophical movement, based on which the S.P.R. accused H.P.B. of not being an honest woman. In 1874, only a decade before Sidgwick presided over the lies against the Masters and the movement, he had a book published on “The Methods of Ethics”. His work is now a classic of moral relativism, and it not only anticipates the logic of the future fraud against Theosophy. It also formulates the deliberately ambiguous logic of the “ethics” adopted by most Adyar leaders since the time of Annie Besant. In one example among many, Sidgwick doubts the link between duty and happiness, suggesting that non-duty could be more profitable. He clearly questions Plato’s philosophy from a Protagorean viewpoint. 
The same ambiguity which is essential to Sidgwick’s thought can be found in the way many a member of the Adyar Society tries to avoid embarrassing issues like the frauds created inside the movement against the Masters’ teachings. This hiding from truth is often done in good faith, because they haven’t had a chance to know real theosophy.
Modern disciples of Protagoras take advantage of the Law of Maya to make people think that, after all, karma law can be replaced by belief, and every truth may be freely distorted and put at the service of short-term interests.
In the 18th century, British philosopher David Hume discussed this “philosophy”. He created the concept of “clever rascal” or “sensible knave”, to describe the man who hides his dishonest actions in a cloud of ethical uncertainty.
David Hume wrote, in the classical style of his century:
“... According to the imperfect way in which human affairs are conducted, a sensible knave, in particular incidents, may think, that an act of iniquity or infidelity will make a considerable addition to his fortune, without causing any considerable breach in the social union and confederacy. That honesty is the best policy, may be a good general rule; but it is liable to many exceptions: and he, it may, perhaps, be thought, conducts himself with most wisdom, who observes the general rule, and takes advantage of all the exceptions. I must confess that, if a man think, that this reasoning much requires an answer, it will be a little difficult to find any, which will to him appear satisfactory and convincing. If his heart rebel not against such pernicious maxims, if he feel no reluctance to the thoughts of villainy and baseness, he has indeed lost a considerable motive to virtue; and we may expect, that his practice will be answerable to his speculation. But in all ingenuous natures, the antipathy to treachery and roguery is too strong to be counterbalanced by any views of profit or pecuniary advantage. Inward peace of mind, consciousness of integrity, a satisfactory review of our own conduct; these are circumstances very requisite to happiness, and will be cherished and cultivated by every honest man, who feels the importance of them.” 
Immanuel Kant also helps us understand the invincible strength of truth. Every honest theosophist should calmly ponder upon these words written by the German philosopher, on the phenomenon of deliberate falsehood :
“The intrinsic characteristic of moral evil is that its aims (especially in relation to other like-minded persons) are self-contradictory and self-destructive, and it thus makes way for the moral principle of goodness, even if progress in doing so is slow.” 
Perhaps the best way to actively cure and prevent the disease of pious jesuitism in the theosophical movement consists of stimulating from the very beginning in every student the practice of viveka, discernment.
The ability to question reality with independence, and to see true and false ideas by oneself, must be an essential goal to students. No truths which have been put in words should stand above examination. One of the maxims which can best protect the movement from illusion is well expressed in these sentences from Narada, an ancient Hindu philosopher quoted by H.P.B. :
“Never utter these words: ‘I do not know this - therefore it is false’. One must study to know, know to understand, understand to judge.” 
As theosophists get to deeply understand the fact that there is indeed nothing higher or better than truth, they gradually put themselves in perfect harmony with an ancient, timeless tradition to which both Plato and Jesus belonged. For Plato was a theosophist, and he wrote:
“There is nothing mightier than knowledge.” (“Protagoras”, 357)
And Jesus, another theosophist, taught:
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John, 8: 32)
This perception is not unanimous. There are still many deluded friends who consciously or unconsciously prefer not to accept the motto of the movement towards truth. Yet when the time has come, nothing can prevent the sun from inaugurating a new day, and then, if people don’t look for truth, truth may come after them. In the first part of the 21st century, the transition into the new cycle of human development is clearly accelerating, and the access to Truth gets inevitably greater for all.
The clearer and more transparent aspect of all things brings peace to some and anxiety, fear and conflicts to others.
Truth is not an easy thing to see, when the minds are unprepared. A sacred teacher once wrote that the perception of truth is like a too powerful tonic, which can kill as well as cure. In the present moment of humanity, the practical lesson to be taken from that phrase is that the authentic theosophy is getting everyday more useful and more necessary, for it makes it easier for more people to correctly use the rapidly growing, but often dangerous and challenging energy of truth.
 “The Secret Doctrine”, H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, 1982, I, p. xli.
 “The Secret Doctrine”, volume I, p. 14.
 “The Key to Theosophy”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, 1987, pp. 1-2.
 “Five Messages from H.P. Blavatsky to the American Theosophists”, The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, 1922, see Third Message, 1890, p. 26. The pamphlet “Five Messages” is available in PDF in our associated websites.
 “How to Obtain Self-knowledge”. This fragment is available in our websites. See also “Collected Writings”, H.P. Blavatsky, TPH, volume VIII, p. 108.
 “Isis Unveiled”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, volume I, p. 615.
 “The Dhammapada”, The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, USA, 140 pp., see Chapter 1, verses 11-12, p. 03.
 See “The Mahatma Letters”, T.U.P., Pasadena, USA, Letter VIII, p. 35. Or “The Mahatma Letters”, Chronological edition, TPH Philippines, Letter 15, p. 51.
 “Isis Unveiled”, volume II, pp. 157-158.
 “Isis Unveiled”, volume I, pp. 624-625.
 “Isis Unveiled”, volume I, p. 586.
 “The Key to Theosophy”, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, Section II, p. 20.
 “Isis Unveiled”, volume II, p. 303.
 “The Methods of Ethics”, Henry Sidgwick, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis / Cambridge, 1981, 528 pp., see Chapter V, pp. 162-175.
 “An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals”, David Hume, Indianapolis / Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 1983, 122 pp., see pp. 81-82.
 “Perpetual Peace and Other Essays”, Immanuel Kant, Indianapolis / Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 152 pp., see p. 134.
 “Isis Unveiled”, volume I, p. 628.
The above article was first published in FOHAT magazine, Canada, Summer 2008 edition, Vol. XII, number 2.
On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.