From the archives of some theosophical e-mail lists.

English ?enter=theos-l

The term Theosophy in contemporary science

Many theosophists don't realize that the term theosophy is not used solely for the movement H.P. Blavatsky started. In fact, some seem to think she almost invented the term, however much she herself denied that. The term was in use by followers of Boehme before the founding of the Theosophical Society. But even to this day it is used in the circles of investigators of Sufism (the mysticism of the Islam) to denote those people who have an interest in metaphysical systems, within the mystical movement, or in the words of J. Spencer Trimingham in his "The Sufi Orders in Islam", 1971 (p.138):

We need to define the sense in which we are using the term 'theosophy', for this word too can mean many different things. Whilst mysticism is a responsive movement of the soul towards God which involves grappling with reality on interior levels, theosophy is that sacred philosophy which springs from such inward illumination; it is the mysticism of the mind as distinguished from mysticism of the heart.

All through the book he uses Ibn al Arabi as an example of a Sufi Theosophist. Needless to say that Ibn Al Arabi lived before the foundation of the Theosophical Society. Trimingham goes on to say:

Mysticism and theosophy are, therefore, the personal experience and expression of the mystery which lies within the religions, the testimony of the realities which lie beyond empirical experience. The tragedy of the higher theosophist in the realm of expression arises from the fact that he has to reduce intense personal experience to the level of abstract thought at which level communication with the non-initiate becomes impossible.

For those who think this writer may be an exception to the rule, I found the same usage of this term in another book on Sufism. This book was in German though, so I won't repeat it here.

Katinka Hesselink