Theosophy

Theosophy (θεοσοφία, divine wisdom), the name given to a so-called sacred science, which holds a place distinct as well from that of philosophy as from that of theology, even in questions where these latter sciences have the same object with it: namely, the nature and attributes of God. In investigating the divine nature and attributes, philosophy employs as the basis of its investigation the ideas derived from natural reason, while theology superadds to the principles of natural reason those derived from authority and revelation. Theosophy, on the contrary, professes to exclude all dialectical process, and to derive its knowledge of God from direct and immediate intuition and contemplation or from the immediate communications of God himself. Theosophy, therefore, so far as regards the science of God, is but another name for mysticism (q.v.); and the direct and immediate knowledge or intuition of God, to which the Mystics laid claim, was, in fact, the foundation of that intimate union with God and consequent abstraction from outer things, which they made the basis of their moral and ascetical system. Theosophy has existed from a very early date; and within the Christian period we may number among Theosophs the NeoPlatonists, especially Plotinus, lamblichus, and Proclus; the Hesychasts of the Greek Church; all those of the mediaeval Mystics who laid claim to any dogmatical theory; and in later times the Paracelsists, Bodenstein and Thalhauser, Weizel, Jacob Boehme, and Swedenborg.

Below is a brief outline of Theosophy as taught by Boehme (q.v.). Finite existences of every kind are an efflux from the One Infinite Existence, and such an efflux is a necessary attribute of God's own being. All things come from a working will of the holy, triune, incomprehensible God, who manifests himself through an external efflux of fire, light, and spirit. Angels and men are the true and real offspring of God, their life originating in the divine fire from which light and love are generated in them. This triune life in God is the perfection of being, and the loss of it constituted the fall of angels and men. Thus man having been made a living image if the divine nature and endowed with immortality, he exchanged the light, life, and Spirit of God for the light, life, and spirit of the world. He died to the influences of the Spirit of God on the very day of his, transgression, but remained subject to all the external influences of the world; and the restoration of the influence of the Spirit constitutes the work of redemption and sanctification. Christ restored to men the germ of the paradisiacal life, which is possessed by all through new birth and his indwelling. No son of Adam can be lost except by the willful loss of this paradisiacal germ of the divine life; and its development is the development of salvation. In the hands of Law, the theosophy of Boehroe assumed a much more reasonable form than that in which it had been clothed by its author, whose language was a medley of alchemy, obscure analogies, and false etymologies. It was then exhibited as a philosophy of redemption and spiritual life, which only wanted the keystone of sacramental psychology to make it a firm system of truth. For very full information on the subject, see Walton, Notes and Materials for an Adequate Biography of William Law, comprising an Elucidation of the Scope and Contents of the Writings of Jacob Boehme, and of his Great Commentator Dionysius Andrseas Freher, etc. (1854). See Blunt, Dict. of Doctrinal Theology, s.v. Chambers Encyclop. s.v.

 
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