Apr 23, 2017

The Aquarian Theosophist, April 2017

This is the opening thought of the April edition:

Examining life is exclusive to those whose souls have awakened.”

On page one, the reader finds the note entitled “The Magic of Simplicity”. A fragment by Maxwell Maltz, “The Truth About Yourself” is on page two. 

On page three one sees a fragment by Sergei Bulgakov: “Celebrating the Pagan Roots of Christianity”. The article “Nicolas Berdyaev, on Christianity and Anti-Semitism” will be found on pages four and five. After that, “An Integrated Approach To the Theosophical Teaching”.

Other articles and notes of this edition include:

* The Cycles of Our Mankind; 

* On the Inner Value of What We See;

* Two Kinds of Transfiguration;

* The Search of Knowledge;

* Daily Self-Discipline: The Yoga of Editorial Work;

* Passing Winds Inhabit Superficial Minds;

* The Psychoanalysis of Theosophical Politics;

* Thoughts Along the Road; and

* Space, Time and Temples.

The 17 pp. edition includes the List of New Texts in our associated websites.  


You can find the entire collection of The Aquarian” at our associated websites.


E-Theosophy e-group offers a regular study of the classic, intercultural theosophy taught by Helena P. Blavatsky (photo).

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Apr 17, 2017

Labzin and the Mysteries in Russia

The Rosicrucian Influence on Eastern Christianity

V. V. Zenkovsky

Labzin and the Mysteries in Russia


A 2017 Editorial Note:

The following article is reproduced from
A History of Russian Philosophy”, by V. V.
Zenkovsky, a two-volume edition, Routledge &
Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1953, vol. I, pp. 109-111.

In the 19th century, theosophist Helena Blavatsky
wrote that Russia was the only country where the
pure ideal of Christ was still preserved. A living,
unbureaucratic view of Christian Mysticism has
been strong and influential from the beginning in the
History of Russia. It is present in the ideas of I.V. Lopukhin
(author of the book “The Inner Church”), and the writings
of Alexei Khomiakov, M.M. Speranski, Fyodor Dostoevsky,
Leo Tolstoy, N. Berdyaev and N.O. Lossky, among others.  

In order to facilitate the reading, we divide some of the
paragraphs in the article by Zenkovsky into smaller ones,
and add two footnotes with extra information on Labzin.

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)


Aleksander F. Labzin (1766-1825) very early displayed outstanding talent, especially in mathematics (he studied higher mathematics to the end of his life).

At the age of sixteen he came under the influence of Professor Schwarz, the freemason - founder of the Rosicrucian Order in Moscow - under whose guidance he studied philosophy extensively, feeling himself profoundly attracted to it. [1]

There is no definite evidence that Labzin was enthusiastic about Schwarz’s occult ideas, although Pypin, for example, considers Labzin a “continuer of Rosicrucianism in literature”.[2]

Labzin undertook the translation and publication of mystical books, such as Eckartshausen’s Key to the Mysteries of Nature, 1804, Vital Hieroglyphics for the Human Heart, 1803, etc. In 1806, he began to publish the Sionski vestnik [Zion’s Herald], which was an immediate and widespread success.

However, this journal was soon closed and did not resume publication until 1817, when Alexander I turned decisively toward mysticism. [3]

A branch of the British Bible Society was formed in Russia, and a kind of “universal Christianity” was implanted from above. Criticism of Western sects was forbidden. The whole spiritual atmosphere of the time exhibited a triumph of “non-ecclesiastical Christianity”. This was strikingly represented by the Quakers, who had great success both with Alexander I and in the general religious movement of the time. In this atmosphere Labzin resumed publication of his Sionski vestnik, warmly developing the idea of “inner Christianity”, and calling upon Russians to “awake”. But this “awakening”, according to Labzin, required no “outward acts”; it is necessary, for the “perfection of the soul and of the whole man”, for “union with the heavenly world”, to combat the influence of the material world upon the soul. Magnetism, which frees the soul from the body, is, according to Labzin, the means for doing this.

Labzin was resolutely opposed to creedal divisions; he even asserted that the faith of Christ “does not separate believers from nonbelievers” or “Old-Testament man from New”, that “Christianity existed from the creation of the world”, that “the Church of Christ is boundless, embracing the whole human race”. Labzin spoke of Holy Scripture as a “mute preceptor which points symbolically to the living teacher dwelling within the heart”. “The outer church is a crowd of public, inferior Christians, like Job on the dung-heap”. Labzin, in this preaching of non-ecclesiastical Christianity, which shows clear signs of a secularism verging on conflict with the Church, openly followed the Quakers. In his justificatory letter (when he decided, in view of the obstructions of censorship, to discontinue his journal) he wrote that his “models” were Boehme, Stilling, and Saint-Martin.

It would be erroneous to conclude that Labzin gave no place to reason. His mysticism did not deny the importance of reason in the “lower” stages of spiritual enlightenment. “It is an offence to faith”, he wrote, “to say that faith demands the sacrifice of reason; on the contrary, reason is the ground of faith, … but faith asserts what reason understands confusedly”. “Reason leads man to the doors of the temple, but it cannot bring him within. Faith may be dispensed with; but reason is eternal, for man is a rational being.” [4]

These statements are an interesting revelation of Labzin’s closeness to the rationalistic tendencies of the time [5], as well as to the first germination of the theurgical conceptions, which sought in a knowledge of the “secrets of nature” - for example, magnetism, in which everyone was interested at the time - a key to higher revelations (outside the Church).

Labzin’s life ended unhappily. He was exiled to a remote province - because of a sharp word concerning persons close to the Tsar. However, he found warm admirers there who made his last days easier.


[1] N. O. Lossky writes about this philosopher: “I.G. Schwarz (1751-1784), a German who was professor of philosophy at the Moscow University from 1779-1782 (…) was a believer in the Rosicrucian doctrines, and in the lectures which he delivered at his house he explained obscure passages in the works of St. Martin by references to Jacob Boehme’s Mysterium Magnum (…). He preached the need for man’s moral and spiritual improvement and denounced political and ecclesiastical abuses and defects of the clergy. His early death saved him from government persecution.” (“History of Russian Philosophy”, by N.O. Lossky, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London, 1952, 409 pp., p. 11.) Regarding Jacob Boehme and his influence on Russian philosophy, one must take into consideration that Helena Blavatsky called him “the nursling of the genii (Nirmanakayas) who watched over and guided him” (The Secret Doctrine, volume I, p.  492). (CCA)

[2] Pypin, Religioznyie dvizheniya pri Aleksandre I [Religious Movements under Alexander I], p. 99. (V. V. Zenkovsky)

[3] One can read in a book published in 2013: “… Labzin was drawn into freemasonry early in his life by the famous German masonic figure in Moscow, I.G. Schwartz, who in the 1780s introduced Rosicrucian masonic lodges into Russia. At the turn of the century, Labzin assumed a position in Petersburg as secretary of the Academy of Arts. From that period and at the reopening of masonic lodges, he became a leader within the Dying Sphinx, an exclusive and separate Rosicrucian lodge. Sionskii vestnik began in 1806 and featured translations of western mystical literature, including the works of Jung-Stilling, Boehme, and Eckartshausen, among others. The journal was suspended shortly after its inauguration because of complaints about the mystical tenor of its publication. The broader interest in mystical literature, however, developed with renewed strength after the Napoleonic invasion, with the result that the popularity of Labzin and his journal expanded greatly in the second half of Alexander I’s reign. Sionskii vestnik gave Labzin a renewed platform for his message of moral awakening and religious conversion.” (See “Russian Bible Wars: Modern Scriptural Translation and Cultural Authority”, by Stephen K. Batalden, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge / New-York, 2013, 395 pp., p. 22.) (CCA)

[4] Quoted by Kolyupanov, Biografiya A. I. Koshelyova [A Biography of A. I. Koshelyov], I, 170-176. (V. V. Zenkovsky)

[5] Labzin’s friend Dmitriyev testifies to this in his memoirs. “His reason”, he wrote of Labzin, “conceived everything clearly and simply, grounded everything on strict necessity and on the law which unites visible and invisible, earthly and heavenly. Such, I thought, is the science of religion….”. (V. V. Zenkovsky)


See in our associated websites the article “Slavophilism and Theosophy”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.


E-Theosophy e-group offers a regular study of the classic, intercultural theosophy taught by Helena P. Blavatsky (photo).

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Apr 12, 2017

Il’in and Tolstoy on the Use of Force

The Naivete of Some Mystics Often
Paves the Way to Hypocrisy and Violence

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

Ivan A. Il’in (left) and Leo Tolstoy

A few uncomfortable questions confront esoteric circles and citizens who want to live in peace. These are a few examples:   

* From an ethical point of view, how far should one oppose fraud and hypocrisy, and fight terrorism, and anti-Semitism?

* Wouldn’t it be easier for friends of peace to wash their hands and pretend they are too spiritual to ever defend life or ethics? And - what sort of peace can nations obtain by using good-willing falsehood? 

All that glitters is not gold.

The history of a materialistic civilization is often an ugly thing to see. Theosophy invites us to look at life in all its aspects - and take lessons. It’s no use denying the presence of cruelty and butchery: we also cannot wish them away in press conferences and diplomatic talks held in elegant luxury hotels.

In 1875 Russian thinker Helena Blavatsky founded the theosophical movement, whose main goal is to promote universal brotherhood regardless of one’s religion, ideology, sex or social condition. Yet Blavatsky didn’t pretend she was blind before ethical questions. She had clear words to say on the violent conflict in human history between noble impulses and the worship of selfishness. And she was not afraid of opposing Islamic-inspired cruelties. In an article entitled “Turkish Barbarities”, she wrote during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878:

“Let me say (…) that during this campaign the Turkish troops have been guilty of such fiendish acts as make me pray that my relatives may be killed rather than fall into their hands.” [1]

Blavatsky then describes in detail various massacres perpetrated by Turkish troops, which there is no need to reproduce here. She mentions the hypocrisy of Western powers, including the Vatican, which were secretly more inclined to cause harm to Christian Russia than to help the fight against Muslim terror:

“Russia is surrounded by false neutrals, who but watch the opportunity to fly at her throat; and, shameful fact!, the blessing of the Pope rests upon the Muslim standards, and his curse against his fellow Christians  has been read in all the Catholic churches.” [2]

Blavatsky concludes:

“I regard this war not as one of Christian against Muslim, but as one of humanity and civilization against barbarism.” [3]

There is nothing new under the Sun.

In their disrespect for human lives, the Turkish troops were then behaving much like the 21st century Islamic Terrorists do. Western Europe had little to say in that situation, and its inability to act was denounced by Russian author Turguenyev among others. [4]

A few decades after the 1870s war against Russia and other Slavic countries, the Turkish policy of systematic cruelties would culminate in the Armenian Genocide of 1915, with at least 800,000 defenseless victims assassinated.[5] Since hypocrisy is still not hard to find in politics, the obvious fact of the Armenian Genocide is even today denied by many.

As time passed, the difficulty of Western Europe to fight evil got more serious. During most of the 1930s, the old continent did not even try to stop the militaristic hysteria promoted by Adolf Hitler.  In 1938 England make a Pact with Nazism. Such a blind love for short term peace condemned Western Europe to unutterable disaster. It had to be Russia and the United States to defeat Nazism in the 1940s.

By then Europe was largely destroyed, its population reduced, and a Jewish Holocaust, much larger than the Armenian one, had been perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi war machine. In our century, the same sort of challenge has surfaced again. Islamic terror and its organized nonsense have their chance to deceive naïve peace-lovers in the West. Many of those who deny the Armenian Genocide also deny the Jewish Holocaust, and several political and religious leaders in the West insist in appeasing anti-Semitism and terror-sponsors, just as their predecessors did regarding Mussolini and Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s.

Theosophy has clear statements to make regarding the problem of large-scale, systematic cruelty. The Eastern Masters of Wisdom who inspire the theosophical effort teach that ethics is the inevitable foundation of peace.

One of them wrote: 

“Every Western Theosophist should learn and remember, especially those of them who would be our followers - that in our Brotherhood, all personalities sink into one idea - abstract right and absolute practical justice for all. And that, though we may not say with the Christians, ‘return good for evil’ - we repeat with Confucius - ‘return good for good; for evil - JUSTICE’.” [6]

And justice is sometimes severe.

People of good will often think organizations which support terror or boycott Israel should be treated as if they were peace-loving and politically correct groups. But some disciple asked Confucius, various centuries before Christianity was born:

“What do you think about the principle of rewarding enmity with kindness?”

And the Master answered:

“With what, then, would you reward kindness? Reward enmity with just treatment, and kindness with kindness.” [7]

On another occasion, a disciple asked:

“What should I do to ensure the contentment of the people?”

Confucius explained:  

“If you promote the upright and dismiss the ill-doer, the people will be contented; but if you promote the ill-doer and dismiss the upright, the people will be discontented.” [8]

For many centuries, the question of resistance to evil has been a central issue in the agenda of those who love Life and respect mankind. The issue was well addressed by Russian philosopher Ivan A. Il’in.

N. O. Lossky says in his “History of Russian Philosophy” [9]:

“Il’in’s inquiry into ‘Resisting Evil by Force’ is a valuable piece of work. He sharply criticizes in it Tolstoy’s doctrine of nonresistance. Il’in says that Tolstoy calls all recourse to force in the struggle with evil ‘violence’ and regards it as an attempt ‘sacrilegiously’ to usurp God’s will by invading another person’s inner life which is in God’s hands. Il’in thinks that Tolstoy’s doctrine contains the following absurdity: ‘When a villain injures an honest man or demoralizes a child, that, apparently, is God’s will; but when an honest man tries to hinder the villain, that is not God’s will’.”

Inaction before injustice is not good. What should one do, then, in order to stop or prevent evil actions? Lossky writes and quotes from Il’in:

“In order to prevent the irremediable consequences of a blunder or of an evil passion a man who strives after the good must in the first instance seek mental and spiritual means to overcome evil by good. But if he has no such means at his disposal, he is bound to use mental or physical compulsion and prevention. ‘It is right to push away from the brink of a precipice an absent-minded wayfarer; to snatch the bottle of poison from an embittered suicide; to strike at the right moment the hand of a political assassin aiming at his victim; to knock down an incendiary in the nick of time; to drive out of a church shameless desecrators; to make an armed attack against a crowd of soldiers raping a child’ (54). ‘Resistance to evil by force and by the sword is permissible not when it is possible, but when it is necessary because there are no other means available’; in that case it is not only a man’s right but his duty to enter that path (195 f.) even though it may lead to the malefactor’s death.”

One should carefully examine the ethical challenges implied in such a situation, and Lossky asks himself:

“Does this imply that the end justifies the means? No, certainly not. The evil of physical compulsion or prevention does not become good because it is used as the only means in our power for attaining a good end. In such cases, says Il’in, the way of force and of the sword ‘is both obligatory and unrighteous’ (197). ‘Only the best of men can carry out this unrighteousness without being infected by it, can find and observe the proper limits in it, can remember that it is wrong and spiritually dangerous, and discover personal and social antidotes for it. By comparison with the rulers of the state happy are the monks, the scholars, the artists and thinkers: it is given to them to do clean work with clean hands. They must not, however, judge or condemn the soldiers and politicians, but be grateful to them and pray that they may be cleansed from their sin and made wise: their own hands are clean for doing clean work only because other people had clean hands for doing dirty work’ (209). ‘If the principle of state compulsion and prevention were expressed by the figure of a warrior, and the principle of religious purification, prayer and righteousness by the figure of a  monk - the solution of the problem would consist in recognizing their necessity to each other’ (219)”.

From a theosophical perspective, every citizen must combine in himself the substance of a warrior who fights for justice, and of a monk, who maintains a contemplative attitude towards life. [10]

N. O. Lossky closes his text saying that “the possibility of situations that inevitably lead to the contradiction between a good purpose and imperfect means is man’s moral tragedy, as Il’in and other thinkers sharing his view express it”.

For the citizen of 21st century, one practical lesson from the above is that it is wrong to think one must be outwardly kind to all in each and every situation. Unilateral meekness often paves the way to subconscious sadomasochism and other forms of continued aggression. Balance and justice in relations among people are not a goal one can abandon.  

In the Torah, Deuteronomy, 16: 18-20 says:

“You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes (…) and they shall govern the people with due justice. You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just. Justice, justice shall you pursue…”. [11]

Confucianism, Judaism, the best of Christianity, the highest aspects of Islam, true philosophy and real theosophy, all point to the same direction of righteousness and ethics based on an active sense of Justice, not on surrender to evil. Right action is inseparable from mercy, and compassion includes the necessary measure of severity.

Regardless of religion, nationality, political ideology or social condition, the duty of those who want peace on Earth includes unmasking and eliminating the causes of disrespect for life.  


[1] “Turkish Barbarities”, H.P. Blavatsky. The article was first published in New York in August 1877. See “Collected Writings”, H.P.B., TPH, Volume I, p. 256.

[2] “Turkish Barbarities”, H.P. Blavatsky, “Collected Writings”, Volume I, p. 259.

[3] “Turkish Barbarities”, H.P. Blavatsky, “Collected Writings”, Volume I, pp. 259-260.

[4] See Turguenyev’s poem “Croquet at Windsor”, translated by H.P. Blavatsky from the Russian, at “Collected Writings”, H.P.B., TPH, Volume I, pp. 253-254. The poem is a vigorous denunciation of the Turkish-Muslim atrocities.

[5] See the article on the Armenian Genocide at the Wikipedia.

[6] “The Mahatma Letters”, TUP edition, Pasadena, CA, Letter LXXXV, p. 401.

[7] “The Analects”, Confucius, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1995, 128 pp., see p. 88, Book XIV, chapter (or paragraph) XXXVI.

[8] “The Analects”, Dover Publications, Inc., p. 8, Book II, chapter (or paragraph) XIX.

[9] “History of Russian Philosophy”, N. O. Lossky, London, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1952, 416 pp., see pp. 387-389. We adopt the transliteration of Il’in’s surname into our alphabet according to its use in the recent Western editions of his books. His name is also transliterated as “Ilyin”, among other options.

[10] See for instance the article “Moral Strength in Judo and Theosophy”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline. It is available in our associated websites.

[11] “Tanakh, The Jewish Bible”, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia-Jerusalem, p. 301.


The above article is reproduced from our theosophical blog at The Times of Israel.

Its initial draft was published in the February 2016 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist” as an editorial note to the article “Ivan Il’in: On Resisting Evil by Force”, by N. O. Lossky: see pp. 7-9.


E-Theosophy e-group offers a regular study of the classic, intercultural theosophy taught by Helena P. Blavatsky (photo).

Those who want to join E-Theosophy e-group at YahooGroups can do that by visiting https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/E-Theosophy/info.


Apr 7, 2017

Taking Possession of Our Own Nature

In Spite of Social Crises, Each Person Has a
Connection with Eternal Truth and the One Law

Ivan A. Il’in

Taking Possession of Our Own Nature
Ivan A. Il’in (1883-1954)

The historical epoch now being experienced by the nations must be comprehended as an epoch of great spiritual unmasking and revision.

The calamity of world wars and revolutions, which has overtaken the world and shaken the entire life of nations to its very root, is in essence a natural phenomenon, and therefore it can have only natural causes and grounds. But everywhere nature flares up, where it, once ignited, seizes possessions of people’s affairs and fates, everywhere that people find themselves helpless before its blind and shattering upsurge, there is everywhere hidden the imperfection, or immaturity, or degeneracy, of the spiritual culture of humanity: for the business of this culture consists precisely in subordinating every element of nature whatever to its law, to its development and to its end. A natural calamity always reveals the defeat, the limitation and the failure of spirit, for the creative transformation of nature remains its highest task. And however great this calamity, and however vast and overwhelming the sufferings caused by it, the human spirit must accept its failure and in the very acuteness of its suffering discern a call to rebirth and regeneration. But that means comprehending the disaster befalling us a great spiritual unmasking.

The nature that by now has involved humanity in the immeasurable misfortune of great wars and upheavals is the nature of a disordered and embittered human soul.

However great the significance of the material factor in history, with whatever power the needs of the body rivet to themselves the interest and attention of the human soul, the human spirit is never reduced, and never will be reduced, to a passive, non-acting medium subordinated to material influences and the demands of the body. Moreover, a blind, unconscious obedience to these influences and demands diminishes spirit’s dignity, for its dignity consists in being a creative cause, creating its life in accordance with higher ends, and not in being a passive medium of natural processes in matter. Every influence entering into the human soul ceases to be a dead weight of causality and becomes a living inducement, attraction, reason, subject to spiritual transformation and rational guidance. To the very essence of the human spirit belongs this gift: to apprehend, interpret, transform and direct anew every influence intruding from without. And to the extent that the human spirit does not possess this gift in sufficient measure, to that extent natural elements of the world oppress it and fracture its life; to that extent its immaturity is unmasked and revealed, to that extent new tasks and the possibility of new achievements open up before it.

But in order to take possession of this gift and use it in all its world-transforming power, the human spirit must take possession of its own nature: the nature of the irrational and semi-rational soul. It is impossible to organize the world of matter not having organized the world of the soul, for the soul is the essential creative instrument for organizing the world. A soul submissive to chaos is powerless to bring about a cosmos in the external world: for a cosmos is created in accordance with higher ends, while a psychic chaos rushes about, confused, among a multiplicity of trivial, contradictory “ends”, obedient to blind instinct. The unsettled soul retains a real potentiality for spirit: it perceives and refracts, but does not transform and direct anew the influences intruding from without. Its “ends” remain passive marks of causal pressures, and their confusion is always fraught with new calamities. Internally unsettled in its tasks, strivings, and abilities, the human soul vainly seeks salvation in mastery over the external world: in technically conquering matter, it creates for itself only a new helplessness; in overcoming external nature, it prepares an insurrection of internal chaos; its successes forge the mould for a new, unexpected defeat.

Presently, before our eyes, the modern world repeats the path of ancient suffering; the new experience leads to old conclusions. These conclusions once again teach that self-knowledge and the self-transformation of the human spirit must lie at the basis of all life, so that life should not fall victim to chaos and degradation; they teach that the inner disintegration of the human soul renders social order impossible and that disintegration of social organization leads the life of a people to ignominy and despair. And still more, these conclusions teach that the formal orderedness of the individual soul and of the social economy doesn’t make the life of a human being secure from substantive degeneration and criminal ways. Through all the sufferings of the world the ancient truth arises and flares up, and summons people to a new understanding, recognition and realization: the life of a human being is justified only when his soul lives from a single, objective center, moved by an authentic love of Divinity as the supreme good. This love and the will born of it lies at the base of the entire developing spiritual life of a human being, and outside of it the soul wanders, becomes blind, and stumbles. Outside of it knowledge becomes a parody of knowledge, art degenerates into an empty and banal form, religion is converted into a dishonest self-intoxication, virtue is replaced by hypocrisy, law and the State become instruments of evil. Outside of it a human being cannot find a single suitable end in life that would convert all of his “activities” and “business” into a single affair of Spirit and would assure the human spirit of its victory. Only a vital and authentic craving for Perfection ensures this victory, for it is itself the source of the greatest power, invincible by any “circumstances” whatever, and introducing order into the inner and the outer world. This is explained by the very nature of spirit: it is that creative power of the soul that seeks authentic knowledge, virtue and beauty, and intuiting the Divinity as the real focal point of any perfection whatsoever, cognizes the world in order to realize His law in it as its own. But the soul, ever preserving within itself the potentiality for spirit, can convert this possibility into actuality only when within the soul flares up, as a holistic and joyous fire, a love for the Divine and a craving to become Spirit, to find a path to it, and to reveal it to others.

History shows that it is not easy for a human being to find this path, that it is difficult to follow it, and easy to lose it. The chaos of trivial desires and petty ends imperceptibly disperses the powers of the soul, and human passions extinguish its fire.

The soul loses its access to spiritual contents and therefore cannot maintain the form of spirit: for it can be in the shape of spirit only when it lives authentically by means of spirit’s real contents. Having lost the shape of spirit, it becomes a victim of its own chaos and gets carried away by its spinning to collapse and calamities. And then its task is to perceive in these very calamities and sufferings its own falling away from God, to hear His call, to recognize His voice, and subject its own false path to unmasking and reexamination.

At present philosophy has the great and responsible task of initiating this reconsideration and unmasking. Such a staggering spiritual failure of humanity as a stream of unheard of wars and unprecedented revolutions witnesses with unquestionable power and clarity to the fact that all aspects of spiritual existence lived and developed along false paths, that all of them are in a state of deep and severe crisis. Humanity lost its way in its spiritual life, and chaos overtook it with unheard-of calamity. This witnesses to the fact that the very mode of spiritual life was false[1], that it must be reexamined to the roots, and renewed and regenerated from the roots up.

And if the task of organizing a peaceful and just community of people on earth is a task for law and legal consciousness, then the contemporary crisis lays bare above all the profound disease of contemporary legal consciousness.

In the souls of people there are always such aspects that can for a long time not attract sufficient attention to themselves, dwelling in obscurity from generation to generation, only partly recognized. This occurs not only because these aspects possess in their very essence an instinctive character and are, as it were, crowded out from the field of consciousness; and not only because they are in themselves spiritually insignificant or secondary in practical terms and, as it were, get lost among other equally inessential nuances of life - but also because the cultivation of them requires a particular effort of will and attention, while their spiritual significance, in terms of their basic nature, stands opposed to the self-interestedness and myopia of everyday consciousness.

One can always find quite a few people prepared to be sincerely surprised at the fact that in them dwells a certain worldview, that they possess their particular aesthetic taste, that they stand in a certain constant relation to the voice of conscience, that they possess a legal consciousness characteristic for their souls.[2] And meanwhile each person, independently of his age, education, intellect and talent, lives by these aspects or functions of the soul, even when he himself has no suspicion of it. In such case his judgments and actions are formed directly under the guidance of instinctive attractions and impulses and express the structure of his psyche, his personal character, his individual level of life, despite the fact that he perhaps knows nothing of this and does not even suppose that people inevitably have a worldview and a legal consciousness, that they inevitably live according to an aesthetic taste and a conscience. A limited, narrow, obtuse worldview remains a view of the world; undeveloped, perverted, bad taste makes an aesthetic choice in its own way; a suppressed, deadened conscience, not listened to, still struggles and calls from within, and a deformed, unfree, weak legal consciousness directs people’s acts and creates their relations throughout life.

It is impossible for a human being not to possess legal consciousness; everyone who realizes that there are other people in the world besides himself possesses it. A human being possesses legal consciousness independently of whether he knows it or does not know it, values this asset or looks upon it with disdain. The entire life of a human being and his entire fate are formed with the participation of legal consciousness and under its guidance; moreover, to live means for a human being to live by means of legal consciousness, within its function and within its terms: for it always remains one of the great and necessary forms of human life. It also lives in the soul even when positive law is as yet lacking, when there is as yet neither “law” nor “custom”, when no “authority” whatever has yet spoken of “rightful”, correct behavior. A naive, half-conscious, immediate conviction that not all the external acts of people are equally admissible and “correct”, that there are completely intolerable actions and there are “just” outcomes and decisions - this conviction, as yet unaware of the distinction between “law” and “morality”, lies at the basis of any “law” and “custom” and genetically precedes any law-creating activity. And even in those cases when the content of custom and law is defined by the self-interest of the powerful, when law is “unjust” or “bad” law - at its basis lies nevertheless an immediate conviction of the necessity and possibility of distinguishing “correct” and “admissible” from “incorrect” and “inadmissible” behavior and of regulating people’s lives on the basis of this generally-obligatory criterion.

In this is revealed the distinctive tragi-comedy of living under law: deformed, perverted legal consciousness remains legal consciousness, but it perverts its content; it addresses the idea of law, but takes from this idea only a schema, uses it in its own way, abuses it and fills it with unworthy, perverted content; there arises unjust law which however is called “law” and is presented as law, compromising the very idea of law in people’s minds and undermining faith in it.

This tragicomedy is characteristic not only of law-creating activity; it is the tragicomedy of the entire spiritual life of humanity. Every person possesses within his exclusive individual inner experience the sole medium connecting him with the heights of spirit - with the true, the good, the beautiful, with revelation and the law - and the sole source for cognizing them and for judgements concerning them; each one knows concerning these objects only that which he has independently and authentically experienced and creatively verified. [3]

And so people continually forget about these fundamental conditions of spiritual activity: they do not seek authenticity in experience and objectivity in research, but base themselves on personal inclinations and satisfy themselves with subjective opinions. And as a result of this there arises an unworthy and comical spectacle: people make judgments concerning what is most important and supreme, not knowing what they judge; each one makes claims, and encroaches, having no basis for it; supra-personal self-manifesting truth is replaced by personal certainty; there arises an endless multiplicity of disagreements, the mind wanders, vacillates, and arrives at a fruitless “subjectivism” and a groundless “relativism”. Belief in the possibility of genuine knowledge, in the unity of the good, in the objective value of beauty, in the possibility of genuine revelation, in just and spiritually true law, is lost, and with it inevitably the will to discover the true path to the cognition and realization of these supreme contents withers. Personal interest remains the sole guide, and life imperceptibly degenerates.

This objectivity of the content of the object as it relates to law can be described such that in the external relations of person to person there is a certain unitary and objective rightness which it is possible to cognize only through inner experience, through an authentic, objective examination and disclosing of natural law. The experience of natural law is inherent in every person, but for the majority it remains a vague, uncertain and unrecognized “feeling of right”, as it were an “instinct for the right”, or in the best case an “intuition of right”. To become aware of the content of this natural law and to disclose it means to initiate a mature natural legal consciousness, to make it an object of will and justified emotion, i.e., to convert this unitary and objective rightness into a needed and desired end in life - it means to develop and realize in oneself a natural legal consciousness.

In particular, a natural legal consciousness as the object of knowledge of the “most”  “genuine” unitary law itself must lie at the basis of any judgment of “law” and of any legal or judicial decision, and for that reason it must also lie at the basis of those “laws” which are established in various communities and States by authorized representatives under the name of “positive law”. The more developed, mature, and profound the natural legal consciousness, the more perfect will be in such a case both “positive law” and the external life of the people guided by it; and conversely: vagueness, inconsistency, lack of objectivity and weakness of natural legal consciousness will create “non-objective”, i.e., senseless, false, unjust “positive law” not corresponding to its prototype. Then the “law”, unitary and true according to its idea, bifurcates and enters into a peculiar internal contradiction with itself: natural legal consciousness does not affirm what a knowledge of positive law speaks of, and as a result the soul acquires two different legal consciousnesses, for side by side with natural legal consciousness there arises a positive legal consciousness, not corresponding with it in terms of content. Such a bifurcation of the law, such a contradiction of legal consciousnesses, witnesses, of course, to a spiritual failure befalling a human being: he doesn’t succeed - owing to lack of will or insufficient ability - in becoming aware of the content of natural law and placing it in the unshakable foundation of any judgement  concerning “positive” law; but since the ability always depends upon the heart which loves, and upon the will which forges and cultivates the ability, then all that great  spiritual failure in the matter of law-creating activity rests upon the universal, historically stable hardening of hearts and lack of will to just law.

From this it is already clear that normal legal consciousness leads not to a bifurcated, but to a unitary and holistic life, and if that consciousness sees before it an historically given bifurcation of law, then it wholly devotes itself to the struggle for a unitary, just law, and for the restoration of its own inner, objective spiritual unity. At the same time, it, as a spiritually true and holistic relation of the soul to the Law, is not reduced to “consciousness” and “cognition”, but lives always in the form of a will to perfection, justice and right, awakened by the heart and conscience. Normal legal consciousness knows its object; it is a knowing will to the law; recognizing it in its objective significance and obligatoriness, and recognizing it because the will recognizes its end. Therefore, normal legal consciousness is above all a will to law as an end, and for that reason also a will to the law; and from this the necessity arises for it to know the law and the necessity to realize it in life, i.e., to struggle for the law. Only in this holistic form does legal consciousness appear as normal legal consciousness and become a noble and inexorable power, nourishing itself from the life of spirit, and in turn determining and cultivating spirit’s life on earth.

Normal legal consciousness can be depicted as a particular mode of life by which the soul lives, objectively and truly experiencing the law in its fundamental idea and in its singular modifications (institutions). This order of psychic life is of course something ideal, though not in the sense that this “ideal” would be unrealizable. On the contrary, this mode of life is already given in embryo to each person, and depends upon each of us to become aware of, develop and establish this embryo in ourselves. And in this self-training the closest dependence is discovered between the “awareness” and the vital “strengthening”: the investigation of normal legal consciousness succeeds only in the presence of a creative will to the law as an end, but precisely an objective cognition of this end strengthens the vital will to it.

The scholar putting before himself this task enters inevitably into a struggle with a whole multiplicity of prejudices: a relativist viewpoint on the law will be perhaps the most persistent of them.

Seemingly, the very conditions for the creation and realization of the law favor this prejudice. Within the law, apparently, everything is relative. Human consciousness gets accustomed surprisingly easily and firmly to the idea that the law is “conditioned” by time and place, interest and power, persistent will and blind chance. What is “now” and “here” the law may “tomorrow” and “here”, or “now”  and “there”, not be law; what is forbidden today may be permitted tomorrow and perhaps imposed as obligatory a month from now;  organized interest becomes a power and pronounces as “just” what tomorrow will be overthrown as an “accidental” confluence  of circumstances. Within the archives are preserved piles of “outmoded norms” and entire codes, and a resourceful mind, serving a momentary interest, is able to interpret and adapt “prevailing” law however one wishes. The content of the law is always sufficiently “indefinite” and “conditional”, and its meaning is always “provisional” and “relative”.

Contemporary legal consciousness grows and lives in this conviction; it is deeply penetrated by relativism and doesn’t know about itself that it can and must be other. The conviction that law is something “relative” - both in terms of its content and its obligatoriness - arises imperceptibly, unconsciously, and for that reason is rooted in souls particularly strongly and deeply: this conviction converges with selfish and myopic interest, is nourished by it, and in its turn, serves such interest. There arises a vitally important vicious circle: darkness begets evil, and evil supports the darkness. “Educated” and uneducated circles of people identically decline to believe in the objective value of law and do not respect its prescriptions; they see in it either an unpleasant constraint, or in the best case, a convenient means for defense and attack. Legal consciousness is reduced to a stock of unreasoned bits of information from the sphere of positive law and to the ability to “make use” of them; but behind this “knowledge” and “use” it conceals in itself the most profound failures and defects, inward degeneracy and spiritual impotence.

A blind, self-interested, unprincipled, and impotent legal consciousness directs the life of humanity. And thus these diseases of legal consciousness unleashed the natural element of the soul and prepared its spiritual failure.

The life of spirit requires indeed a profound re-examination and renewal.  


[1] This is a particularly significant point in the original teachings of theosophy.  See for instance Letter 10 in “The Mahatma Letters”. The volume “The Mahatma Letters” is available in PDF in our associated websites. (CCA)

[2] The voice of conscience is the voice of what theosophists call Antahkarana, the abstract bridge between the lower self and the spiritual soul. Legal consciousness is a sense of right and wrong and includes a commitment to right action. (CCA)

[3] A powerful description of Antahkarana.  (CCA)


The above text is reproduced from the book “On the Essence of Legal Consciousness”, by Ivan A. Il’in; Wildy, Simmonds & Hill Publishing, 2014, UK, 391 pp., see pp. 115-123. The volume was introduced and translated by William E. Butler, Philip T. Grier and Vladimir A. Tomsinov. Notes of the editors are not included in the present transcription.


The content of pages 115-117 in “On the Essence of Legal Consciousness” was also published at the December 2015 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist”, under the title of   “Taking Possession of Our Own Nature”.

Ivan A. Il’in was born on 28 March 1883, and died on 21 December 1954.


Readers are invited to see in our associated websites the articles “Theosophy as Natural Law”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline, and “Spiritual Respect for Oneself”, by Ivan A. Il’in.


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