'One of the striking features of the present age is the lack of any real comprehension regarding the nature of man. Man is trying to know everything in the universe. He can say with certainty what stars, millions of miles away, are made of. He knows thoroughly the constitution of atoms and molecules. But about himself, he knows practically nothing.'
Self-Culture in the light of Ancient Wisdom (1949)
Iqbal Kishen Taimni
In Summary

Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change themselves.  Cultivate and uncover your true Self by studying the wisdom of the ancients.


Iqbal Kishen Taimni was born to a Hindu family yet given the Islamic name ‘Iqbal’ – predicting the perennial and universal theosophical tradition he would champion as an adult. Although his mother died when he was young, he nonetheless thrived in school and had great respect for women, marrying Kunwar Nagu, whose bachelor’s degree was a rare feat for an Indian woman in 1922. Together, they pursued further studies in London, with Iqbal receiving a doctorate in Inorganic Chemistry. On the couple’s return to India, Iqbal became a respected professor at Allahabad University while Kunwar became the principal of a Montessori school funded by the Theosophical Society.  


Though they were both long-serving members of the Theosophical Society – and Iqbal was later the Director of the School of Wisdom at the society’s International Headquarters – it was only in retirement that Iqbal applied his scientific mind to writing about the esoteric. A man on a mission, he published nearly a dozen books in his later years, including The Science of Yoga (1961), Man, God and the Universe (1969), Science and Occultism (1974) and Self Culture in the Light of the Ancient Wisdom (also published as Self-Culture in the Light of Occultism).  


Scientists have made marvellous progress in documenting human biology and evolution, yet they have utterly ignored the spiritual half of the self that can be revealed through esoteric wisdom. According to Taimni, we have higher astral, mental, Buddhic and Atmic bodies, without which we cannot make sense of this life nor the next. These higher bodies perform myriad tasks, including processing the raw data of experience to yield a higher level of wisdom, feeling and understanding.  


For this reason, it remains essential to progressively cultivate these higher bodies and recalibrate our identity within them, thereby enabling us to eventually reach our one true, divine Self – a process that requires evolving beyond our lower personality and life’s material pleasures, which are fleeting. Moreover, aspects of our higher bodies survive death and have the potential to further evolve with each reincarnation. But, Taimni maintains, this growth is merely a reflection of the spiritual evolution which is already complete in eternity. In this sense, we are merely becoming what we already are. While we may initially seek guidance from others on this journey, we eventually must realise that everything we’ve been seeking has been within us all along.  


While we are more than our physical body, this does not mean we should neglect it. The flesh is where personal growth begins, and we can impact our higher bodies through a solid regimen of healthy living, eating and self-care. We purify ourselves of desire not by fleeing the flesh but by mastering it so that our higher bodies may wield it as their instrument. In turn, taming our flesh and passions makes room for a higher form of bliss to enter in: ‘The joys and pleasures of the lower life turn pale in the light of this bliss, just as artificial lights and even the light of the stars and the moon fade away when the sun rises.’  


It is fitting that ‘culture’ and ‘cultivate’ share a common root word, for self-culture requires vigilant attention, much like tending to a garden or field. Forget to water it, forsake pruning and weeding it, fail to place it where it can soak in the light and your inner self will be as uprooted and lost as our nomadic ancestors before the discovery of agriculture. Taimni urges us to look within and cultivate ourselves before trying to cultivate external status. Be careful, he warns, for the worries of this life choke us like weeds, growing so large they eventually block out the sun. Many are the feats of those chasing success and a life of luxury, but few are those attending to the perfection and evolution of their own soul.  

Further Reading By This Author

In addition to the titles listed above, Taimni also wrote several lesser-known works, such as Self Realization Through Love, Glimpses into the Psychology of Yoga, An Introduction to Hindu Symbolism, Ultimate Reality and Realization and A Way to Self Discovery.

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