The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms-this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.
Albert Einstein, quoted in Einstein: His Life and Times by Philipp Frank.
by Eldon Tucker
It is the time of the Winter Solstice, and another year has begun. We are again at one of the Sacred Seasons, a time when special things happen. It is at these points of the year in which the great initiations take place, and the world becomes a better place.
The Winter Solstice is the time of a spiritual birth. The initiant undergoes his fourth initiation, the first in which he actually travels to other worlds, meets, and becomes for a moment some of the beings thereon.
It is a time when the initiant meets his inner god, his higher self, his Manasaputra, face-to-face, and beholds for the first time the living being that overshadows, inspires, and enfills his life. He realizes his own inner nature as well, and a spark is lit, a spark of consciousness that one day will become the full blazing awareness of himself being, on his own, a Manasaputra in his own right. Something new is born at this very special moment.
At this time of year, old things drop away and new things are born into the world. It is a natural process of life, and we can partake in it. We can find it easier to make changes in our lives, to alter and improve our personalities, to take steps to change and grow.
We are at the time of the true New Year. And in our own small way, in making New Year's resolutions, in resolving to better our lives and the lives of those about us, we too have paid a visit to our inner natures, and emerge with something more into the world. If the resolve is sincere, and the intentions pure, we too have changed.
Let us pause in our hectic rush through life, consider the great and wonderful things happening on the inner planes, then move forward with our lives. Let us move forward with greater inspiration to be better and to be of genuine value to others. Let us reflect on the good that surrounds us in life, make it more a part of ourselves, and share it with others.
It is a wondrous time of year, one that should gladden our hearts.
Some of us may have approached the threshold, tried the door, and
been admitted. The world has become better, a holier place, and
if we listen, with open hearts, we can feel it and be inspired!
Mark Kusek, author of "Neo-Theosophnik Bongo Art Missive," may be
reached as "Art House"
Jerry Hejka-Ekins, interviewed by David Borsos on "Postmodernism
and Theosophy," also offers to support any discussion arising out
of that piece.
by David Borsos
[The following is an interview down with David Borsos, publisher of the magazine Bridging: A Communication of Light on the Bay, reprinted with author's and publisher's permission.]
I still vividly remember my first introduction to postmodernism only a few years ago. A friend of mine who was working on a graduate degree in English exclaimed with obvious distress, "Postmodernists are asserting that there is no solid truth! They're saying that even an author's point of view has no particular validity but is open to interpretation from any of multiple perspectives! Everything is supposedly relative!" Over time as my understanding of postmodernism slowly developed I, too, had deep concerns and doubts about this emerging force which was influencing so much of our intellectual and cultural climate. The basic ideas of postmodernism seemed to me to be in direct conflict with the values of modernity which had emerged from the Enlightenment period. Such concepts as truth, reason, progress and liberation, basic tenets of the Ageless Wisdom I assumed, seemed to be under direct attack by postmodernists. I was surprised, therefore, to notice a flyer which announced the convening of a Postmodernism and Theosophy Retreat. I attended the event with considerable curiosity and there I met Jerry Hejka-Ekins, one of the primary creators of the retreat.
Jerry has been interested in occultism and esoteric movements since 1959 and has been active with the Theosophical Movement since 1963. His present interests in occult organizations are mainly from doctrinal and historical viewpoints. He and his wife April have study groups in their home in Turlock, where they study theosophical ideas from a postmodern perspective. Their study group holds postmodern theosophical retreats about twice a year at various locations along the West coast. They have recently acquired 160 acres of land in the California gold country, which will be the future home of Alexandria West Academy. The Academy will be a place for retreats, study, and for doing work for humanity. It will also be the permanent location for an occult library, which already has some 15,000 volumes, and another 50,000 or more unique unpublished documents concerning the theosophical movement.
I wanted to further explore Jerry's ideas of how postmodernism could be reconciled with the teachings of theosophy so I wrote to him asking several questions which I thought might resolve what, for me, seemed paradoxical. He enthusiastically responded and we began a dialogue which explores this fascinating relationship. Some of our communications are included in the following article/interview and I hope that it inspires further interest and exploration within the esoteric community.
DB: I'm interested to know how you reconcile theosophy and postmodernism. It appears to me that most of the foundational principles of theosophy are exactly what "postmodernists" are rejecting, e.g. Truth, hierarchy, privileged positions of knowing, totalizing conceptual systems, enduring values, etc.
JHE: You are right, postmodernism and theosophy do seem to be coming from different places and in many ways they do. However, they are not irreconcilable, and some of the differences have their origins in neo-theosophy i.e. the teachings of the Theosophical Society after the passing of H.P. Blavatsky. Also, much of what we hear about postmodernism does not seem to me to be a very good representation of it. First of all, postmodernism is an approach to address the complexity of viewpoints values and needs in our world without creating an authoritative dogma of its own. Its purpose is to explore the values and structure that underlies every system of thought. Our interpretation of what we perceive is laden with our own experiences that may differ from others. An example might be an archeologist who is excavating the remains of an ancient village in China. He finds that each settlement is composed of a series of little huts and one very large hut. The American archeologist concludes that the large hut belonged to the chief. But the Chinese archeologist argues that no one lived in the large hut. Instead, it was built and used as a common meeting hall. A postmodern approach to this issue is not going to take one side or the other, but is concerned with showing the opposing value systems of the archaeologists. In this case, the American is operating from a democratic and capitalistic paradigm, therefore he concludes that the large hut must belong to the chief. The Chinese archeologist is operating from a communist paradigm and naturally concludes that the large hut must be community property.
To take the questions you raised, beginning with the notion of Truth: Yes, Helena Blavatsky asserted the existence of an absolute Truth. But I don't think a postmodern writer would necessarily reject the possibility of such an existence. Rather, the issue of possible disagreement concerns the notion that anything of an absolute nature is knowable. Whether or not absolute Truth exists, it would have to be beyond human experience on this planet to know it. Or even if it were knowable, how could it be expressible? Therefore it is beyond the current concerns of postmodern writers to even bother with such an abstraction. But they are very interested in notions that have direct consequences upon our social structure. From this point of view, the notion of absolute truth can be very important. A postmodern writer would likely be very interested in people who claim to have superior truths and use these ideas to the detriment of the whole. For instance, look at the terrible damage achieved from Hitler's notion of the superiority of the Germanic races. The Holocaust was made possible by having a critical mass of people buying into a particular set of values that they believed to belong to some kind of transcendental truth. In this instance, Hitler used the notion of race and the idea that one race is superior over another. Add to this the notion that one race can "pollute" another, and genocide begins to become a reasonable solution to a problem that has not objective existence in the first place. I realize that I'm oversimplifying things here, but you get my drift. Lately, anthropologists have attempted to overcome these socially destructive notions of race by taking the point of view that there is only one race the human race.
I think the misuse of the idea of an absolute Truth lies at the core of H.P.B.'s criticism of the Church. She never attacked the teachings of the Biblical Jesus, only the organizations which claimed to represent these teachings. It is not spiritual ideas, but the hierarchy of politically powerful hierophants that creates human misery. For instance, it is currently in the news that politically powerful groups of representatives of Christianity declare that God is against abortion, homosexuals and prostitution. But their assertions only serves to create guilt and destroy human solidarity. A more constructive and postmodern approach would be to put aside for a moment what their alleged God is for or against and encourage people to use their own mental and spiritual resources to explore the causes and social issues that underlie abortion, homosexuality and prostitution. I think that past experience has shown that effective social change occurs when people operate from understanding not from notions based upon hatred, fear, prejudice and blind faith to an authority.
Regarding hierarchy: it is the application of this notion to bring power to the few and marginalize others that brought about a postmodern denunciation of it. Where is the notion of hierarchy necessary to the core issues of Theosophy? Does belief in a hierarchy really serve those ideals of altruism, human solidarity and self responsibility? Or does it only serve to give power to a few and marginalize others? A Hierarchy is just an organization with someone at the top, a middle management, and the lowly members at the bottom taking orders and doing the work. This notion arose from the beginnings of organized labor when the privileged few found a way to profit from the labor of the many. Our observations of hunting and gathering cultures suggest that at one time people accomplished group tasks through consensus of purpose and through equal and cooperative effort. Concerning the Theosophical notion of hierarchy that we call "the inner government," it was not a part of the original teachings as presented by Blavatsky. I believe that this notion originated with C.W. Leadbeater, and first appeared in the E.S. [Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society] journals around 1908. Leadbeater's source appears to be the oral instructions given by T. Subba Row to an inner group of followers in the late 1880's after H.P.B. left India, and Subba Row had already resigned from the Theosophical Society. Leadbeater seems to have considerably expanded upon these teachings and adapted them to his own purposes. Subba Row's original teachings were concerned with correlations between the rays, the Buddha and the Christ. Second hand accounts of these teachings were published in the second edition of Subba Row's Esoteric Writings and likely had some metaphorical significance in the same matter as the Vedantist teachings are metaphorical. Since Subba Row was a Vedantist scholar, it would be inconsistent to assume otherwise. The source of Subba Row's teachings is a question that may never be answered at this point. But whatever truth there may be in Leadbeater's notion of an "inner government," the resulting authoritative structure his teachings created in the ES brought about (in my opinion), considerable damage to the Theosophical Society, from which it has never recovered. If we look at the Mahatma letters, one thing that was made clear chelas were expected to act according to their own conscience, regardless of what they were asked to do.
Regarding the notion of "privileged positions of knowing": How do we know who is in such a privileged position? A post modernist might answer that such a determination, even if you call it spiritual intuition, is really a leap of faith. But the danger comes if the follower abdicates his or her personal autonomy to that belief. As for "totalizing conceptual systems", the problem is that any such system is by definition closed. Closed systems become stagnant. An example in recent history would be the Tibetans. Before the Chinese invasion, the Tibetan culture was an example of this kind of stagnancy. While the rest of the world was experiencing ever changing paradigms of reality that eventually brought us into the twentieth century, Tibet remained a medieval culture. We may admire the charm and mystique of such older cultures, but wisdom is won through struggles with human experiences and leaps of understanding that comes from them. When we limit the possibilities of experience by becoming a closed system, we also limit our possibilities of change. I think it is somewhere in The Secret Doctrine that H.P.B. mentions a women who lives a life without mishap tragedy or struggle. H.P.B. ended this idealistic description by saying now look closely moss is growing all over her! As for "enduring values": values change from culture to culture and from person to person depending upon individual needs. A universal morality is yet to be evolved. If such a thing does come about, it will have to be the result of our own mutual creation.
DB: However, don't many postmodernists and other thinkers reject the idea of hierarchy completely, not simply the misuse of power and privilege that so often accompanies it?
JHE: I have talked to many that do. But I think they are throwing the baby out with the bath water. Besides, they are in contradiction with the basic relativistic position of postmodernism. We cannot deny the existence of something that we are in no position to affirm or deny. The usefulness of postmodernism is not in its ability to determine the existence of transcendent truths. It has no ability to do this. What is useful about postmodernism is its ability to observe and show how the belief in such transcendent truths can so often bring harm unto ourselves, to others, and to sometimes blind us from other truths that are far more evident. For instance, in the days before Vatican II, it was expected of the dedicated membership to put their faith in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church at the expense of their own autonomy. It was Vatican II that brought an end to this by asserting the over riding importance of personal conscience. Human history has given us numerous examples of disasters that occur when populations of people act out of obedience rather than conscience.
DB: In their emphasis on relativism and multiple perspectives don't postmodernists dismiss the idea that human consciousness is distributed along a spectrum ranging from animal to divine and that, therefore, some people (or Beings) have a greatly expanded or more evolved level of consciousness? Aren't some positions of knowing "privileged" through hard-won experience and spiritual growth?
JHE: Well, let's look at this idea from a postmodern point of view. The first thing I might ask, is what are the values that are embedded within this notion? For instance, if "human consciousness is distributed along a spectrum ranging from animal to divine" then what is your standard of measurement to determine who is more spiritual and who is less spiritual? What is the factor(s) that distinguish the more from the less spiritual? Intelligence? Unselfishness? Intuition? Whatever the determinant, there is a value behind it. This is why I.Q. and other tests are now recognized to be nothing more then indicators of one's ability to take that particular test nothing more. Some value laden issues in these tests are: every question in such a test assumes a cultural familiarity with the subject matter of that question. The test also assumes the testee knows standard English. In the same manner, neo-theosophical writings have some rather embarrassing examples of value laden issues. For instance, some writings from the 1920's gave descriptions of what the so called spiritually superior six sub-race was going to look like. The descriptions were of people with European features. What does that tell us about the writer's values concerning other cultures in this world, and their future destiny? From a postmodern perspective, this neo-theosophical notion is decidedly racist. Regarding privileged positions of knowing, H.P.B. warned her students against abdicating their will to anyone. If a person had superior knowledge of any kind, that did not give them a privileged position, but rather, added responsibility.
DB: It seems that the idea of progress, a fundamental belief of modernity, has been for the most part, rejected by postmodern thinkers.
JHE: The fundamental paradigm concerning progress that has come to question since the mid-sixties concerns the notion that scientific progress is the solution to all of our material and spiritual ills. This ray of hope grew out of the industrial revolution that began around the end of the eighteenth century. At that time people began moving from the farms to the cities to make their fortune. Instead, most of them only discovered a new form of slavery with subsistence pay and long hours. But the romantic idea of science being the salvation for humanity was hard to kill. The warnings in Mary Shelly's novel Frankenstein created discussion, but went unheeded. By the middle of the nineteenth century, this scientific materialism was formalized by Auguste Comte into a philosophy with quasi- religious overtones called "positivism." Comte believed that the scientific method held the solution to all of our physical and social ills. By adopting the scientific method as our primary paradigm, the Western world came to believe that all of the physical and spiritual needs of humanity would be solved and we would soon be living in a utopia. Dickens' short novel Hard Times gives a good (though negative) description of the conflict between utopian optimism and the resulting human misery in nineteenth century industrial England.
Within a generation, all of the philosophical disciplines became caught up in this new paradigm and sought to gain new respectability by reforming their field to reflect the "scientific method." To advertise this fact, new scientific disciplines used the prefix "ology." Sociology was among the first fields to be affected. Mental philosophy was re-named psychology. Natural philosophy in the tradition of Humboldt was divided into numerous fields such as geology and biology.
Though modern conveniences created by scientific progress have made people's lives easier, the utopia promised by scientific materialism was never realized. Racism, a long standing social ill, was "scientifically" justified through the notion of "survival of the fittest." Inferiority was still equated with the color of one's skin. Literacy became understood as evidence of an evolutionary step from "savagery" to "civilization." The industrialized nations viewed the world in terms of the superior European nations and the (darker skinned) ignorant masses who lived elsewhere. The industrial nations saw their destiny in the "civilizing of the savages" and exploitation of their conquered subject's resources as return payment. It is only in the last thirty years that these attitudes have been seriously questioned, and our world view has begun to change. But modernist attitudes are so pervasive, that even the most fundamental aspects of life were affected. The contrast between life in the 1950's when modernism dominated, and life today as we are moving into postmodernism is striking. For instance, I remember reading the Greek myths in middle school during that modernist period. Our teacher explained to us that these stories were attempts by the "ignorant Greeks" to explain the world around them. Since the Greeks were "too ignorant" to know about the scientific method, they came up with these "ridiculous stories" to explain why things were they way they were. I remember experiencing a very negative reaction to her explanation. I could not put my feelings into words at the time. I only instinctively knew that those stories had nothing to do with attempting to explain natural phenomena. Now that I can look back on the experience, I realize that she was trying to explain the Greek myths from her own positivistic/modernist/ racist paradigm. She saw every culture in terms of being in different stages of evolution, from the ignorance of "religious superstition" to the "superior world view" that she fancied herself to hold.
DB: Isn't the concept of evolution and the idea that humanity is evolving toward a more divine expression fundamental to theosophy? How do you think these apparently opposing points of view can be resolved?
JHE: Helena Blavatsky wrote about three lines of evolution: The spiritual, the physical, and of the soul which partakes of both. This "obligatory pilgrimage of the soul" as H.P.B. called it, is indeed a basic concept and is expressed in the third proposition of The Secret Doctrine. I don't think our postmodern paradigm opposes this or any other notion of faith. Rather, it is more concerned with how this idea affects our social structure. Through the postmodern paradigm, it is becoming more and more recognized that our society and values are defined by the way we think about ourselves, our world and of others. It is not the idea itself, but how it is applied that has the potential danger. For instance, when an idea is applied by a social structure in order to marginalize another social structure, or any portion of humanity, then a hierarchy is automatically created. When this happens, the whole notion of universal human solidarity suffers. In neo-theosophical teachings, the notion of spiritual progress is tied to the idea that some souls are more advanced upon the spiritual path than others. The very act of pledging oneself to the E.S. implies today that the applicant is a step further along on the path than others. When this notion was further developed to designate that certain races (races in the anthropological sense, not in the sense that Blavatsky used the word), were inferior to others, we only succeeded in enforcing the very racism, which Blavatsky had specifically warned against. From a postmodern perspective, the whole notion of a class system based upon spiritual and racial superiority is bogus because of its effect of destroying human solidarity. If a so-called spiritual notion serves to marginalize people rather then serving in their spiritual growth, then the notion cannot be spiritual, because it is creating separateness.
I think the theosophy Blavatsky had in mind was to bring back into mass consciousness some of those forgotten seventeenth century ideas along with some others found in the Orient. She tried to show the universality of these ideas among the diverse cultures of humanity whether it be in Europe, India or the Middle East. But the Theosophical Society itself went through a paradigm shift. Up to the time of Helena Blavatsky's death, the Theosophical Society was a rather progressive and radical philosophical organization. Its ideas attracted the attention and membership of some of the greatest scientific and literary minds of the era, such as: Sir. William Crooks, Alfred Russell Wallace, George Russell and William Butler Yeats. But even in 1890, as Blavatsky began to loose her influence, the Theosophical Society began to transform from a progressive and activistic philosophical organization (I would say even postmodern) to an unofficial religious group formed along modernistic and Victorian lines. By 1909, the Theosophical Society further changed from a quasi-religious organization to what was regarded as a "cult," when it "discovered" and promoted Krishnamurti as the coming "Christ. Under the guidance of Helena Blavatsky, Henry Olcott and William Judge, the Theosophical Society was dedicated to the assistance of its membership in the realization of their own truths. This Idea in itself was rather postmodern and far ahead of the prevailing victorian paradigm. Under later leadership, the Theosophical Society began moving away from its former activism and was restructured into a modernist organization that primarily produced revelations from the Masters. After Krishnamurti's resignation, the T.S. has continued adrift without direction, yet holding tightly to its modernist values.
Even today, the Theosophical Society has an hierarchical
structure with the inner group of devotes organized under the
Esoteric Section as its apex. The head of that section is
believed to be the spokes person for the masters. When the head
of the Esoteric Section is also the head of the Theosophical
Society, as is currently and generally the case, the situation is
not unlike the pope making decisions for the Roman Catholic
Church. Therefore, postmodern writers would indeed be opposed to
the Theosophical Society and to Theosophy as it is now understood
and practiced within the organization. In the same manner, it is
opposed to any hierarchical organization. On the other hand, the
T.S. has preserved a few postmodern notions established in the
beginning. Most notably is the policy that the organization has
no dogma. How successfully this ideal has been carried out is
by Ruben Cabigting
When I joined the Navy, I decided to start from the bottom because I would like to experience how it feels to be at the end of the line before I aspire for leadership. I got promoted three ranks after boot-camp. Combat veterans ten to twenty years older than me were assigned to me to lead.
You can just imagine the situation I was in, I was twenty-four but physically looking like eighteen years old and leading men many years my senior and more experienced. Fortunately these men gave me their loyalty and cooperation but not trust because they know that they know more. Some I know hated my guts but just the same was loyal. So we were able to accomplish our tasks successfully, thanks to their friendly suggestions and advise. I received my commission four years later and suddenly found myself a leader and a subordinate.
I attended training courses in Nuclear and Biological Defense, Naval Tactics and Strategy, Antisubmarine Warfare, Electronic Countermeasures, Ballistic Missiles, etc. in the Naval Training Facility in San Diego, California. I broke some grade records that the Admiral requested me to join the school staff as one of the instructors.
There was a point in my naval career that I was given missions that are considered impossible. I had a free hand to pick my men, materials and resources with no limit. All missions, tasks and projects were all successful that I earned a "reputation" so I got the privilege of a prima donna. Ego and pride set in, I was invincible, there was nothing that I cannot do I know more than the leaders or anybody. I got promoted bypassing 101 officers who were my seniors. The Admirals asked for my advice on Naval Tactics and Strategy and other matters.
I was assigned to command a ship with 300 crewmen. Then one day after receiving a memo from the Admiral regarding certain policies, I gave a loud remark that it was a stupid policy and I do not believe in it. The Admiral must have heard of it that he invited me to attend his staff conference. I was a mere lieutenant and the lowest ranking of his staff were commanders.
After ten minutes of deliberation I started shrinking in my chair, I felt I was three feet tall, embarrassed, and red faced. I realized that because of my ignorance of the circumstances and situation I gave a wrong evaluation of the policy and discovered that the Admiral was correct after all. My inflated ego was pricked and I learned a good lesson.
Since I have been a leader and subordinate I know how it works. I am still leading until now but a good follower too. I am loyal to my people and they to me. You see loyalty is up and down. I am loyal to the leaders and I know that they are loyal to me too. Loyalty and cooperation are extremely necessary in order to be efficient and successful in our tasks materially or spiritually.
I still remember the lesson I got in grade school:
You will never learn how to command if you do not know how to obey.
So, if we are really concerned about the welfare of the TS let us
unite and cooperate by giving suggestions in a friendly and
helpful way. Who knows someday one of you might find yourself in
the position of leadership then you will taste the bitter and
sweet tasks of leading.
by Dara Eklund
December is a fit time to think about seeds, even though we generally associate them with the Springtime. Even in the stark of winter, after the Fall harvest has dispersed seeds of all kinds in its wake, the buds of new life are forming along the twigs of seemingly dead tree limbs. Of the many flying seeds released in Autumn some may find a home even under the winter snows.
Although customarily we think of seeds in terms of beginnings, Seeds can also be seen as transitional states. First becoming a sprout, than a stem which leafs and flowers, the pattern within the seed unfurls. The Lotus seed clearly shows that pattern, which bears it from the mud, through the water to the air above. Johnny Appleseed travelled far and wide through varying climes, scattering his seeds in various soils, producing diverse results. To spread ideas is to bring "seeds of change." The so-called "seeds of destruction" are results of thoughts or acts often planted decades before they reach fruition. Within a culture or civilization, the Karmic seeds we are planting may not appear of great import to us now, but they filter through society as do those unnoticed streams of subatomic particles observed in particle chambers at the observatory.
When they enter the Earth's atmosphere, cosmic rays interact with atoms and trigger showers, or 'cascades,' of other particles, which may, in turn, trigger additional showers.
Wrinkles in Time by George Smoot and Keay Davidson. 1994 Avon paper ed., p. 95
George Smoot is an astrophysicist who sought to find the "cosmic seeds" which produced the galaxies amidst the background radiation detected in the past few decades by radio-astronomers. He believes he has discovered them as described in his text Wrinkles in Time cited above. His description of these cosmic seeds reminds one of H.P.B.'s commentary on the formation of elements in The Secret Doctrine. In Vol.I (p. 140) she writes:
The Worlds, including our own, were of course, as germs, primarily evolved from the One Element in its second stage ("Father-Mother," the differentiated World's Soul ... ) ... whether we call it, with modern Science, Cosmic dust and Fire Mist, or with Occultism Akasa, Jivatma, divine Astral Light, or the "Soul of the World" ... No world, as no heavenly body, could be constructed on the objective plane, had not the Elements been sufficiently differentiated already from their primeval ilus, resting in Laya.
A Laya point is always a transitional point between one plane and the next below (or above), and is the added dimension our current day scientists seem on the verge of discovering in visualizing event horizons. Even decades ago, in his book Astronomy and Cosmogony, astrophysicist James Jeans had suggested that:
Centres of the nebulae are of the nature of "singular points" at which matter is poured into our universe from some other, and entirely extraneous, spatial dimension, so that, to a denizen of our universe, they appear as points at which matter is being continually created.
Quoted by Smoot, p. 71 fn.
While astrophysicists are looking for the formation of galaxies after the singularity event which they dub "the Big Bang", they do believe the major elements are produced fairly quickly after that event, and even the minor elements appear between 300,000 and one billion years. They are produced by fusion, perhaps by stellar heat according to Smoot [p. 59], which of course includes that of our sun. Also due to George Smoot's discoveries, the astronomers now see that galaxies are not distributed evenly throughout the universe, but some regions, he states are:
virtually devoid of galaxies, existing as vast stretches of nothingness; in others, billions upon billions of galaxies are aggregated together in immense galactic superclusters ... The massive galactic conglomerations of today's universe must have grown from cosmic seeds present in the earliest times of the universe. These seeds should be evident as fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation fluctuations that represent primordial regions of slightly higher density, producing the embryos of galaxies and superclusters.
Wrinkles in Time, p.152-53].
This is the infinite playground of manifesting worlds H.P.B. has set the stage for. We can see the seeding of Universes, in fact, not just worlds, through reports from Radio Astronomers today. Smoot proved by his observations, (first by balloon, then via instruments aboard a U2 plane, eventually via a rocket-launch, and finally a radio dish at the South Pole) that Galaxies are expanding with space not into it. His limitation is in thinking of all this as a process of creation, rather than of emanation. Other scientists see the process as a continuum. However, Smoot leaves the door open by stating that whether you believe that matter is reducible to pointlike objects with certain intrinsic properties or that:
... fundamental particles are extraordinarily tiny strings that vibrate to produce their properties. Either way, in combination with certain concepts such as inflation, it is possible to envisage creation of the universe from almost nothing not nothing, but practically nothing. Almost creation ex nihilo, but not quite. That would be a great intellectual achievement, but it may still leave us with a limit to how far scientific inquiry can go, finishing with a description of the singularity, but not an explanation of it.
Ibid. p. 292
H.P.B. would have had fun with that! The Mahatma Letters insist that the missing key is in Primordial Matter.
Now, what of the human "seeds"? In speaking of a need for mortal beings to complete the creation of the Universe, Plato's Timaeus states:
The divine and immortal part of them, which is the guiding principle of those who are willing to follow justice and the gods of that divine part I will myself give you the seed and the beginning.
Timaeus Verse 41 in Volume III of Jowett's 1871 edition of Plato's Dialogues.
Also are described the various earlier races, among them the pudding bag types H.P.B. describes in The Secret Doctrine.
Earlier in Verse 23, Solon is told by Critias:
... you remember one deluge only, and there were many of them; in the next place, you do not know that there formerly dwelt in your land the fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, of whom you and your whole city are but a seed or remnant.
Or in the Thomas Taylor version (p.302) Wizards Bookshelf ed. of 1975: The Cratylus, Phaedo, Parmenides, Timaeus and Critias of Plato, where it states regarding Athens:
... from whence you and your whole city descended, though a small seed only of this admirable people once remained.
This use of seed as remnants reminds one of the concept of Sishtas as "remainders." When Blavatsky speaks of Sishtas, I feel she is not speaking of the physical forms themselves, but more as the archetypes, or patterns of a passing race or kingdom, remaining as seeds for the next great cycle, whether it be of a round or a Manvantara.
The term "remainders" is of interest in itself. A missing element in efforts to determine a single event for creation is that of Cycles. It was recognized in ancient astronomy, and by a new breed of Archeoastronomers, such as E.C. Krupp. In the Griffith Observer for December 1996, Dr. Krupp analyses on p.4 the cosmology surrounding a world-axis peak of Hindu belief, known as Mount Meru. He describes the illustration of the boundless waters from which the world emerged and states that
The world-encircling cobra is Shesha ("Remainder"), and its tail-swallowing closure upon itself refers to the turning of time and to the endless cycles of world creation and destruction.
As we recognize that reptiles shed their skins periodically, the doctrine of renewal is clearly found in this ancient symbolism.
While H.P.B. writes very little about Sistas we do find them being compared to seeds. In G. de Purucker's Occult Glossary he speaks of the special application of this word in the Ancient Wisdom, where
the Sishtas are those superior classes each of its own kind and kingdom left behind on a planet when it goes into obscuration, in order to serve as the Seeds of Life for the inflow of the next incoming Life-wave when the dawn of the new manvantara takes place on that planet.
He also speaks about the surplus of life in describing the building of the planetary chains as one might think of the unfolding of reservoirs of life, comparing the process to seeds.
Out of the seed flows forth the surplus, in the technical sense, of life that the seed contains. The surplus is first the green shoot, then the blade, then the stem and the branches and the leaves, and finally the fruit producing other from what is locked up within ... It is exactly what the ancient Stoics meant when they spoke of Spirit unrolling from within itself, its surplus life, as a child, the next plane in the cosmos, which let us say was Aether; and when Spirit and Aether were unrolled, the surplus of life, which merely means all the as yet, unrolled, unevolved, passed down to the next stage and formed the third, the spiritual Fire. And then the next, Air, Water, Earth. After that the Universe is manifested, the house is completed: Jack is in his house and Jack begins to live as a householder. Now the sishtas imbody a very different doctrine indeed, and we can call them also the remainders left behind after the surplus of life has passed on; but not in the technical sense that is intended when describing the First Round in the building of the Globes of a chain.
pp. 110-111 of Studies in Occult Philosophy, Covina, Theosophical University Press, 1945.
Thus the seed forms a very useful analogy, not only for births and deaths, but also transition states. Scientists may be getting close when thinking that our bodies are literally made of star dust, for what is primordial matter but a more etherial form of matter? In The Voice of the Silence H.P.B. urges us to
Fix thy Soul's gaze upon the star whose ray thou are, the flaming star that shines within the lightless depths of ever-being, the boundless fields of the Unknown.
Voice, p. 31
... merged in that self from which thou first did radiate.
The seeds of Wisdom cannot sprout and grow in airless space. To live and reap experience the mind needs breadth and depth and points to draw it towards the Diamond Soul ...
The Voice of the Silence, p. 26 Pasadena, Theosophical University Press, 1957
by Eldon Tucker
[From an October 8, 1993 posting to theos-l]
An Initiate is someone who has placed his feet firmly on a new path, who has started something new in life. He is like a newly-born baby, entirely new and undeveloped in the new aspect of life.
It is important to keep a clear distinction between Initiate and Adept. Someone "adept" at a skill is highly-proficient, with considerable experience. And someone fully-proficient would be a "master" of the skill.
It is possible, with the right state of readiness, to undertake the first few Initiations. But having done so, one is thereafter exposed to a new aspect of life, but the long road of development has only just begun. There's a considerable time from being initiated until mastery of the higher consciousness.
To be an Initiate means to have opened within yourself the activity of certain types of consciousness not available in the normal course of life. Whether this exposure is good or bad, whether it stimulates you to renewed effort at spiritual progress or proves a distraction from your personal path, is entirely up to you.
An Initiation is not (speaking of the first three) vastly high, far removed from life, nor a sign that one is more advanced that the next person. It is an exposure, an introduction to certain areas of life that most people are unaware. It is not a graduation, and does not signify that one has completed something; it is an admission into a type of higher learning, a start of some long course of learning.
The first three Initiations relate solely to the personality. Starting with the fourth, the personality is transcended and at one of the sacred seasons one is indrawn into the upper triad and has trans- personal experiences.
The Initiations are a rite of passage for the personality, and are experienced at an appropriate state of life when one is readied for an "opening". They, I would say, are repeated with each physical incarnation that one will be working on developing the higher consciousness that corresponds to them.
The first Initiation is the introduction to the exoteric body of knowledge of the Esoteric Philosophy, the start of the brain-mind study of the Mysteries. It would correspond to your finding that first book on Theosophy that really started your serious study, when you first saw the treasures therein.
The second Initiation is the introduction to the esoteric body of knowledge, the start of the direct knowing, of the tapping into the tought currents of the Philosophy, of an inner source of direct teaching that is true to, stimulated by, but independent of external learning.
The third Initiation is the introduction to the compassion/teaching side of knowledge, where you become a source for teaching the wisdom, rather than a receiver of it, where you start to open your mouth and valuable things start coming out.
All these three relate to degrees of exposure of the personality to the Mysteries. They were introduced and there were rites regarding them in ancient days. They represent the start of the respective kinds of knowing, not the completion of such knowing, and are not a sign of achievement, just a sign of readiness and ability to participate in the work of the Hierarchy of Compassion.
The theosophical societies could play a role in assisting with individuals having these three openings of consciousness, and thus be a genuine Mystery School, regardless of the presence of a Teacher to direct the subsequent growth and learning in these three fields of activity.
Regarding the upper four Initiations, number four through seven, they relate to openings of fields of acitivity that cannot be directly known in the personality, and relate to how one can eventually become a Fifth Rounder or Mahatman.
Now bearing the distinction between Initiate and Adept in mind,
and considering the aspect of the Lessor Mysteries as schools of
initiation, I would say that it is ok to consider the activity of
the Theosophical Societies as one such school.
by H. P. Blavatsky
[Found in Blavatsky Collected Writings, XI, 104-6.]
The questions asked and the difficulties propounded in the foregoing letter arise mainly from an imperfect acquaintance with the philosophical teachings of Theosophy. They are a most striking proof of the wisdom of those who have repeatedly urged Theosophists to devote their energies to mastering, at least, the outlines of the metaphysical system upon which our Ethics are based.
Now it is a fundamental doctrine of Theosophy that the "separateness" which we feel between ourselves and the world of living beings around us is an illusion, not a reality. In very deed and truth, all men are one, not in a feeling of sentimental gush and hysterical enthusiasm, but in sober earnest. As all Eastern philosophy teaches, there is but one self in all the infinite Universe, and what we men call "self" is but the illusionary reflection of the one self in the heaving waters of earth. True Occultism is the destruction of the false idea of Self, and therefore true spiritual perfection and knowledge are nothing else but the complete identification of our finite "selves" with the Great All. It follows, therefore, that no spiritual progress at all is possible except by and through the bulk of Humanity. It is only when the whole of Humanity has attained happiness that the individual can hope to become permanently happy for the individual is an inseparable part of the Whole.
Hence there is no contradiction whatever between the altruistic maxims of Theosophy and its injunction to kill out all desire for material things, to strive after spiritual perfection. For spiritual perfection and spiritual knowledge can only be reached on the spiritual plane; in other words, only in that state in which all sense of separateness, all selfishness, all feeling of personal interest and desire, has been merged in the wider consciousness of the unity of Mankind.
This shows also that no blind submission to the commands of another can be demanded, or would be of any use. Each individual must learn for himself, through trial and suffering, to discriminate what is beneficial to Humanity; and in proportion as he develops spiritually, i.e., conquers all selfishness, his mind will open to receive the guidance of the Divine Monad within him, his Higher Self, for which there is neither Past nor Future, but only an eternal Now.
Again, were there no "poor," far from the "benefits of civilization being lost," a state of the highest culture and civilization would be attained, of which we cannot now form the faintest conception. Similarly, from a conviction of the impermanence of material happiness would result a striving after that joy which is eternal, and in which all men can share. Throughout the whole letter of our esteemed correspondent there runs the tacit assumption that happiness in material, physical life is all-important; which is untrue. So far from being the most important, happiness in this life of matter is of as little importance in relation to the bliss of true spiritual life as are the few years of each human cycle on earth in proportion to the millions and millions of years which each human being spends in the subjective spheres, during the course of every great cycle of the activity of our globe.
With regard to faculties and talents, the answer is simple. They
should be developed and cultivated for the service of Humanity,
of which we are all parts, and to which we owe our full and
by Eldon Tucker
[From an November 9, 1993 posting to theos-l]
How do we know when we've found a genuine school of the mysteries? What can we use to judge our experiences? How do we tell that what we have is real, true, with teachings deeply-rooted in the fabric of Nature itself, and not merely the produce of someone's personal philosophy, however many gems of truth he may offer?
The first is that we find the ring of Truth, a signiture of majesty, a sense of the absolute rightness in what we learn. There is a feeling of expansive beauty, love, and wisdom, that cannot be contained. We do not grasp it, rather, it surrounds and embraces us. We are looking at a magnificent ocean or a beautiful, golden sunset, rather than the canvas of someone else's painting of it, and we are filled with awe and respect for what we behold.
This is a genuine spiritual experience, and quite different than where someone may tell us to visualize things, to tell us that we must strive for the light, that we must try harder. We are not being preached to, in the mysteries. When we study, the words take us to perceive, in the mind's eye, the wonders of the inner world, with the same sense of reality as any physical experience. But this is not psychic perception of other planes, it is in terms of grand vistas of thought.
We may describe the experiences to ourselves in our own ways, one person using philosophical terms, another images of form, color, using art, and a third person using hugs, smiles, and acts of kindess to people. There are different ways that we might give form to the wonders in our personalities and personal life.
There are a number of things to look for in a Mystery School. One is the manner of teaching. Does it teach according to the time-honored method of repetition, of examination of a subject from different angles, revealing a bit more with each return to it? Or it a subject taught in the western manner of trying to exhaustively cover one subject then moving on to the next?
Another is the content of the teaching. Are the teachings given as a fixed set of rules, steps, names, structures to life, with rigid interpretation? When you've studied a subject, can you say that you now really know it? That would not be good. There should always be gaps, hints at something more, higher after higher understandings of the materials. As soon as you feel that you've learned the final word on a subject, you're dead, as far as really understanding it. And a real Mystery School is ever teaching its students to break the molds of mind, to not crystalize their thoughts, to continually reexamine and review and expand what they thought they have learned.
The study is a fludic process where the student grows and changes. Progressing to deeper and deeper understandings of the Teachings, he sees new ways of understanding things, without rejecting what he has learned before, because the study is along a path of Truth, towards the one Truth, one step closer. Moving from one understanding to the next, the student finds the deeper understanding better explains what has gone before, and nothing is rejected. The student goes further into the same Truth rather than just exchanging one idea for another.
Another sign of a real Mystery School is that it awakens an authoritative voice within. We find a source of teachings within that supplements, complements, goes along with the teachings we receive from without. We can almost say, from knowing, what our teacher might next tell us, even before he speaks, because we too know, deep within, what is being said. We have a living connection to the theosophical thought current, to Mahat, and are experiencing a living process that one day will make of us living representatives of Mahat itself.
What is studied enriches the experiences of life and leads the students to see and experience it in a new way. There is a sense of beauty and harmony to what we study, no bitter pill to swallow. This is not to say that suffering is denied. It is accepted as a natural part of life. There is no aversion to living life to its fullest. But our deepest nature is touched. There is no depressing moment in the morning, say, when we just wake up, where doubts come flooding into our minds, thoughts that what we're doing may be phoney, a delusion, a sham.
The ideas that are taught are interconnected. None can be understood without knowing and referencing the rest. They find practical use in our life, are are not something that are turned off when we put down a book or leave a meeting hall. They are rooted in love, compassion, wisdom, the heart of our being. They have a beauty and symmetry to them. They seem plainly logical, obvious, simple, until we try to explain them to someone else.
What is taught in such a school does not lead the student to fixed, rigid opinions, because what the student believes is subject to continue change, and the student is quickly brought to see that he can never rest and say "at last I've got it!" The type of thinking he is taught is not rigid, demainding, but rather illuminating, expansive, inspiring.
The school teaches a spiritual practice, where we come to open up in a natural fashion, like a flower bud opening, over time, due to the continual radiance of the sunlight. There is a process, a period of time, a period of growth. Nothing is promised as a gift. There is not any instant gratification. There is a sense of growth and movement in accord with the nature and life.
This is not to say that there is no hastened development because of the school. The reverse is true. We find ourselves opening up at a hastened pace. We are ripening out of season, so to say, because of an extra influence on us, something that touches and stimulates our spiritual natures, and awakens us when we would otherwise have stayed asleep.
Look at the affects on your life. What is brought about by the training, by the study? Do you have a feeling of superiority, and a mind full of slogans, ringing in the mind's ears like some aweful television commercial that keeps coming back to haunt you? Or is a sense of the holy, of the divine, of the grandess of life starting to permeate your every activity, always at the back of the mind, when not actually being thought of?
You could be a secretary typing, a cook preparing food, a mechanic working on a car, and yet have this presence in the back of your mind. It is a quality of consciousness, a coloring of the experience of life, that lends something new to every experience of life. It is like a part of yourself has become a thing of beauty which you are in constant, awestruck admiration of.
We find, in a genuine school, an awakening of the intuition, of insight into life. There is not just a new way to describe things, where you substitute metaphysical words for some other verbal description of things, e.g. "this is caused by the throat chakra blockage as seen in the etheric double" being substituted for "this unconscious complex manifests as this form of neurosis". We are not simply taught one set of empty words to use to label the things of life with, to replace some other set of words.
There are a number of keys to identify a real school from a would-be school. No one can be told where and how to study, told the location of the schools. It is not a matter of simply saying that this school is false, and that one genuine. We will each go where we are attracted, and until we reach the right stage of readiness, we just won't see what is there, regardless of what others would tell us. We have to reach the appropriate stage of readiness, and give the right knock, and then we'll be admitted.
One thing that we'll find, though, that is a distinguishing
charactersitic of a Mystery School, is in its study, we find
growing in ourselves an unshakeable faith, belief, certitude in
the living, dynamic ideas that we receive, both as thoughts and
as a living influence in our lives. This faith is as strong as
the very will to live, because we have become the teachings, they
have become an integral part of ourselves, and they are our
lifeblood, they are us, they are our very lives.
by Sri Satya Sai Baba
[From "Tenth Discourse", pages 61-66, in Bhagavad-Gita: Discourses of Sri Satya Sai Baba. Reposted with permission obtained by a subscriber.]
Anger is born of desire. Desire arises from thoughts. Therefore, thoughts alone are responsible for both anger and desire. Just as you cannot get cloth without thread and thread without cotton, you cannot get anger without desire, and desire without thoughts. In the Gita, the divine teacher has termed desire and anger as Analam, which literally means fire. There is danger of being harmed by fire even when it is some distance from you. When this is true for a fire that is burning outside, then how much more careful must you be when the fire is raging in your own heart. This fire of desire and anger has an extraordinary capacity to destroy all the human qualities and to suppress the divine spark that is inside you, leaving only the demonic nature remaining within. This fire of desire has no long-term aim; it will not be appeased once some goal is reached; on the contrary, it can never be satisfied. It has a voracious appetite that is endless. Whatever fuel you give to fire, whether it be wood, oil, or anything else, it will never have enough. The word Alam means contentment, and Analam means complete absence of contentment. This fire of desire and anger has no contentment at all.
Most things in the world have prescribed limits, but this fire has no limits whatsoever in its hunger. That being its nature, is there any way to control it? The Lord declared in the Gita, "You can conquer anger through love, and you can conquer desire through renunciation and sacrifice." Where there is love there can be no anger. If you develop your love, then there will be no room left in your heart for hatred and anger to take root. The heart is like a single-seat sofa; only one quality can establish itself there. It will leave no place for another to enter and occupy it at the same time. A devotee has to make every effort to establish love in his heart. If you want to conquer anger through love then you have to develop your love in a most magnificent way. Love is always prepared to shower itself freely, and to overlook the defects and weaknesses in others. Love has this extraordinary quality, it lives by giving and forgiving, whereas the little ego-self lives by getting and forgetting. Where there is love there can be no room for selfishness, and where there is selfishness there will be no love.
There is absolutely nothing in the world which you cannot achieve when you shine with this principle of love. With love you can conquer all obstacles. Therefore, to achieve total victory over anger you have to fill your heart with love and make love the dominant force in your life. Once you recognize that the indweller of your heart is the indweller of every heart, that the beloved Lord whom you worship seated on the throne of your heart is also dwelling in every other heart, then there can be no possibility of hating or being angry with any person in the world. When the same Lord is in every heart how can you look down with contempt at another? Therefore, immerse yourself fully in this principle of love and establish it indelibly in your heart.
As has been mentioned before by Swami, when love is associated with thoughts, it becomes truth; when love is introduced into your activities, your actions become Dharma; when your feelings are saturated with love, your heart is filled with supreme peace; and when you allow love to guide your understanding and reasoning, then your intelligence becomes saturated with non-violence. Therefore, love is truth, love is righteousness, love is peace, love is nonviolence. For all these great qualities love is the undercurrent. If your thoughts are not filled with love, there will be no truth. If there is no love in your actions, Dharma will not be present. If you do not feel love in your heart, there will be no peace. And if you do not base your understanding on love, non-violence will not establish itself in your intellect. So, just as sugar is the basis of all different kinds of sweets, so also love is the basic ingredient for Sathya [truth], Dharma [righteousness], Shanti [peace] and Ahimsa [non-violence]. Love is the divinity itself. Love is God and God is love. Love is the divine power that activates everything. Through love you can easily conquer hatred and anger. Therefore, always live in love.
Anger can be the source of numerous difficulties and expose you to countless problems. It destroys your dignity and undermines the principle of humanity that resides within you. Anger first enters in a very subtle form and gradually becomes all-pervasive. Initially, when it comes in, it will only ask for a small bit of space. "Just give me a little room to sit down," it says. Once it has established itself, it declares, "Now, I'll make myself enough space to lie down and stay." But, you must not permit even the least room in your heart for such bad traits. Once you let anger in, it will be impossible to get rid of it. Even if you make friends with it and give it 50,000 Rupees, it will not leave you. It is a most dangerous poison which should not be given even the least space to get a foothold within you.
In a car the red tail-light goes on as a warning before the car comes to a stop. In the same way, before you explode into anger, your eyes become red, your lips begin to quiver and the whole body becomes hot. The moment you start having any of these symptoms, you had best leave the place you are in immediately and go to a solitary spot and sit there until peace returns. As was mentioned yesterday, you can also take a cold-water bath. Once anger expresses itself in words it may lead to endless complications and problems later on. Even if your anger is justifiable and you are protecting the truth, you will still have to learn how to express that truth in a sweet way, in a dear way, in an acceptable way that will be received by the other person, without hurting him in any way. Therefore, every devotee must learn to control his anger by developing and saturating his heart with love.
Next, let us consider how to deal with desire. To conquer desire you have to develop a sacrificing nature; you must be steeped in renunciation. Renunciation does not mean that you give up your family and go to the forest; nor does it require you to give up all your property and take up Sanyasa [a homeless renunciant]. Once you realize the defects in any object, once you recognize its transitoriness and worthlessness in helping you to reach your goal, you will automatically stop desiring it. Even when living the life of a householder immersed in the world, you can recognize the defects and weaknesses of the things of the world. For example, there may be certain kinds of food that you enjoy very much, and you may have a variety of dishes made of this food on your plate, and you are about to eat your meal with great relish; but then the cook comes and says, "Sir, please don't eat this dish; a poisonous insect has fallen in and is dead inside" The moment you hear this and recognize the harmfulness of the food you were about to eat, you would under no circumstances consider eating it anymore, no matter how much you previously cherished that dish and looked forward to having it.
In the same way, you have to recognize the nature of the things of the world. They are ever changing and some day they must cease to exist. Once you know this, how can you remain enthusiastic about acquiring them, and trying to get lasting enjoyment from them? Food is only medicine for the disease called hunger. How can it ever be an item of luxurious indulgence? When you are sick and medicines are given, do you refuse them if they are not tasty? Therefore, recognize the fact that the things you use in the world are only medicines for the diseases that you have.
As the disease improves, the need for medicine diminishes. When you are well you do not need to take any medicines at all; but when you are sick you must take the medicine which is right for the job, which will cure you of your illness. You cannot refuse to take the medicine just because it is not very tasty and flavorful, and still, at the same time, hope to get cured. Now, you are running after all sorts of attractive and tasty things, which instead of curing your ills worsen them. You rejoice that you have discovered so many delights in the world, and that you are living a very happy life, enjoying many things which seem to give you much comfort and joy. But these are not real enjoyments, for, in the future, you will surely have to face the consequences of all these indulgences you are engaging in now.
Consider a giant tree which has a number of branches heaped with flowers and fruits. It is a very grand and attractive tree. One particular day, this tree begins to dry up and its flowers fall off. Is it because there is a shortage of water or manure? Has there been some neglect in feeding it? No, there is some kind of pest that has attacked its roots and is destroying this beautiful tree. Through the roots the pest enters and starts to eat up this giant tree. In the same way, once you allow this pest of desire and hatred to enter your heart, then one day you will quite suddenly come to ruin. This is absolutely certain.
In the material world you think that a rich man is a very important individual, but in the world of the spirit, material wealth is of no consequence. Charity is a quality that is much greater than all the possessions associated with wealth. If there is no charity, wealth has no intrinsic value at all. You have four sons, each of whom will enter a claim to your wealth. The first is charity. The second is the government. The third is the thief. And the fourth is fire. Each of them expects to inherit your wealth, but if you were to hand over all your wealth to your first son, charity, then the others will get no share of it. When you give freely to charity, you will find that the other claimants will show great respect for your decision, and will not press their own claims.
For example, we know that the government gives you an income-tax exemption when you donate to charity. Even fire will be a little frightened of you, and thieves will leave you alone. So, when you give to charity, which may be considered your oldest son and your natural heir, then the others who would otherwise try to claim your wealth, will respect your action and not interfere. But if you possess wealth and do not give to charity, then the thief will have his eye on you and the government will also try to catch hold of you and claim your riches as its own. If these two for some reason choose to ignore you, then fire will come one day and destroy your possessions. Therefore, the Gita has concluded that it is charity, not wealth, which is really important.
In a similar way, in human beings, it is not the ability to speak well, but the truth that is uttered, which is important. If there is no truth in your speech, then whatever you say will have no value at all. The Gita has also declared that it is not life itself but a good character that is important. A life devoid of good character is useless. You have to develop your character and earn a good name so that the principle of humanity will shine forth in you. Your most important duty is to harbor good thoughts, to have good behavior, to speak good words and to lead a good life. You must be very careful with your words and actions so that you will never earn a bad name. Instead of living for a hundred years the life of a crow, scavenging off others, it is far better to live a few moments as a swan, with an untarnished name and an unblemished character. Gita has called such a sterling soul, whose life is replete with goodness, a Paramahamsa, a most sacred being.
Good actions are far more important than physical strength. A body that is not being used to serve others is nothing but a dead body. Use your body in the service of mankind, not just for the purpose of catering to your own selfish needs. Today, whatever man does, thinks or utters is primarily inspired by selfishness. In order to overcome this tendency, you have to constantly seek opportunities to help others and develop the principle of service. In this process, by your good actions, all of humanity will get sanctified. It is very difficult to obtain birth as a human being. You must spend some time thinking over how to properly utilize this rare life that has been given to you and develop good habits which will overcome these weaknesses of desire and anger, that waste your golden chance. How do you best overcome the deeply ingrained bad habits and replace them with good habits? Consider a small example.
One day a beautiful dog happens to come to your house; you do not know to whom it belongs. It is such an attractive thing, in order to keep it there for some time and enjoy its presence, you give it a little food. Next day it comes about the same time, and again you feed it and enjoy having it visit you. Like this it comes back every day to get fed, and gradually over a period of time, attachment increases and this dog now regularly visits your house, spending more and more time there. One day you find that it will no longer leave; it just continues to live at your house from that time on. But the happiness that you enjoy in looking at physical beauty does not last very long; once the beauty is no longer accompanied by joy, it becomes obnoxious to you. In the case of this dog, you soon get tired of having it around all the time, and so you look for a way to get rid of it.
To begin with you must ask yourself why that dog has attached itself to you and is now living in the house. The reason is that right from the very beginning you have been feeding it regularly every day; you have also been stroking it, admiring it, and paying so much attention to it. It is this repeated daily practice which has created the attachment between yourself and the dog. Now you must develop a new regular practice (Abhyasa), which will break this attachment and help you to get rid of the dog. For this the best method is to reverse the original process that created the attachment and made the object so dear to you.
In the case of the dog, if no food is given for some days and everyone is indifferent to it, paying no attention to it whatsoever, then soon, of its own accord, the dog will go away. Therefore, it is the practice that is important; it is through practice that you have developed certain attachments and undesirable qualities, and it is through practice that you can change them. The Bhagavad Gita has said, that for everything practice is the starting point. In the 12th verse of the Chapter on Bhakti [Devotion] Yoga, it says, "Through practice you will be able to get knowledge, through knowledge you will be able to develop meditation, through meditation you will develop sacrifice, and only when you have sacrifice will you obtain peace of mind." Therefore, it all starts with Abhyasa or steady practice.
For many births, you have been enamored by beauty and you have engaged in desire and anger until these passions have struck deep roots in your heart. Now, you have become a slave of your desires. Mere words will not be enough to get rid of them. After having practiced attachment for so long, these negative qualities have developed such strong roots, that even if you were to cut them off at the surface, they would sprout up again and again. When desire has become an integral part of you, it is only by reversing the process and practicing detachment and renunciation that you will be able to get rid of these deeply ingrained pests. In the beginning, desires are extremely attractive and sweet. After some time you develop a disgust for them; but then it is already quite difficult, in fact, almost impossible to get rid of them. Therefore, it is best if right from the very beginning you develop renunciation and detachment as part of your nature, and give no place or importance to desire. Unless you have such an attitude of sacrifice and a capacity to resist desires, you will not be ready to receive the grace of the Lord.
A bullock or a horse which cannot be controlled, a car without brakes, or a life which is not based on control of the senses, are all dangerous. Control of the senses is very important. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali emphasized the need to tightly control the tendencies of the mind to go off in all directions, running after desires. Mind and senses must be kept in check within limited bounds. Even happiness which exceeds certain limits can be harmful. For everything there is a limit, there is a range of healthy functioning.
The normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees; if it goes up even one degree there will be a disease in progress. Only when it is within the appropriate level does it indicate a healthy body. In the same way, your blood pressure is normal when it is 120 over 80. If the blood pressure goes up to 150 over 90 it indicates an abnormal condition in the body, which may be indicative of a disease. Similarly, the heart beat should be around 75; if it increases a disease will be in progress. The same is also true for your eyes; there is a range of light that is appropriate to healthy functioning. If the light is too bright the eyes cannot see and will be harmed. This is true, as well, in the case of the ears; there is a proper range of sound. If the level of sound exceeds that range, such as may happen close to an airplane, or a train or a loudspeaker, the hearing will become impaired.
We see that life is something like a limited company. If you want to carry on unlimited business with this limited company then you will be subject to a great deal of distress. Therefore, you have to impose restrictions on your behavior, and spend your life acting always within certain prescribed limits. This can also be called discipline. Discipline is particularly necessary for the spiritual progress of an individual; without discipline a person is likely to become nothing but an animal. But discipline, too, has to be exercised within limits; there is even a need to regulate your discipline if you are to enjoy life. You see that for everything there is a limit and a bound; if you stay within these limits you will not be troubled by life.
You need to take proper notice of these two dreadful enemies of
man, Kama and Krodha, desire and anger, and develop complete
control over them. These enemies are not external to you; they
are your inner enemies. If you are defeated by your inner
enemies, how can you ever hope to conquer your external ones?
But, once you keep these inner enemies under firm check, your
other enemies can be defeated quite easily. The Bhagavad Gita
has taught that desire and anger are the primary obstacles to
liberation, so, it is absolutely important that they be curbed.
In the coming days we will take up some of the other enemies that
get in the way of your path, such as jealousy and miserliness.
by Mark Kusek
So much has happened since the days of H.P.B., et al, as you know, that it stands to reason that sincere aspirants must perform the task of assimilating their present psychological and cultural context in light of what they understand of esoteric doctrine.
I want to say at the outset that creative endeavor in light of spiritual doctrine has been a personal focus of mine for some time.
I've heard it expressed that single images or sacred syllables are inadequate to contain or convey spiritual merit. I want to say: Not so!
Fathom this if you will.
The artist (and this means anyone involved in creative sensual endeavor, be it verbal, visual, motive, aural, etc.) has to face the blank substrate of their craft. A writer's page, a dancer's quiescence, a musician's silence or an artist's blank paper or canvas. The very act of addressing the substrate can be one of conscious cosmic correspondence. It all depends on the strength and quality of the inward contact you are able to make with your soul or spirit (however you choose to designate such). I think of the stillness of the TaiChi player before they begin to move.
If your attitude to the ground (as I call it) is sincere, and your perception of the pregnant emptiness before you is honored, any creative effort that you make will, I believe, be qualified with the proper context and expressive of your spiritual authenticity (warts and all ... and that's OK!)
It's really fine either way, intentional or not, but seems to benefit manas more with focused attention. Conscious effort seems to help build the personal and collective antahkarana to a greater degree.
However, it often takes an individual artist time to relate to and come to some understanding of what they have made. In creative work it also falls on others to interpret the cultural significance of what one has done and diffuse it's merit throughout the community. This all can take time. The artist's creative obligation is to produce from one's personal inner necessity. Any particular work's merit beyond that sphere is debatable.
I have often waited in repose for the proper moment to lift brush to paper ... When it comes, a single point or mark can be veritably God in expression where I AM (pardon the New Age-iness of that but stop and think about it). Such talismanic rituals of art-making are the basis for the seed syllable caligraphs and sacred diagrams of esoteric traditions. If properly made, they echo the state of attunement and function in the temporal world as crystalizations of awareness for all those who can benefit from them. Whether understood as such or not doesn't matter, for I believe intention is everything. Co-operative will is the key.
Example: (silence or space) ... +.-
The example, albeit simplistic - performs a ritual of harmony in which awareness of the fact of wholeness breeds wholeness in human consciousness. This can have repercussions that will benefit those who come under the influence of such expressions even if unaware of them (work this thought out for yourself). Living with such formations of inward states reinforces the ability to maintain the contact and its strength. This I believe, is an example of practical occultism for an artist and a clue to one of the possible roles of arts in culture.
Rituals such as sacred calligraphy, the writing of bija mantras, mandalas, tantric yantra diagrams, etc. have their basis in such knowledge. It becomes a matter of sincerity and disciplined effort. Sacred approaches to ritual art-making, whether in the depiction of traditional or original forms, are a hidden asset to development. This practice was vouchsafed to devotees and priestcraft and later disseminated (pardon the gender reference) to local communities where it eventually becomes folk tradition. As such it has served as a container for much of what we have in the world as esoteric and exoteric legacy. It would be hard to imagine the spiritual heritage we possess be it not for the artists and forms of art that have so obediently served to convey, contain and preserve it, no?
I have often wondered about the differences between western images of spirituality and eastern traditions of the same. I don't want to overly generalize as there are exceptions in both cases, but in western depictions, one often finds that the images tend to place the spiritual powers outside the viewer and keep them effectively in a state of wanting, desire or lack. In the east, at times, there seems to be another idea at work. It is almost as if they asked a different question. Instead of "what does Christ (or Buddha) look like, and what is his story, etc," they sometimes seem to ask, "if I imagined being Christ (Buddha, or a Superior Man), how would I look at the world, see a flower, gaze at a branch, etc?" The resulting images are I believe, for the viewer, vehicles for entering into psycho-spiritual states that can put one in rapport with inner divinity and transform identity in a way that is prevented in the other modes of depiction.
I respect both views, but find myself drawn to those that confirm the indwelling presence. The radical shift in perception of both self and the world that results is a benefit that cannot be ignored. A veritable immortelle bequeathed to the earth. A thread woven into the collective antahkarana.
Creative necessity and impulse moves in all of us to varying
degrees. In yielding to it we often fall into the best parts of
ourselves and always return the better for having made the
by Eldon Tucker
[From a December 6, 1993 posting to theos-l]
In entering chelaship in a particular lifetime, we go through a period of probation, a period of about seven years in which the karma of the current life can come out and be dealt with. This allows us to devote much of the remainder of our life to the Work.
But what does it mean for dammed-back karma to come rushing forth? Does it mean that we encounter a rush of pain, misery, and suffering, which we have to wade through, to stand up against, and to endure, as a rite of passage, as a price that must be paid in order to deserve admission to the spiritual path?
At the end of devachan, when the energies of the previous life have exhausted themselves, the moment comes when the impulse to new life happens, when the decision at the highest levels within is made to come forth into life again. The nature of this impulse, the qualities of it, the energies in it, go to shape the life that will be. Much like the opening impulse of a Manvantara, issued forth from the Dhyani Chohans, acting as Manus, governs the coming period of evolution in the world, our own impulse sounds the keynote of the life to come.
A new ray of the Monad issues forth, to become the personality that will exist in the world. And this ray contains a portion of the whole man, containing some of the interests, qualities, attributes, and characteristics of him, that portion of him which will be experienced in the life to be.
When we think of the person as a separate individual, we consider these qualities as attributes of self. When we take a higher standpoint, and consider all life as inter-related, we consider there not being qualities, but rather a web of relationships with all of life, a karmic web, a mass or body of karma that will shape and define the person to be.
That body of karma is the karma destined for the life, and defines the person to be. In a normal lifetime, it unfolds itself slowly, coming out over the entire lifespan of the person. But when we undertake the Path, the process is changed.
With the Path, there is a dual experience of existence. The normal course of life as a personality is still gone through, for that is what we are at this time; we are human egos at this point of evolution. But another side of ourselves, a higher part, also comes into play, and accomodation is made so that it too may enjoy some experience, so that it too can be lived out in some fashion.
Life is pushed harder, and like a system undergoing stress, it undergoes a bifurcation, a point of transformation, after which there are two selves that we experience things through. We have the ordinary personality, and another, a higher self, the individuality, as a second ego in which we can also experience life.
The Masters have written how they are ordinary men, in bodies of flesh, just like us, and when functioning in their ordinary selves, in their personalities, are just as fallable and likely to make mistakes as any of us. It is just, they say, when the human element is paralyzed, and they temporarily function in another part of their nature, that they are actually functioning as Mahatmans.
In probation, we would have started this dual track of personal development, of the outer self and a new, budding inner self. The life of the personality must be fulfilled, the karma is not dropped, but another life is cultivated too, apart from the personality.
When we hear that the karma of a lifetime comes up to meet us in the period of probation, in but seven years, we must not assume the worst! Karma is not merely a burden of suffering, waiting to cursh us. It can also be apparently unmerrited good fortune. It can help us in doing the work, and is not necessarily a collection of obstacles in our way.
Don't look at karma as deferred punishment. It is not. When we hear of all coming forth in probation, we are seeing the experiences of a lifetime coming out in a short period of time.
The value to having all our karma come forth in probation is to allow us to devote a period of time, the seven years, to getting our life in order, to giving a direction to what all our karmic experiences will take, a spin to it. This allows us to organize how the events of our life will unfold, to order them, so that we can make room in our life for something else as well.
When we speak of karma being intensified, that does not mean that is all happens quickly, then is over, exhausted, and gone. Our ability to interact with outers in life, and the very fabric of our beings, is our karma, our living links to the rest of life. This does not all go away after seven years.
The intensification of karma refers to all the events of the life, all the people we will know, all the things that we will experience, all the aspects of our personality's nature, to be drawn forth, to be called into action. This is so that we can start things, not so that we can have them all finished and over with.
This starting of things, in a short period of time, is to allow us a concentrated period where we can organize the direction that they will take in our lives. We cultivate the remainder of our lives, so that there is room for other types of work and experiences, gaps in our personal experiences and responsibilities, for other types of experiences and responsibilities.
Our life is not regulated by some external lesson plan that we must follow. The analogy of life being a school has merit, but we must not carry it too far or we will be mislead.
We have certain personal responsibilities to others, and these karmic links are not debts to be paid, where we try to pay them off quickly so that we are no longer burdened with them. The karmic connections are living links, that do not go away.
In probation, we come into contact with these people, who make up our personal lives, and establish the nature of our future relationship with them. We do it according to the revised plan for our lives, rather than by chance, as we might have come across them later in life, perhaps only meeting them when we were 60 or 70 years old.
We are not free of the complusion to take physical birth, but can transform and adapt our personality as best as we can.
The intensification of karma that we experience in probation is not as where every experience of our lifetimes are rushing forth to be lived out in seven years. Rather, it is where we are faced with a bewildering rush of choices, all at once, where we are starting or sprouting every seed of karma in the life.
We start everything during this period, while we are giving our full attention to shaping the direction that our lives will take, so that we can also have opportunities, periods, gaps in our lives where we also experience another side to life. And we fashion ourselves during this time so that the remaining life has as much flexibility as possible to allow us to participate in the work.
Our personal karma still defines the limits on who and what we
will be, and we still work within the established structure of
life, but we seek to make the best of things. We are still the
same person, and still have the same personal ties and
responsibilities to fulfill, but we've organized them to allow us
to do the best work that we can.
by Einar Adalsteinsson
[based upon an October 2, 1996 posting to theos-l]
I see an interesting awakening going on right now, and it will probably become much intensified in the years to come. Real initiation is a "serious business," a transformation of both the psyche and the body (Sthula-Sharira, that is), that takes some serious time traditionally seven consecutive incarnations.
I also would like to refer to an entirely different possibility, which to my mind fits quite well into these ideas of mass spiritual awakening. It would be more like an "advanced self-aware opening" to the spiritual realms, a natural evolutionary process of an order of higher degree than previously. I agree that it will be propelled by the mass spirituality process, as in Dr. Sheldrake's theory of Morphic fields and the 100 apes.
If we take the theosophical theory of the evolutionary process of life on the earth, it evolves through first sensing influences of "a new field of consciousness," to later acting on that field.
Thus we can cut in with the mineral kingdom's ability to "sense" forces in nature including the life force, Prana, Chi, etc. You can store vital energy in crystals, and we interact with nature in that sense all the time. The next, the kingdom of plants, include use of the vital energy in all its life cycles, and according to experiments they are highly perceptive of emotional energy. (See The Secret Life of Plants.)
The animals are clearly active emotionally, and the higher species seem to have quite advanced way of perceiving, and even acting on the thinking principle. When we come to the human domain, we at large seem to be still engaged in the gymnastics of the lower Mind, the rational thinking, but we all enjoy more or less the advanced "intuitional understanding" of the higher mind.
What, then, would be the further progress?
It would surely be the higher intuition, the direct perception of the truth, the wisdom consciousness. This is obviously the next perceptive phase, and we are already touching this "Next Principle" of evolution.
Now, what would be the "active" part of such "direct perception of truth," higher understanding, intuition, seeing, or whatever we agree on calling it? How about Love, about loving kindness, about the "initiate" type of selfless compassion? It is the autonomous act of higher understanding, isn't it? Love and understanding are two sides of the same principle, Unconditional Loving Kindness. There is no real Love without Understanding, and no real Understanding without Love!
I believe that this is the next stage of evolution, and we are more or less practicing it in our best moments, in the global spiritual movement of New Agers.
Being aware of the process and going with the current within
enormously enhances its movement, but we have to leave the
argumentative stage and move into the intuitive, acceptive,
listening state of free communication, without either believing
or denying what we hear or see. This is the open and
unconditional frame of mind that will bring us to the
spirituality of the future.
by Andrew Rooke
[Adopted from an article in the September 1995 Australasian T.S. Newsletter by the author.]
As our population ages the pressure continues to mount on our lawmakers to legalize mercy-killing or 'Euthanasia.' More and more distressed relatives watch as their loved ones are afflicted by the diseases of aging and wonder why they can't end their suffering humanely.
After all, as the argument goes, we put suffering animals down, why can't we do the same for afflicted humans? This argument now has powerful friends in high places as we have seen in the successful enactment of doctor-assisted euthanasia legislation in Australia's Northern Territory. In September 1996, the first ever legal physician-assisted euthanasia was performed on a 65-year-old cancer patient. Current, the argument over national euthanasia policy raging in our National Parliament, and many leading politicians are advocating euthanasia legislation in several states around Australia. There is no doubt that these eminent people are acting from a sense of compassion for the suffering of others. Why then do theosophical teachers charge us to uphold the Sanctity of Life under all circumstances? As I understand it, our teachers say that this matter primarily relates to the operation of the law of Karma and our level of understanding of this law in human affairs. Suffering is often the handmaiden of Karma as the process of learning or awakening. We know that the sins of the 20-year-old can be visited on the same man at 70 years old, but it is more difficult to appreciate that we are all working out the results of actions from lives eons ago. Yet the wise teachers of humanity say this is indeed the case and Nature's laws of action and reaction should not be temporarily thwarted by killing people who are involved in the process of learning by suffering. Why not? Because we interrupt their right to learn from that experience by postponing the lessons that they have to learn from suffering at that particular time.
Karma presents us with the challenges we need to learn at the best time for us to cope with them. If we put off outward suffering to another life by euthanasia now, it will be the worse for the suffering person who is placed by karma to cope best in the circumstances that exist now. How little do we know of another's path of learning that may have led him to his present pitiful condition? All we understand is the brief span of one life, which does little to explain the trials necessary for soul learning over ages. In any case, medical science provides ample remedies for controlling pain and there are skilled doctors working in palliative and hospice care that are available to provide humane assistance for people to work through their final learning experiences and leave life at their appointed time. So many wonderful teachings about the law of karma have been lost to the general public with the decline of the outward work of the mystery-schools of ancient days. If the community, including our lawmakers, understood the laws of life better, euthanasia would be understood not as a compassionate means to end suffering, but rather as an obstacle to a person's long term development over many lives. Surely we have a role as theosophists to teach these timeless laws Karma, Reincarnation, and Universal Brotherhood where we can to those who will listen and eventually a greater understanding will permeate outwards to the wider community. When the former Leader of our Society, Dr. G. de Purucker, was asked about his attitude to euthanasia, he replied:
Do you honestly think that any human being is wise enough, profound enough in insight, to see beyond and within and above the tortured body?
Why, the majority of the proponents of this system of doing away with the suffering of loved ones do not even recognize that there is anything beyond the tortured body. Their hearts are wrung and in turn tortured with the suffering they see.
It is often compassion that gains adherents for this theory. But I am not one of them. Modern medical science is amply able to still the pains. As long as there is life, that unfortunately afflicted, karmically unfortunately afflicted, soul is learning.
How can we stop the abuses that would almost invariably arise should the practice of Euthanasia become legalized in any civilized country? Think of the doors it opens to criminal practices of many kinds under the hypercritical guise of compassionate action! Euthanasia is far too dangerous. Think about it. No safeguard sufficiently strong could be thrown around the beds of our helpless and trusting loved ones, should such proposition become law.
I am against it ethically, spiritually, because of the compassion in my heart. I would never dare to take the life of a fellow human being, even under the guise of pity!
Studies in Occult Philosophy, 686-7.