Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.
by Eliphas Levi
[From Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrines and Ritual, London, 1896, pages 200-06.]
Equilibrium is the consequence of two forces. If two forces are absolutely and invariably equal, the equilibrium will be immobility, and therefore the negation of life. Movement is the result of an alternate preponderance. The impulsion given to one of the sides of a balance necessarily determines the motion of the other. Thus contraries act on one another, throughout all nature, by correspondence and analogical connection. All life is composed of an aspiration and a respiration; creation is the assumption of a shadow to serve as a bound to light, of a void to serve as space for the plenitude, of a passive fructified principle to sustain and realize the power of the active generating principle. All nature is bisexual, and the movement which produces the appearances of death and life is a continual generation. God loves the void which he made in order to fill it; science loves the ignorance which it enlightens; strength loves the weakness which it supports; good loves the apparent evil which glorifies it; day is desirous of night, and pursues it unceasingly round the world; love is at once a thirst and a plenitude which must diffuse itself. H who gives receives, and be who receives gives; movement is a continual interchange. To know the law of this change, to be acquainted with the alternative or simultaneous proportion of these forces, is to possess the first principles of the great magical arcanum, which constitutes true human divinity. Scientifically, we can appreciate the various manifestations of the universal movement through electric or magnetic phenomena. Electrical apparatuses above all materially and positively reveal the affinities and antipathies of certain substances. The marriage of copper with zinc, the action of all metals in the galvanic pile, are perpetual and unmistakable revelations. Let physicists seek and find out; ever will the kabbalists explain the discoveries of science!
The human body is subject, like the earth, to a dual law; it attracts and it radiates; it is magnetized by an androgyne magnetism, and reacts on the two powers of the soul, the intellectual and the sensitive, inversely, but in proportion to the alternating preponderance of the two sexes in their physical organism. The art of the magnetizer consists wholly in the knowledge and use of this law. To polarize the action and impart to the agent a bisexual and alternated force is the method still unknown and sought vainly for directing the phenomena of magnetism at will, but tact most experienced and great precision in the interior movements are required to prevent the confusion of the signs of magnetic aspiration with those of respiration; we must also be perfectly acquainted with occult anatomy and the special temperament of the persons on whom we are operating. Bad faith and bad will in subjects constitute the gravest hindrance to the direction of magnetism. Women above all who are essentially and invariably actresses, who take pleasure in impressing others so that they may impress themselves, and are themselves the first to be deceived when playing their neurotic melodramas are the true black magic of magnetism. So is it forever impossible that magnetizers who are uninitiated in the supreme secrets, and unassisted by the lights of the Kabbalah, should govern this refractory and fugitive element. To be master of a woman, we must distract and deceive her skillfully by allowing her to suppose that it is she who is deceiving us. This advice, which we offer chiefly to magnetizing physicians, might also find its place and application in conjugal polity.
Man can produce two breaths at his pleasure, one warm and the other cold; he can also project either the active or passive light at will. But he must acquire the consciousness of this power by habitually dwelling thereon. The same manual gesture may alternately aspire and respire what we are accustomed to calling the fluid, and the magnetizer will himself be warned of the result of his intention by alternative sensation of warmth and cold in the hand, or in both hands when both are being used, which sensation the subject should experience at the same time, but in a contrary sense, that is, with a wholly opposed alternative.
The pentagram, or sign of the microcosmos, represents, among other magical mysteries, the double sympathy of the human extremities with each other and with the circulation of the astral light in the human body. Thus, when a man is represented in the star of the pentagram, as may be seen in the "Occult Philosophy" of Agrippa, it should be observed that the head corresponds in masculine sympathy with the right foot and in feminine sympathy with the left foot; that the right hand corresponds in the same way with the left hand and left foot, and reciprocally of the other hand. This must be borne in mind when making magnetic passes, if we seek to govern the whole organism and bind all members by their proper chains of analogy and natural sympathy. The same knowledge is necessary for the use of the pentagram in the conjuration of spirits, and in the evocation of errant spirits in the astral light, vulgarly called necromancy, as we shall explain in the fifth chapter of this Ritual. But it is well to observe here that every action promotes a reaction, and that in magnetizing others, or influencing them magically, we establish between them and ourselves a current of contrary but analogous influence which may subject us to them instead of subjecting them to us, as happens frequently enough in those operations which have the sympathy of love for their object. Hence it is highly essential to be on our defense while we are attacking, so as not to aspire on the left while we respire on the right. The magical androgyne depleted in the frontispiece of the Ritual has solve inscribed upon the right and cogula on the left arm, which corresponds to the symbolical figure of the architects of the second temple, who bore their sword in one hand and their trowel in the other. While building they had also to defend their work and disperse their enemies; nature herself does likewise, destroying and regenerating at the same time. Now, according to the allegory of Duchentau's Magical Calendar, man, that is to say, the initiate, is the ape of nature, who confines him by a chain, but makes him act unceasingly, imitating the proceedings and works of his divine mistress and imperishable model.
The alternate use of contrary forces, warmth after cold, mildness after severity, love after anger, etc., is the secret of perpetual motion and the permanence of power; coquettes feel this instinctively, and hence they make their admirers pass from hope to fear, from joy to despondency. To operate always on the same side and in the same manner is to overweight one plate of the balance, and the complete destruction of equilibrium is the speedy result. Continual caresses beget satiety, disgust, and antipathy, just as constant coldness and severity in the long run alienate and discourage affection. An unvarying and ardent fire in alchemy calcines the first matter, and not seldom explodes the hermetic vessel; the heat of lime and mineral manure must be substituted at regular intervals for the heat of flame. And so also in magic: the works of wrath or severity must be tempered by those of beneficence and love, and if the will of the operator be always at the same tension and directed along the same line, great weariness will ensue, together with a species of moral impotence.
Thus, the magus should not live altogether in his laboratory, among his athanor, elixirs, and pantacles. However devouring is the glance of that Circe who is called occult power, we must know how to confront her on occasion with the sword of Ulysses, and how to withdraw our lips for a time from the chalice which she offers us. A magical operation should always be followed by a rest of equal length and a distraction analogous but contrary in its object. To strive continually against nature in order to her rule and conquest is to risk reason and life. Paracelsus dared to do so, but even in the warfare itself he employed equilibrated forces and opposed the intoxication of wine to that of intelligence. So was Paracelsus a man of inspiration and miracles; yet his life was exhausted by this devouring activity, or rather its vestment was rapidly rent and worn out; but men like Paracelsus can use and abuse fearlessly; they well know that they can no more die than grow old here below.
Nothing induces us toward joy so effectually as sorrow; nothing is nearer to sorrow than joy. Hence the uninstructed operator is astounded by attaining the very opposite of his proposed results, because he does not know how to cross or alternate his action; he seeks to bewitch his enemy, and he becomes ill and miserable; he desires to make himself loved, and he consumes himself for women who deride him; he endeavors to make gold, and he exhausts all his resources; his torture is that of Tantalus eternally; ever does the water flow back when he stoops down to drink. The ancients in their symbols and magical operations multiplied the signs of the duad, so that its law of equilibrium might be remembered. In their evocations they invariably constructed two altars, and immolated two victims, one white and one black; the operator, whether male or female, holding a sword in one hand and a wand in the other, had one foot shod and the other bared. At the same time, either one or three persons were required for magical works, because the duad would be immobility or death in the absence of the equilibrating motor; and when a man and a woman participated in the ceremony, the operator was either a virgin, a hermaphrodite, or a child. I shall be asked whether the eccentricity of these rites is arbitrary, and whether its one end is the exercise of the will by the mere multiplication of difficulties in magical work? I answer that in magic there is nothing arbitrary, because everything is ruled and predetermined by the one and universal dogma of Hermes, that of analogy in the three worlds. Each sign corresponds to an idea, and to the special form of an idea; each act expresses a volition corresponding to a thought, and formulates the analogies of that thought and that will. The rites are, therefore, prearranged by the science itself. The uninstructed person who is not acquainted with the three powers is subject to their mysterious fascination; the sage understands those powers, and makes them the instrument of his will, but when they are accomplished with exactitude and faith, they are never ineffectual.
All magical instruments must be duplicated; there must be two swords, two wands, two cups, two chafing-dishes, two pantacles, and two lamps; two vestments must be worn, one over the other, and they must be of contrary colors, a rule still followed by Catholic priests; and either no metal, or two at the least, must be worn. The crowns of laurel, rue, mugwort, or vervain must, in like manner, be double; one of them is used in evocations, while the other is burnt, the crackling which it makes and the curls of the smoke which it produces being observed like an augury. Nor is the observance vain, for in the magical work all the instruments of art are magnetized by the operator; the air is charged with his perfumes, the fire which he has consecrated is subject to his will, the forces of nature seem to hear and answer him; be reads in all forms the modifications and complements of his thought. He perceives the water agitated, and, as it were, bubbling of itself, the fire blazing up or extinguishing suddenly, the leaves of the garlands rustling, the. magical rod moving spontaneously, and strange, unknown voices passing through the air. It was in such evocations that Julian beheld the beloved phantoms of his dethroned gods, and was appalled at their decrepitude and pallor.
I am aware that Christianity has forever suppressed ceremonial
magic, and that it severely proscribes the evocations and
sacrifices of the old world. It is not, therefore, our intention
to give a new ground for their existence by revealing the antique
mysteries after the lapse of so many centuries. Even in this
very order of phenomena, our experiences have been scholarly
researches and nothing more. We have confirmed facts that we
might appreciate causes, and it has never been our pretension to
restore rites which are forever destroyed. The orthodoxy of
Israel, that religion which is so rational, so divine, and so ill
known, condemns, no less than Christianity, the mysteries of
ceremonial magic. From the standpoint of the tribe of Levi, the
exercise of transcendent magic must be considered as a usurpation
of the priesthood; and the same reason has caused the
proscription of operative magic by every official cultus. To
demonstrate the natural foundation of the marvelous, and to
produce it at will, is to annihilate for the vulgar mind that
conclusive evidence from miracles which is claimed by each
religion as its exclusive property and its final argument.
Respect for established religions, but room also for science! We
have passed, thank God, the days of inquisitions and pyres;
unhappy men of learning are no longer murdered on the faith of a
few distraught fanatics or hysterical girls. For the rest, let
it be clearly understood that our undertaking is concerned with
studies of the curious, and not with an impossible propaganda.
Those who may blame us for daring to term ourselves magician have
nothing to fear from the example, it being wholly improbable that
they will ever become sorcerers.
by Eldon Tucker
[from a March 21, 1995 posting to email@example.com.]
There is much speculation about the nature of the Masters, and even upon their very existence. They fill a certain place on the evolutionary scale, in advance of the ordinary man, but trailing behind the highest flowers of humanity, the Buddhas. Who are they? What are their lives like? How do they relate to us?
Our study of Theosophy provides us with the groundwork from which we can build up an understanding of them. Thinking about the Teachings, applying some common sense, and looking deep within, we can come up with a reasonable understanding of the nature of the Mahatmas.
When we attempt to study something new to us, we first explain the unknown by analogy to what we know. When we learn a new word, we first define it in terms of words that we already know; as we grow to appreciate the word, it takes on a meaning of its own, apart from those definitions. In a study of the Masters, we may consider what they do in terms of activities that we know, and we may consider how they relate to us in terms of relationships we find in our lives. These comparisons are analogies, that are initial aids in our understanding, but are later left behind.
The Masters are frequently described as authority figures. Why is this? We are looking outside ourselves for guidance, and are seekers. We have not yet found that what we are really looking for is an active, living relationship with our Inner Teacher, whom is not an external person. The goal of an external Guru is to awaken that relationship in us, not to act in its stead. We may mistakenly look to Masters as greater beings to tell us what to do, or to give us lessons to train ourselves. But our individual karma, and life itself, is the greatest Teacher. We can evoke from life lessons and training far in advance of anything that a mere human, even a Master, could devise!
We may consider a Master to be a parent, to watch over and take care of us. We may consider one a law maker, as someone making rules for us to live by. We may consider one a boss, as our direct supervisor in an organization, giving us work assignments and evaluating our work. All these are analogies, but are incomplete and still put us in the role of a subordinate, a junior helper, an underling. Although life on Globe D has an element of dog-eat-dog mentality, with big animals eating littler ones, size and physical might have little to do with the importance of our roles in live. A flower in a meadow, blossoming according to schedule, and adding its beauty to the environment, is as important a contributor to life as a writer of a grand book, as a Mother that gives her life to protect her children, or as an Avatara returning to brighten our dark world. The highest value is in giving full expression to what is within, to the beauty in our inner natures, regardless of its apparent affects in the outer world.
How do we know about the Masters? We have some descriptions of them in our literature. We have some Teachings about them. And when we take the core concepts, and go deeper, we can sometimes learn more that appears on the written page.
We hear that they do not want to tell us what to do. They do not want followers. They do not want irrefutable public evidence of their existence.
What work do the Masters do? Well, what work do we do? They are more advanced people than us. They are more advanced because they have spend more time in inner growth than we have; they are not intrinsically different than us. If we spend a few years learning to ice skate, we would be more advanced ice skaters than other people; we would not be better than them, just more experienced in a particular way because of having spent the time to learn and grow.
The Masters have certain heightened faculties of consciousness. They have a greater ability to know and understand; they have flowered their manasic principle.
So what do they do? They have as many different things to do and as much a freedom of choice as we do! We can become dancers, ice skaters, bums, great writers, hermits, accomplished musicians almost a countless number of different things. So can they.
Because of their special development, they are naturally the carriers of the wisdom of humanity. They carry on the deepest knowledge, as learned tradition. What they study and pass on cannot be simply put into writing, but has to be trained and individually instructed. There is a passing on, from generation to generation, of the precious body of Wisdom given to humanity in its infancy.
The Masters are not puppets in some rigid world plan. They are not predestined to do things, to act out certain events according to prophesy. They are not rigidly locked into some pseudo-Christian or Tibetan hierarchy of angels or deities, following out a plan according to some hard-and-fast outline in some religious text.
The Mahatmas are just people, but able to appreciate and understand things that we cannot. And perhaps they exist on the other Globes (Planes) at times, when not living on earth as an apparently ordinary person.
Some may choose to train Chelas. If they do so, it is because they have taken it up as their vocation, as what they choose to do in life. Some may do so, but this is not universal. There is no rigid organizational hierarchy that we and they must join and work our way up, progressing from one level to the next.
We may read that they intended the Theosophical Society for certain purposes. That may be so, but it was what a few of them planned at that time. As circumstances change, so do plans. There is a general work of pulling the west out of materialism. The current usefulness of theosophical groups in this work depends on their current membership, and not upon any claims regarding being "the true society", having some succession from H.P.B., or having the largest membership.
Not all Masters are with Chelas, or acting as Gurus. They do not work in a business-like hierarchical organization, with everyone a manager of underlings, and having a boss. In normal circumstances, they are born on earth as regular men, and function according to the conditions of Fourth Round human life, even if they are interiorly Fifth Rounders.
They can suspend their ordinary personalities, stepping aside and functioning on other Globes, or on earth in a self-made Mayavi-Rupa; but this is not the normal course of life. They are still people, and live as such, although many of them may be seeking embodiment on the other Globes, rather than our Globe D earth, since the experiences that they need for their hastened evolution may not be available here.
How do we relate to them? We do not need a Master as a personal trainer, we do not need one to progress on the Path. They are self-made, and we also must progress by our own self-devised efforts.
When we do come into relationship with the Masters, the type of relationship is as varied and individual as any relationship that we might have with other people that we may know. There is no one, special, solitary way of knowing a Mahatma.
We could have a reverence for one as a Teacher to us, living out the parent-to-young-child relationship. Consider a four- month-old baby, wide-eyed, looking with unconditional love and trust at the parent holding him.
But we could also relate to a Mahatma in the apparent role of enemy, where the Master seems to block what we would do in life, bringing us continual pain and frustration.
There are many ways to relate to a Mahatma, and the simplest may
be as friend and equal. The Masters are just as human as the
rest of us. A Master has no need to be in a superior role, and
can be simply a kind, helpful person in our lives.
by John R. Crocker
[based upon a January 5, 1995 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
I have hesitated saying much of anything about the current controversies in which virtually all of the strange gloomies existing in the basement of every Theosophical Society seem to have been brought to the surface. Perhaps what I've been wanting to express will be appreciated, perhaps not, but it seems now worth a shot.
I am now 37, and joined the Theosophical Society (out of Wheaton) when I was around 25. I did not join because of any relatives, or friends, but simply because I was experiencing access to worlds of perception that I could find no explanation for, and had no cognitive configuration within which to give these perceptions order. I was looking, in short, for people to talk to and a worldview that at least vaguely could explain my perceptual reality.
As I joined and participated in many of the discussions, and came to appreciate the scintillating brilliance of the Objects especially the First Object, which to this day I consider to be one of the most concise, magnificent statements of not only the personal spiritual path, but of a balm for today's bloody and selfish society my thoughts naturally turned towards the possibilities of arriving at a formulation of theosophy tuned to the generation of which I am a part. If the founders, different as they were, and the Master's (different as they were), had anything in common, it was that they were deeply attuned to the most current thinking of their age.
These were not abstract mystics or rather, they had adjusted abstract mysticism in such a way as to make it continually and exceedingly practical. Even further, they were not simply following in the mainstream thinking of their era, but were aware at the most cutting edge of the sciences, arts, social movements, spiritual movements and etc.; and if there was controversy, well that simply goes with the territory, in the crest of the wave is always more turmoil than in the peace of the trough.
I did go through a phase of reading large quantities of the writers of the first generation, and understood many of the controversies, but at the same time kept attempting to understand a larger point: How would the awe-inspiring intentions embedded in the Objects look if adjusted to the cutting edge of these times? I meet, in day to day living, many of my age and even much younger who stun me with the spiritual development their lives have made present.
There are children being born today who are almost magical. Is this perhaps the first real wave of "sixth sub-race" incarnations? I talk to teenagers who speak in terms that show an understanding of emotional complexity that is not achieved by many 60 year olds I know. I meet truly powerful, loving men and women who simply have cleared the vast majority of petty bickering out of their energy fields, they don't deliberate about it, it just would not even occur to them to engage in it.
I see these people and wish they could appreciate theosophy, wish that the Theosophical Society could become a place where they could combine their magnificent traits in mutual service. But, I can rarely talk them into joining or becoming involved. As I attempted to analyze this, most objections would probably fall into one of three categories.
In this, I would include current controversies as being highly relevant topics for discussion. There has been, for as long as I've been involved, a tight circle of people controlling (at least the Wheaton) Theosophical Society most of them first/second generation who control discourse, control the national publications, control who is cultivated for leadership roles, and engage in really ridiculous power struggles between themselves.
From the point of view of many of the dynamic ones of my generation ... those who would lead theosophy into a 21st century formulation ... my concern is with regard to the politics of control exercised by the theosophical leadership.
Tell me why a thirty year old who had spent ten years very deliberately, with intense spiritual effort, cleaning large amounts of that kind of garbage out of their personal energy-systems and reaching the understanding that such a clearing leads to, that service to the larger world is where their life lies tell me why would they want to join an organization in which power is held tightly to the chest, in which the process of struggling itself seems to belong to a past era.
As a friend said to me, after dropping out of the Theosophical Society after the first year:
I feel like any energy I give the Theosophical Society just disappears down a black hole ... that serving the Theosophical Society is not a way of serving the world.
With increasing numbers of people the commitment to service is no longer a question, it is core to who they have become to these people the dominant question is which of the many avenues of service claiming their attention will do the most good.
The current leadership certainly has the tools and ability to control the structure of the Theosophical Society, but if it continues to control process in the way it has it will become increasingly irrelevant to the dynamic spiritual entities we wish (I wish, anyway) to attract.
The spiritual issues of H.P.B.'s time are not those of our time. The language of our time is not that of H.P.B.'s time.
A friend of mine is fond of saying that every generation incarnates with a bag of rocks and a bag of seeds, and has done its part if it dumps the rocks and plants the seeds.
In my opinion (again, shared by many in my peer group) one of the most profound spiritual projects of this age is the fundamental re-balancing of the masculine and feminine principles, considered both metaphysically and in the most down to earth, day to day socio-economic terms.
The Theosophical Society has not even bothered to update the wording of its objects. Again, it is not that we still call the intention of our creation a "Brotherhood" which in these times sounds like it has both sexist and elitist overtones, or that arguments go on about it, which the current leadership has won (saying that if people don't like it they should have its original intention explained to them) it is that it is even still a topic of argument.
Perhaps the older Theosophists cannot understand why it would be such a big deal. I simply want to convey to anyone who wants to listen that I know a good number of truly spiritual women of my generation. These women are powerful in a way that has not been seen on this planet for a long, long time. Language matters to them. Many will not only not join a "Brotherhood", they will simply laugh at it as an anachronism, and ignore it in favor of organizations that welcome them and the fullness of their power, not only with words, but with topics, with language.
This gender topic, by the way, is not the point, only an illustration. A transformation of the nature of spiritual education is going on If I could sum up something so large, it would be to say that for growing numbers of people, education is not about the impersonal conveying of information, as we now have a positive Glut of information, but rather has to do with modelling the truths one purports to hold.
The Theosophical Society leadership may not like it, but society has changed, and to not change the wording of our Objects is perceived as a positive statement of orientation. That is, the statement expressed in the First Object a statement that seems to imply gender equality is now being contradicted by the wording of the Object itself.
We are speaking in terms of equality, but we are modelling something that looks like a Christian fundamentalist organization. This point applies to many other arguments in the current Theosophical Society.
I stand between the two extremes of viewing theosophical history. I think that for people whom things like the Leadbeater controversies still contain large emotional charges it is right and proper, even a spiritual duty, to process and release those densities. But for every intense conversation about the past on an open forum (such as this list) my personal desire would be to then see an equally intense conversation about the application of theosophy to the cutting edge of this world's issues. The group equivalent of the injunction to "retreat within, advance without" might be phrased "clean up the past, animate the future".
3. "Just do it".
This phrase, almost the motto of younger American generations, contains much that is disturbing. It often connotes a fundamental lack of any reflection. But, in it is also a remarkable contribution to planetary spirituality: This generation lives on Earth, and much of its spirituality is action-orientated in whole new ways.
Much of today's youth are powerfully attached to the life-side, and have no use for the endless disputes of the form-side a certificate-granting "Institute of Theosophy" for goodness sake! Geez, can we squeeze the living spirit of Theosophy into a shell any tighter than that? Give youth a structure and they'll knock it down. Give them a hierarchy and they'll toss it out the window. Tell them to sit quietly and listen to their elders deliver long, ponderous discourses on the nuances of a model whose very language sounds quaint and archaic, and they're likely, if they stay around at all, to say upsetting and sometimes obscene things. And these are the spiritual people.
There are growing numbers who don't want to be "educated" about spiritual entities by those quoting books. They already work with these beings on a day to day basis. (And I'm not talking about those who selfishly think "angels" care about their personal lives.) I'm talking about people developing types of interior communication and co-working abilities that simply do not fit within the rigid structures of 19th century formulations of inner abilities or inner beings).
There are growing numbers to whom thought is irrelevant unless matched with experience. Growing numbers who are rightly cynical about organizations that have global visions of peace and harmony but that in action are tiny, self-involved, functionally closed (despite words about being "open"), and not turning the vision into actual achievement in the world. There are, in fact, large numbers of such organizations all over the place these days.
Is the Theosophical Society one of them?
Many currently in the Theosophical Society organizations would say "no!", but, is this an empirical truth? And, if it is not, then why do so many of the most dynamic young spiritual humans, people whose fire and passion match H.P.B.'s and whose wisdom, in time, might, why do they not agree?
Well, this has gone on probably too long. I need, however, to end with some words to wrap this into context:
I do not mean this to be an indictment of older Theosophists. While I've been critical of the current leadership, I know that some on this list are connected to it and honor it and agree with what it does, and I mean no disrespect or invalidation of that perspective.
It is a definite comfort zone, but it is far from mine, and many of my generation. I am simply concerned about the end-of-the-century "wave" now sweeping the planet, a wave of dissolution, of the freeing up of over-structured forms. And this is sweeping everything from politics to economics to academics to cultures, religions, social institutions etc., etc.
I believe there are spiritual reasons for this, but be that as it may, the past few years seem to indicate that those organizations that voluntarily loosen their structures and control enough to allow transformation are surviving, and those that tighten control, in response to this disturbing current, are being fractured, cracked, and often destroyed.
Not only do I wish this post to be construed as an "attack" on anyone, I don't even think it is "correct" in any absolute sense of the word. It is probably partially motivated by intense frustration, because I have tried over the years to expand theosophy into my generation, to my closest friends, to my co-workers in service, and wind up all too often defending the Theosophical Society against charges that, I must ultimately admit, are indefensible.
I wrestle daily with the decision to even remain connected to the T.S. I've gone for one or two years at a time ignoring it altogether (as there are a lot of dynamic organizations where service seems to manifest as good in the larger world).
I have tried to articulate not only my own frustration, but that of many of my generation and the generation younger than myself. I may be wrong about a lot of things, and many on this list may take exception to some of what I've said, but there are two separate issues.
First, the relative truth of these sentiments.
Second, if they are not true, why would a good number of younger Americans possibly agree with them? Why would so many of the few who have even heard of us simply group us into the category of just another self-involved cult obsessed with our own internal quibbling, a category now containing literally hundreds, if not thousands of groups in our current world?
I fully expect to be nailed for much of what I've said. Most of those I've tried to engage in theosophy don't bother to articulate why they leave, they just leave. The only real reason I've bothered is because I still hold in my heart a sense of a remarkable possibility hidden in this small, quiet society, buried deep within the First Object, and if unleashed, I still believe the Theosophical Society could have as profound effect on society as it did when H.P.B. stomped the terra.
An sociologist once noticed that spiritual organizations seem to have almost predictable life-cycles. Most are begun by one or two people of huge magnetism generating the organization. The followers that outlive them then tend to formalize the organization.
Then another generation that still personally knew the first then fights a lot over interpretation and formalizes a "history."
But the organization then reaches a crisis point where most die: The last of those who knew those of the founding impulse die and the fundamental test is then to see whether the ideas of the organization are more powerful than the magnetism of the founders. Either the organizations re-opens its arms to the world, and begins to adjust the presentation of its ideas to harmonize with the times, or it remains in "formalization" mode, thinking and talking of the glory days of the past, the philosophy of the past, while it quietly dies, though often the outer structure will remain for some years after the life has gone out of it.
The Theosophical Society now stands at that crucial juncture. I feel passionate about this because I am one of the transitional generation. When I joined many who actually knew the historic figures like Leadbeater were still alive.
If I belong for my whole life and die as a Theosophist no such
personal link will be left and the Theosophical Society will
still be alive because it transformed into something truly
effective and relevant to the times. I fear at this point I do
not see the alterations in attitude or orientation required to
make that transformation, but I would absolutely love it if
anyone wished to compel me to believe otherwise!
by Mark Jaqua
[Article first appeared in Tat Journal in 1978, reprinted with author's permission.]
The initial reaction to mention of the word habit is usually negative. Actually, habit is a neutral phenomenon inherent in the nature of the world. The habit of everyday life blends imperceptibly into the habits of natural law and the movements of electrons and planets. The writer G. de Purucker states that the so-called laws of nature are actually in the most abstract sense, habits of great beings of which we are a part. Indeed, if we were not surrounded with predictable processes, the world could not exist as we know it and our universe could be nothing other than uncreate chaos.
Man is a creature of habit in innumerable ways, from the manner in which he ties his shoes to the more subtle psychological habits of attitude and interpersonal reaction. Habit is paradoxical, it both aids us and hinders us. In many ways it saves us much energy and attention, and can be consciously used an indefinite amount in this direction. Can you imagine learning anew each time to drive a car or to use a typewriter? On the other hand, becoming entrenched in habits and not being consciously aware and discriminating towards them can tend to put one to sleep and make a person mechanical and unconscious.
You can use the tendency toward habit to your own advantage by consciously discriminating what habits you wish to establish in your daily life and applying energy to do so. This can be a way to vastly improve efficiency in daily life and also a way to spiritual becoming. Whatever your occupation may be, you become more efficient at it when you continually refine and develop habits that apply. If you wish to become ingenious and efficient, then apply energy in numerous tasks during the day to find a better way of performing them. In time, this approach or attitude will become habitual and you will become ingenious and efficient.
If you wish to become a discriminate thinker, then search out habitually the different sides and angles of the issues and questions you encounter. By constant attempt at this, in time there will be a change in your character and you will have become a discriminating thinker, to the degree of energy applied and strength of habit established.
This is one of the secrets of ascetics and yogis. It might seem harshly painful to wear a hair shirt and live in a cave (and such body-punishing asceticism may just be another type of sensualism,) but once the ascetic has become used to or accustomed to his situation, it requires very little pain and energy to maintain himself there. Admittedly, it would require a great deal of pain and effort to accustom himself initially. The yogi who can meditate for four or five hours at a sitting could not do so when he first attempted it. By a great deal of effort he formulated a habit, or trained himself, so that he is able to perform the feat now with little effort. The energy and determination are required primarily in forming the habit, and not as much in maintaining it. Of course, there is always the possibility of continually applying energy to increase capacity and quality in whatever area the habit process is applied.
Although most of our apparent and superficial life can be claimed
to be composed of various habit processes, there seems to be a
separate and observing part of the psyche that can view,
discriminate and give direction to this superficial aspect of our
make-up. The observing part of the psyche can be trained to
objectively view and discriminate what changes need to be made in
one's life and to provide the motivation to make those changes.
The real "us" is not the habit-machine.
by Eldon Tucker
[based upon a February 6, 1995 posting to email@example.com.]
Depending upon the source of our information, its accuracy varies. We are faced with the task of separating truth from fiction in all walks of life. We can hear, and if not careful, pass on rumors, hearsay, slander, and white-washing. How does this happen?
With hearsay, we hear and repeat someone else's story as though it were factual. That story is presented as "common knowledge," and has nothing with it to allow its verification. Untrue or inaccurate depictions of people and groups are passed on, perhaps with a bit of elaboration, added by a memory that changes over time.
I read a study a few years ago that was based upon rumors. It concluded that rumors cannot be denied. A public denial was perceived by some as additional proof of guilt. The only way that a rumor could be contained was by giving a twist to it, by giving it a new meaning or slant that changed what it said. A story, once circulated, cannot be recalled, but only altered or reinterpreted. This may be why the public relations agents of politicians are called "spin doctors," since they work to give a spin or twist to public opinion favorable to their candidates.
With rumors, there are two kinds. There is the type that is whispered, passed on in secret, perpetuating underground stories. Then there is the type that is given public expression. It is better to air out the rumors, to let them see the light of day, to make them subject to challenge and correction. A rumor cannot be suppressed by never allowing it a public airing. There is no way to counteract something, even if it be to give it a different "spin," if it stays in hiding.
Coming back to the subject of truth, of reality, of the validity of what we think we know, let's consider what "hearsay" is. With hearsay, we have second-hand information, information that is not an eye-witness, or first-hand account of something. There is at least one person between us and the actual experiencer of the event, one retelling of a story, subject to reinterpretation or misunderstanding.
The statement "Sally said she heard they hold seances at the Blacksprings Lodge" would be hearsay, since it appeals to "common knowledge," but fails to cite a source. The statement "I heard her tell people at the public lecture to never read H.P.B." is first-hand, from the person that experienced hearing the lecture, and is not hearsay. If another of us repeated that statement, without giving the name of the person hearing the lecture, our statement would then become hearsay.
A similar desire for accuracy drives historians to always seek source documentation, rather than settle for second-hand accounts, since there is always the danger of misunderstanding or inaccuracy in the later writers.
With a rumor, the truth of a person or organization can be lost. That loss can be for better or worse. Not all stories that arise are critical. Some stories are uncritical, unreasonably flattering, and tend to whitewash undesirable aspects of people. Compare the nice way that H.P.B. may be depicted at times, as compared to her actual outlandish personality! Or consider the failings of other historical characters that we have discussed in the past.
With our study of Theosophy, we are faced with a similar obstacle in our search for the Truth. Some writers are "source" in the sense of being direct agents of the Masters, with their writings sanctioned, if not actually overseen and subject to correction of the Masters. (H.P.B.'s The Secret Doctrine, for instance, would have corrections and additional notes added to it overnight, by the Mahatmas, while she slept.) Other writers are interpreters or sought to digest and simplify the deeper materials; they are secondary-sources, and need to be read with additional care, subject to comparison and review against the authoritative works.
When we seek the source materials, though, there are two kinds of
source. First is eyewitness statements or accounts of something.
The authoritative theosophical texts fall in this category.
Second, but also of considerable importance, is personal
experiences. We need to have direct experiences of the
theosophical thought-current, from a deep study of the
literature, as our own first-hand experience of the Teachings.
Both approaches allow us to bypass the rumors, half-truths, and
watered-down speculative literature of the world and approach
by Grace F. Knoche
[From The Theosophical Forum, June 1949, pages 323-331.]
"Neither do men put new wine into old skins, lest the skins be burst, and the wine is poured out, and the skins will be destroyed; but men cast new wine into new skins, and both are preserved together" thus did Matthew, publican and scribe, record his Master's teaching: that the power and strength (dunamis) of a new Messianic force will not be poured into the musty 'skins' of formalism, but will seek fresh vessels of interpretation. (Note the word in Greek is askos, meaning 'skin,' into which wine is poured, and not 'bottle,' as usually translated.)
Today, after some 2000 years of straining after the preservation of the wine-skins of Truth, we are beginning to recognize that it is the wine, and not the vessel, that is the Message; and that unless the vehicle of interpretation is constantly renewed by spiritual experience, the force of Truth will burst the vessel, and both 'wine' and 'skin' be destroyed.
There is no lack of earnestness in contemporary religionists, but there is indeed a lack of confidence in their ability to solve what one Presbyterian minister, Dr. Kenneth Miller of the New York City Mission Society, calls the "unprecedented needs of today." With not a little insight he questions:
How else may one explain the many attempts made this year to interpret afresh the life and works of the great souls of the past such as Thomas a Kempis, Francis de Sales, John Woolman, Soren Kierkegaard, as well as Luther, Calvin, Thomas Aquinas? Water for the revival of the soul must come from deep wells.
The Saturday Review of Literature, February 19, 1949
We echo: water for the revival of the soul, and of the spirit, must come from the wellspring of Truth and not suffer taint by its passage through literalism. But where the wellspring? How find that pure stream of Truth unpolluted by dogma, creed, hypocrisy, or priestcraft? Book after book on religious themes has appeared for generations, and religion today is by no means a "dead issue" we are assured, with the Bible continuing to be a "best seller." But organized religion has not yielded the answer as casual glance at the quality of religious output confirms. A grave insecurity of the spirit plagues the ministerial world, whose resources are badly strained to make religion a must in everyday affairs: in education, politics, social conditions, morals, psychology, as well as in international relations. Perhaps never before in recorded history has the search for religion played so prominent a role in Western psychology. Despite the avowed atheism in the modern (often but skin-deep, because born of contempt for the sham of pretended faith), there is sensed a deep yearning for religion per se, for the re-ligio or "leading back" towards spiritual foundations. The World Council of Churches which met last year at Amsterdam, Holland, where broad-scaled clergy from all parts of the world frankly discussed the problems facing them, was dubbed the "greatest church meeting since the Reformation." Still the problems remain unsolved, this exchange but serving to emphasize the spiritual inadequacy of existing religious formulas. The age-old circumstance rears its ugly head: old skins, cracked and withered by literalism, cannot retain fresh wine; aged formulas of faith, crystallized and degraded by priestly observance, cannot produce the vital solvent. Is there, then, no answer?
For seventy-five years the theosophist has studied and absorbed the Oriental atmosphere of thinking, leaving in large measure the Christian Scriptures to follow their well-grooved lines of procedure. There was ample justification in this, for H. P. Blavatsky could no more have poured the wine of her new spiritual Message into the already dried skins of credal Churchianity, than could Jesus 2000 years ago have utilized the dying formulas of thinking of his day. The present upheaval in priestly circles, however, and the insistent demand by both clergy and layman for A new and living interpretation of the Message of Jesus, produces its call, and theosophists are challenged once again to open their Bibles and with fresh vision untrammeled by dogma search out the universalism of the Christ teaching.
In the words of A. L. Conger, students should attempt to:
... decode and make intelligible to the Christian adherents in the West the true value and meaning of the so-called Christian scriptures, and to develop the philosophy in the New Testament in the light of Theosophy, which will ultimately draw out an exposition of the Western conception of the self.
Armed with this incentive, we have opened our Bible, and in the light of the Greek original stand amazed at the pristine beauty of the Master's teaching: for within its pages, hidden here, and in places widely open, is the purity of a great Occult force. Rules of training, so simply stated, that their profundity is lost in miracle, allegory, or symbol.
And yet, even with the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, and the story of the Great Passion may we not better say Compassion? the searching question arises: how is it that the record of these teachings made so long after the passing of their Lord could have wielded so powerful an influence on Western civilization? Who was Jesus? To aver that he was indeed the Son of God, an incarnation of the Logos, born of the Virgin, one with the Father, either speaks volumes if understood or says nothing at all. To recognize that here a spiritual-divine Force incarnated for the world's redemption at a balancing point in racial cycles is to come nearer the truth: one more effort of The Lodge had been tried.
It is the Messianic force that concerns us, not the intellectual depth of philosophy, for truth to tell, one ventures to suggest that had it not been for the backing of the lodge at this particular junction point in racial history, the entire episode of the coming of Jesus might well have been lost in the shuffle of evolution. How remarkable that not a single historian of the period even notices his existence, much less his dramatic death! And yet, is it indeed so strange to a theosophist, who considering present day history will observe that not a single text book, either of religion or philosophy, ever mentions Blavatsky, much less Theosophy; and when she is mentioned in literature it is more often than not as some strange weird phenomenon, or a charlatan to boot!
What, then, is the theosophical concept of Jesus? For answer we could hardly do better than quote from Isis Unveiled, the first theosophical work of Blavatsky, published in 1877:
... all the civilized portion of the Pagans who knew of Jesus honored him as a philosopher, an adept whom they placed on the same level with Pythagoras and Apollonius. Whence such a veneration on their part for a man, were he simply, as represented by the Synoptics, a poor, unknown Jewish carpenter from Nazareth? As an incarnated God there is no single record of him on this earth capable of withstanding the critical examination of science; as one of the greatest reformers, an inveterate enemy of every theological dogmatism, a persecutor of bigotry, a teacher of one of the most sublime codes of ethics, Jesus is one of the grandest and most clearly-defined figures on the panorama of human history. His age may, with every day, be receding farther and farther back into the gloomy and hazy mists of the past; and his theology based on human fancy and supported by untenable dogmas may, nay, must with every day lose more of its unmerited prestige; alone the grand figure of the philosopher and moral reformer instead of growing paler will become with every century more pronounced and more clearly defined. It will reign supreme and universal only on that day when the whole of humanity recognizes but one father the unknown one above and one brother the whole of mankind below.
Isis Unveiled, II, 150-1
Before opening our Bibles, however, we should well understand that the first problem in contacting the Christian mind is the following: the entire structure of Christian psychology is one built on "faith." Now faith per se is one of the most beautiful and cherished qualities of discipleship; but it must be a true pistis to use the old Greek and Gnostic term a pistis or 'faith' born of knowledge, of inner conviction, of absolute trust in the law. When the pistis or faith becomes merely a blind unreasoning following of some one else's say-so, without the spirit meeting with the mind in knowledge, then the faith becomes sterile, and at worst a deterrent. No matter how released the individual Christian adherent may be from the dominance of the rule of faith: faith in the blood of Jesus, in the Christ as the only begotten Son of God; in the Immaculate Conception as such, in the Crucifixion and Resurrection as such no matter, we repeat, how emancipated he may be from the overlordship of the Creed, there is still the psychology of the entire Christian belief, which is founded on, supported by, and expands today on, the faith in the supernatural and unique appearance or manifestation of the Christ, as the Son of the Father. For despite the preponderance of evidence that Jesus, the Christ, was but one of a "long line of Wise Men," Saviors of the Race, who come at appointed times, despite the vast array of Teachers, who have been born of an Immaculate Virgin, who have suffered Crucifixion, Descent into Hades, Resurrection and Ascension on the third day, there are still those who cling tenaciously to the theory propounded by embarrassed Church Fathers in the first and second centuries of the Christian Era, that the "Devil has his Christs," and that, as Tertullian and St. Justin explained, "a long time before there were Christians in existence, the devil had taken pleasure to have their future mysteries and ceremonies copied by his worshipers"! The promised Savior Jesus the Christ was, in their view, the culmination of the groping of former periods, the "Desire of all Nations."
But with Church history we have no immediate concern. Those who are interested in the development of the Church during the first three centuries are strongly recommended to study F. C. Baur's church history, published in English translation in 1878, the culmination of years of intensive labor to divest the supernatural and unique from the elements of Christianity, and with reverence yet powerful scholarship to interpret all the phenomena surrounding the appearance of Jesus, the coming of Christ, as "part of the great historical development." It is refreshing to realize that always there are pioneers, independent investigators, who despite the overbearing theological atmosphere of their surroundings, yet have courage, intuition, and the tenacity of purpose to search for Truth, and finding it declare it boldly.
It may seem strange to some today, who ungrounded in Christian belief, and to whom at best the Christian scriptures are but good literature, to make so "much ado about nothing." But it must be remembered that we live in a Christian land, where millions of earnest men and women are spiritually starving, hungering for just that sound philosophy which can be found in Christian thought. However much the concept of Tertullian has become broadened by time and scholarship, however much we may feel that the Christian world as a whole has advanced beyond the narrowness of such a belief, there is still that closed-door attitude of faith first, inquiry second. We say, faith yes, but strengthened, illumined by 'inquiry,' the investigative spirit, for as Plato truly said, "Life for man without inquiry is not worth living."
A study of the present illumines the past; research into the past makes clear the present. A glance at the spiritual unrest of 2000 years ago should give courage and a new hope. What happened then is taking place now. Physically, politically, morally, educationally, socially, to say nothing of the spiritual turmoil of the period, the nations surrounding the Mediterranean basin were in a flux of change, unrest, of spiritual and psychic ferment. The old forms of the spirit had cracked, yet the religious yearning was deep, insistent, tempestuous in its demand for expression. The Greek mysteries had become but orgies of a degraded type; the old gods and goddesses of Classic mythology were but a mockery of a once deific communion; the rites of Isis in Alexandrian Egypt, while retaining much of the splendor of ancient days, were despoiled of the Spirit. Zoroastrianism had become a form, a mere shadow of a vanished glory. The Hebrews no longer produced their Jeremiahs whose integrity and courage marked the high point of Jewish power; even the heroic defiance and benevolent rule of the first Maccabees had gone, and the Jews once again had become a dominated people their religion formalized.
What was the secret of this decadence the three once potent religious streams, Hellenism, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, now but empty sepulchers, the living spirit long since fled? Was it the influx of the new Christian force that shattered and crumbled the old? Should the decay of Paganism in all its forms be laid at the door of Christianity? Not at all. Was it not rather that the turbulence of the time was utilized by Those who watch over the destinies of nations to sow the new seed in the fresh turned soil of inquiry? Was it not that the new cycle then aborning had slowly, but surely, been in seeding for generations, and that only then at that particular convergence of cycles when the Sun slipped into the new zodiacal influence, the Piscean, it could manifest? For suggestive answer we quote from Professor Baur of the Tubingen School, whose indefatigable researches into primitive Christian origins have earned him the gratitude of scholars and thinkers the world over:
Decay and dissolution ... had completely seized on the old religions ... But what had so thoroughly broken up the old faiths? They were crumbling into ruins before Christianity came to touch them. Some other power must have been at work on them which was stronger than they. It is a mistake to think that ages of transition, like that immediately preceding the appearance of Christianity, are simply times of decay and disintegration, when all spiritual and religious life is completely moribund. At such a time the old forms in which religion used to move do indeed decay. What used to fill them with life and reality departs from them, till the hollow forms alone are left. But the very cause of this process is, that the spirit, whose religious feelings the forms once served to express, has expanded and risen beyond them.
F. C. Baur, Church History, I, 9-10 (emphasis added)
Some "other power" had indeed been at work. For The Lodge wastes not its force on dying forms, on departmentalized religious expression. The once wide-sweeping universalism of the old philosophies and religions, of Hellenic, Persian and Hebraic thought a universalism of spiritual concept, not of material power, had given way to particularism, so that the spirit of Truth had "expanded and risen beyond them." Professor Baur continues:
Where an old system decays we may be sure it is because the new truth which is to succeed it is already there; the old would not decay if the new had not arrived, be it but in germ, and been long laboring to undermine and eat away the existing structure.
Church History, I, 9-10
We can be assured that the "balance of power" in spiritual things is maintained: where it retreats in one sphere, the spirit is sure to pour forth in a new and ready vehicle. Constantly is The Lodge alerted to the great cyclic turnings of the wheel of destiny, so that not only do human and divine cycles conjoin, but the convergence of terrestrial with solar cycles is well observed. Is it so strange, then, that when the Sun slips from one sign of the Zodiac to another (in its precessional cycle) that the forces then released should be utilized for a special outpouring of Spiritual force; that the solar power magnetically generated by the transfer of zodiacal emphasis from one mansion to another should not be accompanied by a spiritual release through some 'angelos' or messenger from the Sun? This thought is not unnatural to the Orient, for every child there is taught at its mother's knee of the ten 'incarnations' of the Vishnu Avatara nine of which have already appeared, the tenth to come serving as the prototype in fact of the Christian Messiah still to appear, the "second coming" of the Lord. Nor is this concept so foreign to the emancipated West to whom the Gita has become a companion and guide, for Krishna addresses Arjuna his disciple, as follows:
Even though myself unborn, of changeless essence, and the lord of all existence, yet in presiding over nature which is mine I am born but through my own maya, the mystic power of self-ideation, the eternal thought in the eternal mind. I produce myself among creatures, O son of Bharata, whenever there is a decline of virtue and an insurrection of vice and injustice in the world; and thus I incarnate from age to age for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of righteousness.
The Bhagavad-Gita, ch. iv (emphasis added)
But what of the present cycle of tortuous upheaval? The Age of Pisces is closing, the Aquarian Age is arriving. Is it not marked by unrest, disintegration and decay, and a thorough breaking up of old ideologies, so that the world hungers for a new Messiah, a new revelation, a new dispensation? Strange that "the Light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not" remains as true today as when John first wrote those immortal words. The light of Theosophy is clear and strong, but the darkness of credal thinking is still too comfortable for religionists and the world-at-large to welcome the light of Truth. Yet this is not remarkable, nor is it unique in history, whether spiritual or profane. Always the borning time of new growths is slow, taking centuries perhaps before the fruitage is seen. The pregnant words of Baur come again to mind, which though applying to the advent of the Christian Messianic force of 2000 years ago, are equally applicable to the reception of Theosophy since the coming of H. P. Blavatsky in 1875:
It may be long before a new kind of spiritual life takes such shape as to arrest the notice of the world. But the plastic spirit is active all the while, though unobserved; the leaven is working deep out of sight, and the unresting vital process cannot be stayed, but goes evenly and regularly forward, in its successive stages, until it has produced a new creation.
Church History, I, 10
Slow though the reception of theosophic ideas may appear, we have no quarrel with the speed of transition. The emancipation of thought during the last 75 years has been gargantuan, and needs no defense. The important point is to draw the parallel sharp and clear between the movement of 2000 years ago which Jesus initiated, and the Theosophical movement of today. Both shattered and thundered at hypocrisy, at sham, at the vanity of selfish prayer. Where Jesus scorned the Scribes and Pharisees of his day, who represented all that was constricted and formalized (though be it noted that the Pharisees embraced far more liberalism in spiritual thinking than the Sadducees, being used by Christ merely as an example), H. P. Blavatsky scourged and lashed at the hypocrites and pretenders of her day. Liberalism in Christian thought in the 19th century was a thing to be dreaded. Originality of belief some three or four centuries ago meant burning at the Stake. And as for the Inquisition and the cruelties it has perpetrated in the "name of religion," one wonders that there is yet left an atom of strength in the Christian faith. So great, however, is the force and power (dunamis) of the original Messianic expression of Jesus, that even today, with its worn out formalisms, it brings a message of strength to many in need. It is not enough, however, to satisfy the present demand for more light, more hope, more sound philosophy.
Where then is the wine of the spirit belonging to this age, to
this Messianic cycle? In the vehicle established by Those who
sent forth the new 'angelos' or messenger to establish a fresh
vessel of Truth that men might once again feel the freedom of a
universalism of teaching, instead of the narrow particularism of
a crystallized faith. In other words in that movement started
by H. P. Blavatsky who was the vehicle of that titanic
Messianic force that was to pour into new vessels of the spirit a
new wine from The Lodge. She might have called it anything
she called it Theosophy a most appropriate term, it being the
secret name among the occultists of the past fifteen or more
centuries, kept alive in crypt and cave through those dark
terrible Ages in Europe when the few, tired of the dregs of
literalism, thirsted and found a draught of true wine.
by H. S. Olcott
[written at Adyar, India, January 8, 1891]
Buddhists are taught to show the same tolerance, forbearance, and brotherly love to all men, without distinction; and an unswerving kindness toward the members of the animal kingdom.
The Universe was evolved, not created. It functions according to law, not according to the caprice of any God.
The truths upon which Buddhism is founded are natural. They have, we believe, been taught in successive kalpas, or world-periods, by certain illuminated beings called Buddhas, the name Buddha meaning "Enlightened."
The fourth Teacher in the present Kalpa was Shakyamuni, or Gautama-Buddha, who was born in a royal family in India about 2,500 years ago. He is a historical personage and his name was Siddhartha Gautama.
Shakyamuni taught that ignorance produces desire, unsatisfied desire is the cause of rebirth, and rebirth, the cause of sorrow. To get rid of sorrow, therefore, it is necessary to escape rebirth; to escape rebirth, it is necessary to extinguish desire; and to extinguish desire, it is necessary to destroy ignorance.
Ignorance fosters the belief that rebirth is a necessary thing. When ignorance is destroyed the worthlessness of every such rebirth, considered as an end in itself, is perceived, as well as the paramount need of adopting a course of life by which the necessity for such repeated rebirths can be abolished. Ignorance also begets the illusive and illogical idea that there is only one existence for man, and the other illusion that this one life is followed by states of unchangeable pleasure or torment.
The dispersion of all this ignorance can be attained by the persevering practice of an all-embracing altruism in conduct, development of intelligence, wisdom in thought, and destruction of desire for the lower personal pleasures.
The desire to live being the cause of rebirth, when that is extinguished rebirths cease and the perfected individual attains by meditation that highest state of peace called Nirvana.
Shakyamuni taught that ignorance can be dispelled and sorrow removed by the knowledge of the four Noble Truths, namely: (1) The miseries of existence; (2) The cause productive of misery, which is the desire ever renewed of satisfying oneself without being able ever to secure that end; (3) The destruction of that desire, or the estranging of oneself from it; (4) The means of obtaining this destruction of desire. The means which he pointed out is called the Noble Eightfold Path, viz., Right Belief; Right Thought; Right Speech; Right Action; Right Means of Livelihood; Right Exertion; Right Remembrance; Right Meditation.
Right Meditation leads to spiritual enlightenment, or the development of that Buddha-like faculty which is latent in every man.
The essence of Buddhism, as summed up by the Tathagatha (Buddha) himself, is: "To cease from all sin, To get virtue, To purify the heart."
The universe is subject to a natural causation known as "karma." The merits and demerits of a being in past existences determine his condition in the present one. Each man, therefore, has prepared the causes of the effects which he now experiences.
The obstacles to the attainment of good karma may be removed by the observance of the following precepts, are embraced in the moral code of Buddhism, namely: (1) Kill not; (2) Steal not; (3) Indulge in no forbidden sexual pleasure; (4) Lie not; (5) Take no intoxicating or stupefying drug or liquor. Five other precepts which need not be here enumerated should be observed by those who would attain, more quickly than the average layman, the release from misery and rebirth.
Buddhism discourages superstitious credulity. Gautama-Buddha
taught it to be the duty of a parent to have his child educated
in science and literature. He also taught that no one should
believe what is spoken by any sage, written in any book, or
affirmed by tradition, unless it accords with reason.
by Reed Carson
1. The first real world event of Blavatsky Net an open house with discussion was held on September 26. Twenty people were present. Judging by how late people stayed and how much they ate, everyone had a good time and learned more about the internet and Blavatsky Net Foundation.
2. The next event will be a talk/discussion on Saturday December 5. "Doors open" at 4:30pm, talk starts promptly at 5:15, and will be followed by buffet. (Please RSVP 914-428-8588) The topic will be some specific area of modern scientific evidence supporting Theosophy. At this point we are thinking of a close review of the book "Of pandas and people". (It is available in BN's bookstore as one of our favorite books.) This book gives positive reasonable readings to the "intelligent design" theory for the origin of the species and is so well presented that it has become acceptable to teach from, in high schools today.
3. Last month we expressed hope to announce at this time a talk group (list) in Espanol. Happily it is now ready. For instructions on how to join, quit, and use it, see:
(You can always find this info by clicking on "Spanish" on the home page of BN and going from there.) This list is unmoderated. Participation in the list is a benefit of membership in BN. Because it is only open to members, we expect a tone of decent respect for Blavatsky to prevail. If a participant violates this standard, he or she may be removed from the list.
4. The Letters to the Editor page has been replaced with a BBS (Bulletin Board System). This means that now a visitor to the site can leave a comment in that section with some typing and mouse clicking and no intervention required from me. The visitor gets instant gratification (though they may have to refresh their browser cache to get it.) It is also now easy to leave comments on comments. Have a look and you'll see.
5. The Letters to the Editor contains new letters (one of them mine) as a new kind of topic is introduced.
6. It was revealed that a Korean student had translated the home study course into Korean as part of the study class that he is leading. His group was added to the "meetings" page.
7. Two more "pebbles" were added. These are supposed to be light "confirmations" of Theosophy that fall short of full blown "proof". One is on a cover-up of the true results of the Michael Morley experiments and followups. This has been called by one researcher the "scandal of the century" in physics. I believe this material is quite significant and in my opinion it will someday impact on Theosophy. Another pebble deals with an observatory older than Stonehenge.
8. An item in Weathervane should prove of general interest.
Over the last 10 years "private" charity has been making progress
as a new institution in the former Soviet Union birthplace of
by Alan E. Donant
Another book by Theosophical University Press is now online. Initially printed in 1997, this book by Vernon Harrison discusses the production of The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. Entitled H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR: An Examination of the Hodgson Report of 1885, it's full text is available at:
Dr. Harrison is a leading counterfeit and forgery expert. He describes the book:
This book is divided into two parts. Part 1 reprints my earlier paper entitled "J'Accuse," published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 53, No. 803 (April 1986), pp. 286-310, plus a few footnotes for clarity's sake. This is, in the main, a study of the Hodgson Report itself, supplemented by as detailed a study of the Mahatma Letters as time and opportunity to visit the British Library permitted. It is reproduced here because the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research does not circulate widely outside the SPR and some libraries.
Part 2 describes work done after 1986 and records the findings of a line-by-line microscopical examination of each and every one of the 1,323 color slides in the British Library set. Several pages of these documents are reproduced in this book. Hodgson gave no illustration whatever of the alleged incriminating Blavatsky-Coulomb letters, of which he made much; and the only illustrations of the Mahatma Letters given in his Report are fragments, mostly isolated characters torn from their context and from documents which, for the most part, can neither be identified nor accurately dated ...
My conclusions from this examination are:
First: The Hodgson Report is not a scientific study. It is more like the address of a counsel for the prosecution who is interested only in evidence, however dubious, which can be made to support his views. Hodgson shows that he was either ignorant or contemptuous of the basic principles of English justice and the rest of the Committee seemed little better. As said, he quotes verbal and uncorroborated statements of unnamed witnesses; he cites documents which are neither reproduced in his report nor identifiable; he advances conjecture as established fact; and he makes his handwriting experts change their minds until they give him the answers he wants. The possibility that someone other than H.P.B. could have written the Mahatma Letters was never considered. This list of misdemeanors alone would render the Hodgson Report inadmissible in a court of law.
Second: In cases where it has been possible to check Hodgson's statements against the direct testimony of the Letters preserved in the British Library, his statements are found to be either false or of no significance in the context. He makes three cardinal statements on which hangs his whole contention that Madame Blavatsky wrote the Mahatma Letters herself with intent to deceive. These I summarize as follows:
(i) That there are clear signs of development in the KH handwriting, various strong resemblances to Madame Blavatsky's ordinary handwriting having been gradually eliminated;
(ii) That special forms of letters proper to Madame Blavatsky's ordinary writing, and not proper to the KH writing, occasionally appear in the latter;
(iii) That there are certain very marked peculiarities of Madame Blavatsky's ordinary writing which appear throughout the KH writing.
The first two are demonstrably false; the third could apply to many other writers and does not pinpoint H.P.B. as the writer to the exclusion of all other possible writers. These downright falsities coupled with the procedural errors, make it impossible for me to accept as a fair, impartial statement of fact those parts of the Hodgson Report that I can verify from primary evidence. This being so, I may perhaps be pardoned for regarding with suspicion the remainder of the Hodgson Report for which supporting firsthand evidence is no longer extant ...
Last: I find no evidence of common origin of the KH and M scripts and H.P.B.'s ordinary, consciously-made handwriting. That is to say, I find no evidence that the Mahatma Letters were written by Madame Blavatsky in a disguised form of her ordinary writing made for fraudulent purposes. What may have come through her hand in trance, dislocation, or other forms of altered consciousness is another matter; but writing so made cannot be classed as either fraud or imposture.
The book includes 13 color plates of the Mahatma Letters.
by A Student
[From New Century Path, Oct. 28, 1906.]
This subject has been selected by Katherine Tingley as most appropriate at this time. So many questions are received by her that it is impossible for her to answer them all individually. The opportunity is therefore taken of answering collectively, answering those related to this special subject.
The reason why Katherine Tingley opposes hypnotism is because it is a practice fraught with grave danger to the human race. The Leaders of the Theosophical Society, H. P. Blavatsky, W. Q. Judge and now Katherine Tingley, have always opposed such practices; especially when, as in this case, they come under the head of what is miscalled "occultism." The more obvious dangers of hypnotism are well known to all. It is evident that an unscrupulous person could use it as a means of compelling other people to do his will and commit murder and other crimes. Now, as we have at present no just laws adequately to meet such cases, and no machinery in our civilization for the control of evil-disposed persons and the prevention of crime, it is evident that the diffusion of a knowledge of hypnotism is a grave danger to society; for who is to prevent unscrupulous persons from availing themselves of it? And it is certainly true that modern society is very largely made up of such persons, and of those who without any bad motive are yet ignorant; but even if they were in the minority it would still be dangerous, so long as they are allowed to remain uncontrolled as at present. In addition to the actual criminals, there are large numbers of people not usually guilty of actual crimes, but yet sufficiently selfish and unthinking to be altogether unsafe for the use of such a power as hypnotism.
Under these circumstances we may well ask: Is it wise to permit public exhibitions of hypnotism to be given for everyone to see and imitate? Would a government be likely to allow public instruction in the art of making infernal machines to be given, or a lecture on the art of poisoning? Yet these would not be so dangerous as an exhibition of hypnotism, for the one injures only the body, while the other injures also the mind, the will and the sanity. We repeat that the tolerance of public exhibitions of hypnotism is a most foolish and culpable neglect of duty on the part of those who are responsible for the maintenance of public order and welfare. Besides, it entails a very serious moral responsibility on those who give and assist at the exhibition; for, however harmless or even beneficent the operator's own motives may be, he is responsible in large measure for any harm that may be done by anybody who uses the knowledge which he so recklessly displays.
If the knowledge of hypnotism should spread, it is likely to become a very serious menace to society, and will have to be taken in hand by the authorities and suppressed. A difficult task they will have before them for what governmental machinery that we have now will be able to cope with a power so subtle, so adapted to private and secret abuse? When the knowledge has once been diffused, the mischief will have been done and, as Katherine Tingley says, it will be too late to try to stop it. It is such dangers as these that the Theosophical Leaders have foreseen. They foresee other dangers arising from the abuse of human powers, such as have not yet been incurred, but which may be incurred if the progress of knowledge is not guided and directed by the teaching of brotherhood and purity of life. When H. P. Blavatsky first gave her message to the world, she announced herself as the agent of a movement destined to save the human race from falling into an abyss on whose brink it was hovering. The awakening of man's inner faculties was threatening to take place in the midst of a miasma of selfishness and spiritual darkness. It was necessary for strenuous efforts to be made to inculcate a higher standard of morality and a deeper knowledge of the spiritual nature.
But, granted that public exhibitions of hypnotism are dangerous, is it safe for anybody to use the power say doctors or those specially licensed by the authorities? Is it safe to use it for curative purposes, whether for bodily diseases or for mental infirmities and habits? Can hypnotism be used for the reform of criminals and the morally weak?
A Theosophist must answer emphatically that under no circumstances whatever is it safe for anyone to use hypnotism. It matters not how good his intentions may be, how beneficent his motives. All experience tells us that good motives and intentions are not sufficient to insure good results. Hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. A monkey with a razor may have good intentions, but we would scarcely permit him to try to carry them out by submitting to be shaved by him. Children often have good intentions, but we do not usually regard the fact as sufficient warrant for giving them the run of medicine chests or tool shops, or a powder magazine or dynamite. And in the matter of such forces as hypnotism, everybody is a child. For in this Western civilization, great as has been the progress in many things, men have absolutely no knowledge of psychology except in the teachings that Theosophy gives, Except for this knowledge the mysteries of man's inner nature are utterly dark to the men of today. Religion has always remained silent on that subject, giving only dogmas and moral injunctions, and even representing the desire for knowledge as sinful presumption. Modern science has either ignored or openly scoffed at such inquiries. The result has been a state of profound ignorance on the whole question.
Would we allow a man who was confessedly ignorant of surgery and who proclaimed himself to be only an experimenter and inquirer, to cut off our leg or operate on our brain? Would we allow our children to be dosed with some powerful medicine of the nature of which there were general ignorance and doubt? Yet these things are not half so risky as hypnotism. They can injure the body alone, but hypnotism may paralyze the will and unseat the reason.
There are many, many instances on record to prove that hypnotism, even when used for beneficent purposes, has turned out disastrously for operator or subject or both. There are cases where the operator has succumbed to the bad influences which he was trying to drive out of his subjects, and has himself become a moral or physical wreck. There are cases where the nervous system of the subject has been thrown out of gear, rendering him a victim of disease or insanity. Operators admit that the effects of hypnotism are altogether incalculable and uncertain.
Let us consider what happens when a person submits himself to the treatment of a hypnotist. He first of all voluntarily surrenders the control of his own body, mind and nervous system in itself a sufficiently rash proceeding, and one likely to render him weak and susceptible to influences. But to this folly he adds the inconceivable fatuity of allowing an unknown person to assume control of the temple he has vacated and seize the reins of government which he has laid down. If this person is a public entertainer, whose objects are those usual to public entertainers, and whose credentials are simply his own assertions and his paid advertisements in the papers, then the folly of the subject amounts to positive insanity. What should we think of a person who would take all his money out of the bank and deliberately hand it over to the trusteeship of a public entertainer without security? What should we think if he then took his house and his wife and children and handed them over likewise? When we have answered these questions, we can perhaps answer the further one as to what should be thought of a man who hands over his body, mind, will, judgment and every last thing that goes to make up his very self. In old times gamblers have pledged their clothes, then their person and finally their soul. They are ready to do it still.
Every time we surrender control of our faculties we loosen the power of our will over our mind and organism. This is the great danger of all such practices. The organism, left without its guide and protection, becomes liable to all kinds of influences emanating from the minds of other people; for the unseen thought atmosphere of civilization is teeming with forces generated by the passions and thoughts of its denizens. This is the explanation of cases of obsession and irresponsible action. Every time we subject ourselves to any so-called psychic practice, we make progress on the path that leads to moral and mental unsoundness. When a subject awakes from the hypnotic trance, he may feel quite normal. Yet something has been done to him which cannot now be ever undone. A door has been opened that cannot be shut. Through that open door may rush influences from which he has hitherto been mercifully shielded. He can never be the same again. He has acquired a new susceptibility; an influence not his own has been allowed to assert itself over his will. He has been put permanently under the influence of another mind and, through that, of other minds.
The practice is fraught with equal danger to the operator. He connects himself up with a lot of people and, any time when he happens to be weak or negative, the influence may flow back from them to him, and transfer to him the weaknesses he has been combating. But morally the burden he assumes is even more weighty. For he is responsible, under eternal Law, for everything which any of his subjects may do as a consequence of his influence. He has assumed the responsibility for their actions, and in so far as they are irresponsible, he is responsible.
Hypnotism is only a particular case of what goes on all the time in everyday life. We all influence each other, consciously and unconsciously. One person may impress his will on another by persuasion or by silent thought and make him do things which he would not otherwise have done. It will always be so until men have learned enough about their own nature to know the secret of self-control. As it is, men allow their thoughts, emotions and impulses to run riot, and suffer themselves to drift about casually in the vortices of thought and desire. Men know nothing of the existence of the Higher Self, which is the eternal and controlling factor in man's nature. Neither religion nor science teaches anything about that. But under the beneficent light of Theosophy, we students learn not only that the Higher Self exists, but how we may invoke its aid and learn to recognize its will as our own and to live by its light. All sins, weaknesses, diseases, infirmities and trouble of every kind can be healed by a reliance on the divinity of our own nature and by working on lines of least resistance in harmony with Nature's laws physical and moral. We may sacrifice our personal selfish will to the dictates of compassion and brotherhood, and this will be the true Occultism. A person who is self-controlled and relies on the strength of the good in him needs fear no foreign influences. He will never surrender his will or ever call in the aid of the hypnotist. And he will allow his own pure thoughts and beneficent purposes to act unconsciously on the minds of people around him, and not try any violent experiments on them.
Is the practice of hypnotism a good way of curing bad habits? No, it is not. In this case the subject's will is entirely removed from the scene and the operator assumes the control. The subject has gained no self-control; in fact his chances of gaining it have been postponed by the interference of the other man. But some day he will have to gain control for himself if not in this life, then in a future incarnation. Meanwhile he is reduced to a mere machine, run by an extraneous power. In training children, it is not enough to compel them to obey; we must train them to behave of their own free will. If we compel a person to do a thing, we are practically doing it ourselves. Therefore the proper way to cure a person afflicted with an infirmity is to help him to find and use his own will. This is a matter of careful training. He should be placed in an institution where such cases are treated on rational lines. When people come to see the necessity of Theosophy in daily life, and when Katherine Tingley is enabled to accomplish some more of her beneficent purposes, we shall have such institutions, and they will be conducted according to the light shed by the Theosophical teachings as to man's nature. People will be shown how to live healthy lives and how to arouse their own will to overcome their weaknesses.
A good deal of the influence which the self-styled teachers and
pseudo-Theosophists have is due to the desire for higher
knowledge which the public feels. This desire is natural and
commendable in its essence, but what mistaken directions it
takes! There is more to be learned in one day by a person who has
recognized and devoted himself to the true Wisdom than can be
gained from these so-called sciences in a lifetime. As the
Theosophical Leaders have so often pointed out, there are oceans
of knowledge unfathomable, undreamed of awaiting him who
shows himself trustworthy. This knowledge is not dependent on
books and teachers of "psychism." For the inner faculties of man,
which are aroused by a purification of the nature, are capable of
gaining knowledge by intuition. The amount of knowledge that can
be gained by the pursuit of psychism is altogether insignificant
and always misleading, and the dangers are great and real. But,
for him who follows the path of true Wisdom, whose password is
purity of life, there is that knowledge which dispels all
illusions and vexations; there is the priceless comfort of a
clean conscience; there is the power to help and serve.
by Sy Ginsburg
[based upon a February 28, 1995 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
We each have our own story of how we got to the path. Some find synchronous events drawing them into the process. Whether you see it as evidence of an intelligence that guided you is not clear, although you say you have the feeling at times of being guided by something in the right direction.
For me the synchronicity abound and have changed me over the years from a cynical business type who would have none of this, to one who is open to the concept of guiding intelligence that comes to our aid when we ask for it. If one wants to call this intelligence Masters does not seem terribly important, except that they, in hierarchical order, represent a kind of road map. We could just as easily call this intelligence: my deva or my ku or my guardian angel. And studying about them is not the same as trodding the path, it is more like examining the map. It seems to be that it is in trodding the path, that we actually encounter the Masters (or whatever name we choose to call them).
Here is a story of help from "above" not given to a person, but to a group. In this case the Miami, Florida branch of the Theosophical Society in America. Those of us who lived through the past 2 years of experience at the branch are hard pressed not to acknowledge some kind of help.
The branch had fallen on difficult times over the years, principally because the location of the meeting hall was in a Miami neighborhood that, over a 30 year period, had turned into a slum. Membership had fallen to a low of 28 in the spring of 1993 when the then president, announced her departure from Florida to California, consequently having to resign the presidency. The treasury had been depleted over several years as one effort after another to revive the branch failed, and there was very little money left with which to run the branch or to finance a move. The other 6 officers were dejected and wanted to quit.
But we decided to try once more, agreeing that we would not reopen the branch at the then location in Miami in the autumn of 1993. We would either move somehow, or pack it in.
No sooner was the decision made to somehow move, than things began to happen. A friend of the Theosophical Society who was not a member, located a retail store building in a shopping center, in Deerfield Beach, a prosperous suburb of Miami. It was a well lighted location with plenty of parking. He contracted with the seller to buy the building, putting up a substantial deposit, and gave our T.S. branch a 6 month option to buy it from him. Meanwhile, we could rent it for 6 months, while trying to sell the old branch building in the Miami slum. This was a great opportunity, but why did this fellow enter into such a transaction?
We decided to take a chance. We did not have a really good business plan because there was no way to know when or if we could sell the old branch building. We just gambled that somehow things would work out. So we closed the old branch building, putting it up for sale, and moved to the new location. We opened a Quest bookstore, began offering a number of study groups, and people began to come, and they began to join the T.S. Our moribund branch began to grow again. Old members were reinspired and we began to attract new members. (The branch as of now has 110 members and continues to grow.)
Meanwhile the summer of 1993 rolled into autumn, and our six month option was gradually coming to a close. There had been no viable offers on our old building. Across the street from it was a Catholic High School, and we had approached them as possible buyers, but they seemed uninterested. We were getting very nervous as our option was running out.
Then, suddenly in November 1993 with barely a month remaining on our option to buy the new building, the Archdiocese of Miami made us a viable offer to purchase the old building. When we saw the Archbishop's signature on the offer to purchase, we just knew that we were getting help. We closed the transaction to sell the old building within two weeks of the required closing date to buy the new building. The cash received from the sale of the old building was used to close the purchase of the new building. If this had not happened, if the Roman Catholic Church had not come along to buy our old building and just in time, I don't know what would have happened, but the odds were very high that it would have been the end of the Miami branch that had been founded in 1919.
There are those who will say that what happened to our branch was the result of just plain hard work or dumb luck. Certainly the Church got a property for its money, and at a fair price, but there were no other viable buyers. Why did they buy it just in time, so that our branch could continue? Some of us close to the transaction are convinced that we got help, just the help we needed, and just in time. Some of us would call it a "miracle." Is this the same kind of "miracle" as the manifesting of tea cups or the precipitation of writing? It seems to me to be a more important kind of "miracle".
The real estate deals were made in 1993. So the Catholic church has owned the old lodge building since then. At least through 1997, the last time I passed by the old building, it was still sitting empty and unused by the church. So the question remains: why did the church buy that building and just in time for us to be able to complete the option for purchase of the new building? Help from above?
So, to those who seem to have doubts about the reality of the
Masters as a guiding intelligence for us, I suggest that it is
worthwhile pay close attention to the synchronicity in your own
life, and that abound throughout life. Sometimes they are not as
dramatic as a book falling off a shelf and hitting you on the
head. Often, it is someone who comes into our life at just the
right moment and lends us a book. But we have likely made the
first effort. We are open to read that book, or we are looking
for some new avenue of study, or in the case of our T.S. branch, we
made the effort to finally move it.