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THEOSOPHY WORLD ------------------------------------ August, 1997
An Internet Magazine Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy
And its Practical Application in the Modern World
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(Please note that the materials presented in THEOSOPHY WORLD are
the intellectual property of their respective authors and may not
be reposted or otherwise republished without prior permission.)
"Other Theosophical Worldviews" by Eldon Tucker
"To Friends of Point Loma Publications" by Carmen Small
"Theosophy: Whence and Whither? Or to Wither."
by Don DeGracia, Ph.D.
"New Online Book by Theosophical University Press"
by Sarah Belle Dougherty
"Theosophy and Modern Art" by Tony Downey
"Regarding Humbleness" by Thoa Tran
"Life is Our Media" by Eldon Tucker
"The Inter-Theosophical Dialogue" by John Shafer
"The Doctrine of Svabhava or Svabhavata and the Questions of
Anatman and Shunyata", Part I, by David Reigle
"Building Upon What HPB Wrote" by Jerry Hejka-Ekins
The philosopher is Nature's pilot. And there you have our
difference: to be in hell is to drift: to be in heaven is to
-- George Bernard Shaw
OTHER THEOSOPHICAL WORLDVIEWS
by Eldon Tucker
[based upon an April 28, 1994 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
When we gather to hold a conference on Theosophy, there are only
so many different things that we can say and do. Many issues
arise. How do we apply Theosophy in our lives? What things can
we do in our theosophical work to become more effective in
spreading the Teachings? What words and means can we use to make
Theosophy more interesting to the public, to draw attention to
At the recent conference in Krotona, the ideas expressed were
similar to those at the one in 1984. And the basic themes arise
in any theosophical lodge. There are basic questions that we
need to consider, and not many good answers.
One difference at the recent conference, though, was a growing
sense of acceptance, a feeling of companionship among the
participants. In the past, things have been more aloof, if not
hostile. During a talk now, someone might whisper "How can that
guy believe such a silly thing?" In the past, there might have
been anger and antagonism.
The growing goodwill among the members of the different societies
comes from meeting, learning about, and coming to know the
members and philosophies of the other groups, information that
was not given out in the past. You could go to some theosophical
group, and they would not tell you, or even their new members, of
the competing theosophical lodge across the street.
Hopefully the goodwill and free exchange of information and ideas
will last for a long time before it subsides. These things are
cyclic, and the day will come when we go our own ways again. For
now, we are in a time of cooperation.
Our biggest enemy to this cooperation is the sense of
intolerance. There are others in fundamental disagreement with
us. Our problem is the inability to have a free, friendly
exchange of ideas with them. This intolerance can show up in
different ways. Some are subtle.
There are several worldviews in the theosophical community.
These represent complete systems of thought about how life works,
from the nature of the universe, our purpose in existence, the
nature of Theosophy, and the inner structure of the universe. It
embraces cycles of manvantaric proportion and things closer to
home, like what happens when we are asleep, or what happens after
we die. There are not just differences among individuals
regarding various points, where all resolves to personal opinion.
We have completely different systems of thought.
We have one system centered on Blavatsky, Judge, and perhaps *The
Mahatma Letters.* There are also the ULT/Crosby and the Point
Loma/Purucker amplifications. And there are the
Besant/Leadbeater and the Alice Bailey variations. These are but
a few of the systems.
The intolerance arises when we stick to our worldview, and just
get angry when someone else says something that challenges some
of its basic assumptions. We need to admit that there are other
worldviews, even within our theosophical community, and allow
them free expression. It is not a personal attack when someone
else says something that denies something that we take for
A good example is regarding the place and purpose of psychic
powers. In the early days of the Theosophical Society, HPB or
her Masters did not teach astral projection or the occult arts.
They had knowledge and experience of them. But they choose not
to teach them or provide clues to help anyone get these powers.
In certain theosophical worldviews, the cultivation of powers is
considered harmful, and a philosophy that stresses development of
the mind and the spiritual nature is emphasized. From these
worldviews, the Adyar TS has in the past been seen as lost over
to psychism, to the maya of chasing after phenomena. There were
a few individuals like Joy Mills. She was considered ok because
of her extensive study of *The Secret Doctrine,* but most Adyar
people were considered as "lost."
This has been the attitude in the past, but with the growing
communication between the various groups, the hostility and the
negative stereotypes are going away, and there is more of an open
sense of cooperation and appreciation.
The dropping of stereotypes needs to be done by everyone if it is
to succeed. Those in the Besant/Leadbeater worldview need to
drop their negative images of other groups. Some of us study the
original Theosophy of Blavatsky. We are not trapped in dusty,
outmoded ideas of Victorian, imperialistic England. There are no
people plotting to assassinate the character of certain figures
in theosophical history. The refusal to accept certain
ideas--like group souls, the deva kingdom, or the seven rays--may
not be because certain people have not read enough Theosophy to
appreciate the brilliance of those ideas. They may, on the
contrary, have read too much Theosophy to find those ideas
When we seek to clarify the theosophical Teachings, it is
important to specify in terms of which context we clarify them.
Which worldview are we describing things in? Failing to do so is
really denying there are other worldviews; it is a subtle
intolerance of others, of people that see things differently.
Some of us may have studied one form of Theosophy, then in later
years came to learn and accept another. We've come to appreciate
how different the belief systems are. For any of us, though, we
must not cling so tightly to our current favorite that we feel
insulted and angered when our basic assumptions are questioned.
In a way, it's like some kids sitting, ready to play a board
game. Some are playing one game, according to one set of rules.
Others are playing another game, with different rules. The board
and most of the pieces are the same. When someone playing the
other game does a move, it seems unfair, outrageous, like
cheating, when interpreted in terms of our rules. But it can be
understood if we accept that there are other games, and the other
kid's moves were done fairly, but according to a different game.
How can our different worldviews peacefully coexist? Not by
repression, where one view is enforced as the standard and all
ideas must be interpreted in its terms. We cannot cause peace by
saying the Besant/Leadbeater or the strictly Blavatsky standard
is in charge, and all communications are interpreted in its
terms. Rather than bring peace, such a move would drive away
people and bring back the rifts between groups.
We need to work on tolerance in our views. This is not according
to "I said something first so keep quiet and do not argue with
me." Without getting angry, nor questioning the intelligence or
character of anyone, we can politely see that our views are
properly represented too. Our duty is to see that what we know
is clearly and truthfully expressed, that what we know is heard
and not hidden in silence. There may be some idea that we
consider as so true that it goes without question, yet other
Theosophists may consider it outrageously controversial. Or we
might find exception with something that is being discussed.
Let's relax and lighten up a bit, and not cling too tightly to
our worldviews. And let's see more open discussion of the
competing ideas. When we do not allow the other worldviews a
voice, we miss much, and we shut off communication with our
fellow Theosophists. We have a lot to learn from each other.
TO FRIENDS OF POINT LOMA PUBLICATIONS
by Carmen Small
[The following is a general letter dated June 13 sent out by the
President of Point Loma Publications, Post Office Box 6507, San
Diego, California 92166, USA.]
We are writing to you to give you the latest news from Point Loma
Publications. As you know, we opened "Wisdom Traditions Bookstore"
in late November, 1996. So far we have broken even between
expenses and sales. We have ongoing classes, which have been well
For those of you who are regular supporters of Point Loma
Publications, we cannot thank you enough for the help you have
given. We particularly thank those who have helped us so regularly
in the past and now those who are currently helping with
donations. It is through your contributions and support that we
are able to continue our work.
Our upconing publication, due approximately August 1, 1997, is
ASTORLOGY OF A LIVING UNIVERSE, which is H.P. Blavatsky's
visionary philosophy of the Seven Sacred Planets edited and
annotated by H.J. Spierenburg.
A friend of Point Loma Publications gave us a free homepage on the
Internet. Our address is:
Please check it out.
We appreciate hearing from you. Any one of you with free time will
be of great help in our ongoing work.
Also, as 1997 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Point
Loma, Dr. Dwayne Little of the Point Loma Nazarene College will
show slides of the early Point Loma days (1897 onward) at 10 AM on
September 3, 1997. Any friends who wish to attend are welcome. At
our "Wisdom Traditions Bookstore" historical photos and
memorabilia of Point Loma will be displayed during the month of
Best wishes to you all.
THEOSOPHY: WHENCE AND WHITHER? OR TO WITHER.
by Don DeGracia, Ph.D.
Copyright 1997. All rights reserved worldwide by the author.
[based on an April 27, 1994 posting to email@example.com.]
The issue of different theosophical "denominations" has come up
in discussions from time to time. It's not a pretty issue and it
gets people quite fired up, protecting their favorite school of
In some respects this is understandable, but I feel it is a
blatant contradiction to the principles of Theosophy. So,
basically, I was encouraged to see the results of the
theosophical conferences on inter-theosophical dialogue [held in
Krotona, April, 1994].
On one hand the cynic in me says, "Its about time people started
doing this", and it seems that its more a digging of oneself out
of a hole than any kind of real progress.
On the other hand, the realist in me recognizes the sociological
factors that cause splits to occur in any type of social
organization, and it is heartening to see different groups of
theosophists working against these forces and trying to seek some
type of unity.
Let me comment on the 10 points raised in the April, 1994
> To Clarify the Teachings
This is essential. We can't forget that the theosophical
teachings grew out of Victorian, imperialistic England. Since
then we have seen two world-wars, the atomic bomb, and we are now
talking to each other around the world on our computers. Simply
stated, things have really changed a lot.
This idea of clarifying the ideas of theosophy and making them
relevant to the modern mind is one of my interests at present. I
am especially interested in the angle of clarifying the relevance
of certain theosophical teachings towards modern science. To
this end I have written a book entitled "Beyond the Physical: a
Synthesis of Science and Occultism". Interestingly, the TPH will
not publish this book, which indicates to me Wheaton's
unwillingness to break out of its sectarian mindset.
At any rate, this idea of clarifying the theosophical teachings
is a sticky one. A number of important questions arise
What interpretation of theosophy are we trying to clarify? For
example, I have been influenced by the teachings of Besant and
Leadbeater, and my book reflects this, which may be part of the
TPH's unwillingness to publish this material. Other theosophists
follow Blavatsky's writings, or G. De Purucker, or Rudolph
Steiner. So, who's ideas really *represent* the "teachings of
The differences amongst the ideas of these different authors is a
major reason for the splits in the TS. This issue has to be
tackled head on and with an open-minded courage, because before
we can clarify the teachings, we need to define what they are.
How shall we clarify them? What are we trying to achieve here? Do
we want to give a slick MTV look to theosophy? Are we trying to
make the ideas respectable to the accepted intellectual
establishment? Are we trying to create a religion? What? What is
it we want to say to the modern world about what theosophy is?
These questions must be addressed. The quality of the answers
will in large measure determine the future of the TS.
To me personally, I have found theosophy to be an kind of a
Noah's ark of ideas that science has rejected but may be relevant
for understanding aspects of humankind and Nature. But other
theosophists do not see this or have the background in science to
see the relevance of such a viewpoint.
I would suggest that a type of historical/sociological/
psychological analysis of the theosophical society would do a lot
to clarify what the TS is. For example, the TS evolved in
response to 19th century materialism. It was a counter-cultural
response to the accepted society of 100 years ago. Today that
society no longer exists. Materialism is dead, so the original
impetus that drove Blavatsky et al. no longer exists. Today we
live in a world of mega-corporations, a world where the dominant
forces are still basically completely secular. We live in a
world of tremendous economic disparity. We must look at the
following in an attempt to clarify the teachings of theosophy:
* Why the 19th century created theosophy to begin with.
* How the world has changed since then.
* How the TS has changed since then.
* We must ask: has the TS stayed in step with the world? Has it
lost touch? What?
These are important issues, but based on my experience with the
TS, I do not feel that the TS as an organization is prepared or
capable of addressing such issues. Instead, members of the TS
continue to debate irrelevant things as the Society itself
withers from existence.
> To Practice Theosophy as a Way of Self-Transformation
Interestingly, I think that if we undergo the process of
self-transformation that is taught in Theosophy, we don't really
require theosophy as a teaching anymore. This is kind of like
how the final Greek archon (king), whose name I forget right now,
abolished his archonship so that democracy could proliferate in
ancient Athens. Or as Buddha taught; once one achieves nirvana,
there is no longer a need for Buddhism. People confuse the means
with the end. Theosophy, in my opinion, is a means to an end,
not an end in itself. However, for many people the TS is an end
in itself. This is wrong.
Once we mature emotionally, psychological and spiritually beyond
a certain point, we no longer need any type of dogma, or
structured mindset. Organized teachings (such as religions and
philosophies), dogmas, creeds, beliefs, these are all
psychological "training wheels". So, theosophy as it exists
presently is, for the most part. a type of mental training
wheels. This fact must be dealt with by theosophists but is
difficult for many of them because they have not matured enough
to understand the relative place of ideas in human existence.
Most theosophists need theosophy because they need mental
training wheels to guide their thinking.
> To Balance Mind and Heart
This statement really means nothing. Balance is important in
thought, in feeling, in all wakes of life. The terms "mind" and
"heart" are simply too colloquial to be of any use in precise
discourse. Such lack of precision in theosophical pronouncements
is exactly why most thoughtful people ignore theosophy.
> ... To Participate in Theosophical Activities With Creative
> Energy, To Adapt Theosophy to the Contemporary World and Language,
> To Develop Programs and Methods to Broadly Disseminate Theosophy,
> To Revitalize the Theosophical Movement With the Presence and
> Energy of Young People, To Encourage a Broader Outreach of
> Theosophical Activities on Both Community and Worldly Levels ...
These points all tie together and it's misleading to separate
them thus. The essence of these five points can be stated this
way: how do we, as theosophists, fit into the world? What is our
purpose and what are our goals? All these 5 points revolve around
this central question.
And this comes back to the idea of clarifying the teachings of
theosophy: who are we? what is our self-image? and again, how do
we fit into the world?
I think what has happened throughout this century is that
theosophy has become just another cult. After the death of
Blavatsky, things started to fracture. The Pasadena branch broke
away when Besant became president, and Steiner split off in
Germany. And this trend continued and had crystallized by the
end of World War II into the various sects that exist today.
Frankly, when an organization claims that it is its goal "to form
a nucleus of universal brotherhood" but has this kind of history,
its simply embarrassing. I think all theosophists need to face
up to this history and deal with it.
On the other hand, theosophy has had its influence too, as was
recognized by the Krotona conference. But the question is: does
that influence still exist? Could it be that the TS has served
its purpose and is no longer needed in its present state? Would a
metamorphosis be appropriate?
And another thing about some of these goals, like pulling in
youth, or adapting theosophy to the modern world. One thing the
TS does NOT want to do is what desperate middle age people do who
are beginning to realize that they are getting old; they try to
regress back to a youthful posture. They try to stay up with the
latest fashions and trends, and its simply a silly posture and
the youth see through this kind of stuff. So, I think the idea
of trying to "jazz" theosophy up and make it look like MTV, or to
make it "fun" would be futile and absurd thing to do. This is
where the TPH in Wheaton is making a big mistake; because they
are trying to sell books that appeal to the mass market, not
publish quality or thoughtful writings.
Finally, with regard to the several goals listed above, the frank
fact is that they require money to execute. The TS in Wheaton is
of very limited means, and other TS sects are not any better off.
With no money to support theosophical activities, the ideas
listed above are little more than pipe dreams.
Aside, from the very practical matter of resources, I think we
need to recognize that the TS served a very important purpose
early on, but this purpose is no longer valid. The TS played a
role in forming the 20th century, but now the 20th century is
almost gone, and so is this role. The question is: what can we
First, we must evaluate the spotted and sometimes frankly
embarrassing past of the TS and hold this evaluation side by side
with the contributions of the TS throughout this century. This
will help to give us a balanced self image of what we are right
NOW. Many theosophists fail at this task and instead try to
sweep the past under the rug and ignore it. Such selective
memory is unhealthy. Psychologists call such behavior
"repression" and recognize it as a weakness of character.
Next we must ask: what do we want to become? And here, what we
need to do in answering this question is to be acutely sensitive
to the needs of the modern world.
We not only have to open up to other spiritual traditions -- we
have to come down off the high-horse of spiritual
self-righteousness and be open to the secular world too. For
example, as stated above, the TS claims to provide a nucleus for
universal brotherhood. But the fact is there are only 7000 some
odd TS members in the United States presently. This amounts to
0.028 % of the US population. That is two one hundredths of one
On the other hand, the Internet has served to connect the ENTIRE
WORLD together in a PRACTICAL fashion, making the idea of the
"human family" a concrete reality. And the Internet was NOT
created by theosophists. The Internet was created by scientists,
who are supposedly secular, materialistic and non-spiritual. How
is it then, that if science is such a bad thing, that it has
provided a framework for truly and practically uniting humanity?
This example illustrates the need of theosophists to broaden
their appreciation of apparently secular things, for this
supposedly secular thing called science has provided the concrete
basis to unify humanity. The bottom line is, if theosophists
continue to go about with a dogmatic attitude at any level, we
might as well just close up shop and go home now.
So, to wrap this up, I acknowledge the effort of the Krotona
school to resolve the divisiveness that exists amongst the
various sects of theosophists. However, if we truly want to
affect a change in theosophy as an institution, we must realize
that an institution can only transform when the individual
members of that institution have undergone personal
transformation. Whether the members of the TS have such a
potential is doubtful based on my experiences.
Theosophists have before then an exacting task that will requite
courage, intellect and will, self-probing and the ability to
admit their wrongs. Theosophists can ignore the challenges
listed above and slowly fade away into history or they can
face-up to these challenges and grow and survive as a viable
system of thought that serves a use to humanity and not
self-agrandizing and deluded egoes.
NEW ONLINE BOOK BY THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS
by Sarah Belle Dougherty
H. P. BLAVATSKY AND THE SPR: AN EXAMINATION OF THE HODGSON
REPORT OF 1885 by Vernon Harrison, Ph.D. is now available in a
full-text online edition from Theosophical University Press at:
In December 1885 the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in
London, England, published a 200-page report by Richard Hodgson,
perhaps best known for its denunciation of H. P. Blavatsky as
an "impostor," and often featured in encyclopedias, reference
books, and biographical works.
In April 1986 the SPR Journal -- "in the interests of truth and
fair play" -- published a critical analysis of the Hodgson Report
by handwriting expert Vernon Harrison, who found it "riddled with
slanted statements, conjectures advanced as fact or probable
fact, uncorroborated testimony of unnamed witnesses, selection of
evidence and downright falsity." Since then Dr. Harrison has
continued his research, including a line-by-line examination of
1,323 color slides of the Mahatma Letters, and now concludes that
"the Hodgson Report is even worse than I had thought."
H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR combines Dr. Harrison's first
paper, "J'Accuse," with a new monograph based on his later work,
together with his Opinion, Replies to Criticism, and 13 full
color plates of sample pages from the Mahatma and Blavatsky
letters. (The photographica copy of his Affadavit is not
available in the online edition.)
THEOSOPHY AND MODERN ART
by Tony Downey
[reprinted with permission from the June 1997 "Australasian TS
What influence has Theosophy had on the world? Have the
theosophical efforts of the past 125 years been concentrated on a
few intellectuals at the expense of the general community? These
are questions that often arise at our meetings as the enormous,
but quiet, influence of theosophy on science, technology, and the
arts has passed by unnoticed by most commentators.
Let's take the example of modern art which illustrates the impact
of Theosophy on world thought in recent times.Wassily Kandinsky
and Piet Mondrian are generally considered to be the two chief
founders of modern abstract art.
At the centenary of Kandinsky's birth in 1966, Hilton Kramer, the
art critic for the New York Times, acknowledged the great
influence of theosophy on his art. Kandinsky is especially noted
for his book - CONCERNING THE SPIRITUAL IN ART. It was published
in 1911 and was so timely that avant guarde artists everywhere
tuned into its message.
Early in the book he speaks of H.P. Blavatsky, the principal
founder of the Theosophical Society, as a major force in reviving
interest in the spiritual and artistic traditions of India. He
speaks highly of her book THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY as the source of
many inspirational ideas for artists.
A detailed study of the influences on Kandinsky concludes that
when it came to developing his own theories and putting them on
canvas, Kandinsky made abundant use of the theosophical classic,
THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Perhaps the most highly regarded of the
founders of modern abstract art today is the Dutch artist Piet
One writer states that Mondrian was deeply concerned with
religious matters and maintained a strong interest in theosophy
having joined the Theosophical Society in 1909. He goes on to
say: "Mondrian's theosophy was more than just a personal quirk.
Several artists around 1910 sought through it deeper and more
universal truths, meaning behind meaning, new dimensions to
understanding. The thought that the ancient seers perceived and
imparted a veiled wisdom that behind the many guises of truth
there is one truth, is partly based on Oriental and Neo-Platonic
ideas, it easily links with the romantic and symbolist theory of
illuminism, which gives the artist extraordinary, even occult
powers of insight into the nature of the world, the reality
behind appearances- a new content for art". (Frank Elgar)
He developed a style that banished the conventions of three
dimensional space and the curved line. He built his pictures
from the simplest elements - straight lines and primary colours
which he moved around the canvas until he found the perfect
composition balance. His aim was to create an objective artwhose
laws would somehow reflect the order of the universe. Mandrian
always had a portrait of Madame Blavatsky hanging in his studio.
Other famous modern painters influenced by theosophy include Paul
Klee, Paul Gauguin and Nicholas Roerich. Paul Klee (1879-1940)
worked with Kandinsky in Munich when he made his transition to
However, before meeting Kandinsky, Klee had developed an
individual style of expressing the subconscious mind and fantasy
in art. Professor Knotts in his book PAUL KLEE AND THE MYSTIC
CENTRE writes: "Certainly Blavatsky was of interest to Klee in
revealing the mysterious forces that speak on a different level
of human consciousness, a level for which Klee always found a
kinship. In his work Klee almost always removes things from
their immediate surroundings, placing them in ever expanding
realms, which result in a close correspondence between earth and
cosmos, the living and the dead, things past and present.
Paul Gauguin (1843-1903) was described by one art historian as
being 'enamoured of theosophy' (Thomas Buser). Gauguin's
sympathy for theosophical ideas included reincarnation which
influenced many of his paintings such as his large canvas (1898)
entitled 'Whence do we come, what are we, where do we go?'.
Nicholas Roerich, a Russian artist and student of oriental
thought introduced the works of Blavatsky to fellow artists in
Russia and New York. He promoted the idea of Human brotherhood
through the medium of art founding the institution 'Peace through
Culture' in New York to exhibit representative contributions from
all countries, intended to show that true art knows no
His wife, Helena Roerich translated The Secret Doctrine into
Russian and today Roerich is revered in his homeland for his
contributions to art and there is a museum devoted to his memory
in New York. Many artists were resident at the former
international headquarters of our Society at Point Loma near San
Diego, California. Included amongst them were Reginald Machell
who exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. Many of his works
still adorn our HQ now at Pasadena including his most well known
work 'The Path' which illustrates the trials besetting the soul
in its evolutionary journey (prints of this wonderful picture are
available from our bookshop in Melbourne).
Others include Charles Ryan, who later wrote a definitive history
of the Theosophical Society, Edith White, Julius Kronberg, Osvald
Siren, and the well-known landscape painter Maurice Braun
(1877-1941). Braun credited theosophy with sharpening his
insight into nature. As one observer noted: 'To him art was for
"the service of the divine powers in man" or as he otherwise
phrased it, 'Art for humanity's sake', and he saw in Theosophy
"the champion and inspirer of all that is noble and true and
genuine in art". (Emmett A. Greenwalt: CALIFORNIA UTOPIA:
Point Loma 1897-1942).
His son, Ernie Braun, carries on the family tradition with his
beautiful nature photographs featured on the covers of most
issues of our international magazine Sunrise.
Other contemporary artists around the world are equally inspired
by the teachings of theosophy. An outstanding example from the
Australasian Section of our Society is Allen David, formerly
resident in Australia, but now working in New York. Allen was
one of the first European artists to take a serious interest in
Australian aboriginal art in the 1950s. His beautiful paintings
and glass sculptures adorn many homes, galleries and public
places in Australia, America and Israel, eg. his glass screen at
the main entrance of La Trobe University's Borchardt library in
In the 1980s a group of California artists associated with our
Society formed 'TACO', The Theosophical Artists Cooperative, to
encourage spiritual themes in modern art. Their works are
regularly exhibited at the Theosophical University Library Centre
in Pasadena at our international headquarters. In 1986 a
collection of more than 400 paintings were exhibited in Los
Angeles and later in Chicago and The Hague with huge attendances
- THE SPIRITUAL IN ART AND ABSTRACT PAINTING 1890-1985. At the
end of the exhibition catalogue there is a large picture of HP
Blavatsky and a long article on Theosophy stating clearly its
cultural influence: "The Theosophical Society became the most
widely influential organisation for the public promotion of
Occult teaching in modern times... the society is historically
important for popularising ideas of reincarnation and karma,
secret masters, and Tibet as the land of ageless wisdom; for
fostering the revival of Buddhism in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and
Hinduism in India; for encouraging the comparative study of
religion; and for persuading many that the essential teachings of
the great religions are one."
[Editor's note, Andrew Rooke: for those interested in following
the influence of Theosophy on contemporary culture Sylvia
Cranston's book. The extraordinary life & influence of Helena
Blavatsky founder of the modern theosophical movement is
recommended. Also two articlesf by I. M. Oderberg: 'HP
Blavatsky's cultural impact', published in Sunrise Vol 45 numbers
2 and 3 1995 and 1996 give an excellent overview of the influence
of theosophy on science, technology, and the arts. Most of the
information in this article is derived from these sources. Many
of the artists mentioned in this article are featured in a video”
lecture and slide presentation by California artist Wynne Wolfe
on the spiritual in modern art, 'Philartsophy' library.]
by Thoa Tran
[based upon a January 9, 1997 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
I am learning several glorious aspects of humbleness.
First is simplicity.
I was the type of person that feels that I can do everything, and
I did try. I worked, went to school, cooked elaborate meals,
learned anything that came my way, helped others and did art
work. Even my art work could not be simple. I had to do oil
painting, silk painting, computer graphics, seamstressing, and
What resulted was a person with very diverse skills but no deep
love of any one thing. I ultimately became tired and
disappointed in myself as I was forced to let go of each skill.
The thought of the mountain of things I have to do each day
paralyzed me into not getting anything done.
Lately, the light is shining through for me. I am learning to
simplify and let go. I am breaking down activities and being
mindful as I perform them.
It feels very calming to say, "I am following each brush line of
this painting. I am building slowly each stroke. One day, all
these strokes will be a painting, but for now, I am enjoying each
stroke," or to say, "Today, I am mopping the floor. I am taking
my time mopping the floor. I am not going to think of how the
rest of the house needs organizing."
It is all right to be humble by being simple. This was a very
basic Buddhist tenet, but I never truly understood it until now.
The second thing I learned is not having to prove myself.
I don't have to prove that I am best at anything anymore. I
don't have to begin a painting by thinking how I am going to make
it a unique and special painting. Just the simple act of
enjoying each brush stroke is good enough.
Making each task a special event within myself instead of a
wonderful event for somebody else is difficult, but much more
Also, there's no need to prove how smart I am. I simplified my
vocabulary and just try to communicate as honestly as possible.
The third is that I am learning about love, loving each moment,
loving each thing, seeing the Divine in all things. This
automatically creates humbleness. There is so much involved in
LIFE IS OUR MEDIA
by Eldon Tucker
[based upon an April 27, 1994 posting to email@example.com.]
After we have studied Theosophy a bit, and come to appreciate the
wealth of wisdom that it contains, we wonder how we can share the
treasures that we find with others. The world is hungry for what
we have found, there is something quite special to behold in the
Teachings. We cannot help wanting to share them with others, for
the beauty of what we've found burns the most brightly in our
minds and hearts as we share and pass on the Teachings.
There are two parts to the Teachings that can be shared. There
is the part that leads to the door to the Mysteries. This is a
path for the few, something special that is not meant for public
dissemination. These are reserved for the few, although we have
the potential of joining their ranks.
The second part is the keynote ideas and ethics needed to raise
the spiritual consciousness of our age. This part concerns
keeping the spiritual alive in western thought, and the
transformations needed as one subrace changes to the next, for
popular thought is always changing and transforming itself.
Considering this part, we find the task a difficult task before
us. We must work the basic ideas of philosophy into our media,
and into popular thought. This goes from the schoolyard games to
the themes of popular paperback fiction, movies, and television.
Everywhere we look about us in life, there are stories being
told, and people living them out in their lives.
The way the stories go, and how they end, reveal the bias and the
thought atmosphere of a society. There are certain morals,
certain endings to stories that we see, with an implied "this is
how things are." We can trace and observe the basic themes in our
media, but we do not have to accept any ending.
There is, for instance, certain formulas for writing fiction that
sells well. Another example is found in family movies. If the
good guy kills someone, he is tainted, and will die before the
end of the movie. Often, his death will be in some action that
redeems himself, but he has already done something that is so
terrible that his ultimate fate is sealed. Or consider a bad guy
in a movie, whom needs to be killed off before the ending. The
good guy cannot kill him, so the bad guy has to die through his
own accident or evil deed, like a wicked witch slipping and
falling to her death as she tries to kill the hero.
The morals behind the stories that we are emersed in are not
always straight forward, not always spelled out to us, but they
are there. We have our own Aesop's Fables, but the morals are
not always stated straightforwardly.
In the 1960's, psychic powers were portrayed on tv as unreal,
delusional, with disclaimers. Everyone knew they could not be
true, and it was considered wrong to show them as possible, real,
or of any good. Astrology is still presented at times as just
"for entertainment value."
There are themes in our stories that need to be changed, for they
are wrong, and although we may know better, the public may not
It is important to better the stories of our society, because the
stories that we hear and think of set the context for how we live
our lives. The stories provide the themes for our personal
existence. We live by the stories we think and use to pattern
Our day-to-day activities are seen while playing various roles,
drams, games in life. One person may say: "I am a postman,
delivering letters." Another may be a policeman, "only doing my
job." A third may be a mother of four driving her station wagon
to school to take her children home in the late afternoon. These
are all stories that we have learned and are following in our
Let's consider one theme that is still pervasive, an attitude
that could lead to accepting evil in one's life. There is a
theme that something is ok to do if someone can get away with if.
It is ok to do if there is no accountability. Soldiers in Bosnia
rape and kill the civilian population with little or no
individual accountability. We even find this attitude in people
portrayed in the media using paranormal powers. We may watch on
tv as a man uses his mental powers to throw someone across the
room, perhaps injuring or killing that person. It is often
presented as though he may do so because he is a superior being,
because of his powers. If someone else, without paranormal
powers, did the same thing using a gun, we'd think "what a
terrible man!" But when paranormal powers are involved, the moral
accountability is somehow missing.
If you read someone's mind and know how they feel about you,
without asking them, are you in the wrong? Is this any different
from snooping in a woman's purse or a man's briefcase, or
stealing a look at someone's journal? What if you influence
someone, and change them, getting them to be or do things that
you want? If you used mental affirmations or thought control from
a distance, are you any less guilty of manipulation and coercion
than that done by J.R. Ewing on "Dallas" in a more obvious and
Looking about us, we are surrounded by media of all forms. We
are faced with the need to help the theosophical philosophy
pervade modern thought, to help clean up, raise, and ennoble
modern thought. We have a hard job ahead of us, but we are not
alone. We are sharing in the work of the Masters when we act to
help keep struggling humanity moving along, toward its ambitious
evolutionary goals, which ultimately lead to nirvana and
liberation. And the biggest media that we can work with is all
about is, so obvious that we do not often notice it and give it a
thought: it is the current, actual, living karmic circumstances
of life right now. This is an excellent starting point for this
THE INTER-THEOSOPHICAL DIALOGUE
by John Shafer
[based upon a report by Tamara Gerard, John Shafer, and Christina
Zubelli that was posted April 26, 1994 on firstname.lastname@example.org.]
This is a report of the Inter-Theosophical Dialogue held at Krotona
last month. Comments welcome.
On March 26, 1994, The Krotona School of Theosophy in Ojai,
California, sponsored the "Inter-Theosophical Dialogue: The
Theosophical Movement Past and Future." Members of different
groups who grew from the original Theosophical Society were
invited to attend for the purpose of having a dialogue with each
other. This was the second time such an event has occurred. The
last time was in 1984.
The subject for the morning session was, "The Theosophical
movement in the 20th Century: What have we achieved?" Panelists
speaking to this question were: Nandini Iyer, Associate, United
Lodge of Theosophists, who pointed out that theosophy's effect on
people's minds is reflected in 20th century thought: wherever
thought tends to be free, there the theosophical movement can be
found; Carmen Small, Point Loma Publications, who gave
information on how a number of theosophical-oriented schools have
influenced education; Jerry Hejka-Ekins, Theosophical Society,
Adyar, who spoke of how theosophy has influenced and been
influenced by paradigm shifts; Eleanor Shumway, Temple of the
People, Halcyon, who described the formation and structure of
Halcyon's Temple of the People; and Alan Donant, Theosophical
Society, Pasadena, who spoke of how we have become cosmopolitan,
citizens of a greater group.
The afternoon session addressed the question: "Theosophy in the
21st Century: Where Do We Go From Here?" The panelists for this
session were: Rob McOwen, Associate, United Lodge of
Theosophists, who discussed the need to understand and
disseminate the concepts of unity and diversity; Nancy and John
Coker, Theosophical Society, Pasadena, who talked of the danger
of looking too much to the past, that we need to keep the message
fresh and current and focus on reaching youth by speaking in
their language; and John Algeo, President (American Section),
Theosophical Society, Adyar, who reminded us of the original
vision of theosophy to be the cornerstone of the future religions
of humanity, and how a new institute for theosophical education
could help fulfill that.
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to actual dialogues between
all attending theosophists. Everyone was divided into groups of
approximately 10-12 members each, making a total of 14 groups.
This was pre-organized so as to mix members of various branches
as much as possible. Each group was asked to discuss two
questions: 1) What does the theosophical movement need to do in
the 21st century to be of service to the world; and 2) what steps
could each of us take to contribute? After an hour and a half of
dialogue, everyone reassembled and representatives gave a summary
report from each group. Through this process over a hundred
separate items were presented; several common themes began to
emerge which were echoed many times in different ways.
We compiled all this and have attempted to synthesize it down to
a list of ten themes which we present below. Since we did not
feel it was possible to accurately prioritize them, we have tried
to order them in a logical manner based on the notion of taking
care of inner needs first, then expanding to outer concerns:
1. Clarify the teachings: Have a clear and sound knowledge of
the wisdom presented in theosophy.
2. Practice theosophy as a way of self-transformation: Apply the
theosophical teachings in our daily lives so that we can
transform ourselves and set an example to others.
3. Balance mind and heart: Cultivate the heart aspect of the
teachings in order to reach a middle point between intellect
4. Participate in theosophical activities with creative energy:
Utilize our own unique talents and put our energies to work.
Get involved through study groups, social service, etc.
5. Make theosophy inclusive of other spiritual traditions:
Accept the wisdom shared by other movements as part of our
own. Be more embracing of other sources of literature,
spiritual practices, and teachings in general. Be
6. Adapt theosophy to the contemporary world and language:
Explore new methodologies. Restate and present the
theosophical teachings in a modern, fresh, and current
7. Educate: Develop programs and methods to broadly disseminate
theosophy. Explore new educational means such as cultural,
artistic, and entertainment activities. Reach the people.
8. Involve Youth: Revitalize the theosophical movement with the
presence and energy of young people. Work together with them
to bring forth activities that will stimulate youth
9. Network: Increase interaction and association with
sympathetic individuals and groups. Promote cooperation among
10.Reach Out: Encourage a broader outreach of theosophical
activities on both community and worldly levels. Take
advantage of new media technologies.
We would like to make special mention of one group's presentation
which we feel summarizes the sentiments of the day in a
particularly succinct and elegant manner:
1. Clarify an understanding of the basic principles.
2. Apply principles to self-transformation.
3. Share principles with others.
In other words, "learn it, then just do it!" This was from GROUP
9 facilitated and presented by Diana Dunningham Chapotin.
After the main events of the day, many participants gathered for
dinner in the Krotona School where they had an opportunity to
socialize in a more informal setting. Following this, the group
facilitators and a few others gathered for a post-conference
debriefing which turned out to be the most intense gathering of
the day. This group also processed the days events and came up
with a list of four priority questions for the theosophical
1. What are the essential teachings of theosophy that all
theosophists can agree on?
2. How should theosophy evolve with the new paradigm shift -- in
other words, how do we adapt the old language and ideas to the
3. How should theosophy present itself to the world now?
4. Where's the party? In other words, does theosophy need to be
so serious all the time? How do we attract new younger
Everyone was very energized and wished to see the enthusiasm and
dialogue somehow carried on. It was decided that a longer
weekend retreat was needed to continue and expand discussion; one
was organized for the weekend of May 14th and 15th.
For those interested, both audio and video recordings of the
day's events are available. For audio tapes, contact at Krotona
School, (805) 646-1139, for video tapes contact Olcott
THE DOCTRINE OF SVABHAVA OR SVABHAVATA AND THE QUESTIONS OF
ANATMAN AND SHUNYATA
by David Reigle
[This is Part I of two parts of the BOOK OF DZYAN RESEARCH
REPORT, June 1997, published by Eastern School Press, 3185 Boyd
Road, Cotopaxi CO 81223. They have no email id. Accents have
been removed from the original edition because of technical
The doctrine of svabhava or svabhavata, as was discussed in the
previousBook of Dzyan Research Report, "Technical Terms in Stanza
II," is a fundamental doctrine of the "Book of Dzyan" as
presented in The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky. To
establish its validity outside the small circle of believing
Theosophists, it must be traced in the Buddhist texts where it is
said to be found. Until it can be traced in the Buddhist texts,
the affirmation of its former existence by a Nepalese Buddhist
Vajracharya carries no more weight to objective investigators
than do statements about it by Theosophical Mahatmas. To trace
it in the Buddhist texts we must necessarily do so in terms of
the "dharmas," the word they use throughout for all the "elements
of existence." Here we will need to reconcile their
universally-held doctrine that all dharmas are anatman, or
"without self," with the Theosophical teachings which regularly
use the term atman. Then we come to their teaching of shunyata,
the "emptiness" of all dharmas. Only at this point are we back
to svabhava, for shunyata is defined as the nihsvabhava, the
"lack of svabhava," of all dharmas.
It will already be obvious that for our research we must first
find out if there is anything taught in Buddhism that is not a
dharma, something beyond the "elements of existence." The
Buddhist authority Walpola Rahula, explaining dhamma, the Pali
equivalent of the Sanskrit dharma, tells us that there is not:
> There is no term in Buddhist terminology wider than dhamma . It
> includes not only the conditioned things and states, but also the
> non-conditioned, the Absolute, Nirvana. There is nothing in the
> universe or outside, good or bad, conditioned or non-conditioned,
> relative or absolute, which is not included in this term.
[Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, 1959; second enlarged
edition, New York: Grove Press, 1974, p. 58. Note that many
current Buddhist writers translate "dharmas" as "phenomena."]
In an earlier Book of Dzyan Research Report, "Theosophy in Tibet:
The Teachings of the Jonangpa School," the Buddhist teaching of
the dhatu, the "element," described as permanent, stable,
quiescent, and eternal, was likened to the Theosophical teaching
of the "one element." What, then, is the relationship between the
one element, the dhatu, and the many elements of existence, the
dharmas? A verse from the now lost Mahayana-abhidharma-sutra,
quoted in several extant Buddhist texts, tells us that it is
their basis or support (samashraya):
> anadi-kaliko dhatuh sarva-dharma-samashrayah |
> tasmin sati gatih sarva nirvanadhigamo 'pi ca ||
> From beginningless time the element is the basis of all the
> dharmas. Because it exists, all the destinies [of living beings]
> exist, and even the [possibility of the] attainment of nirvana.
[All translations are by myself unless otherwise noted. This
verse is here taken from Asabaga's commentary after 1.152 of the
Ratna-gotra-vibhaga, where it explains the tathagata-garbha or
Buddha-nature, the dhatu or element when obscured. Hence,
dhatu's Tibetan translation is here khams, element. When this
verse occurs in Yogacara texts, as at the beginning of Asabaga's
Mahayana-samgraha, and in Sthiramati's commentary on verse 19 of
Vasubandhu's Vijnapti-matrata-siddhi-trimshika, it explains the
alaya-vijnana or substratum consciousness. Hence, dhatu's
Tibetan translation is there dbyins, or realm. This verse is
accepted not only by the Jonangpas and the Yogacarins, but also
by the Prasabagika Madhyamikas, the dominant school in Tibet. It
is quoted approvingly by Jam-yang-shay-ba in his somewhat
polemical Tibetan monastic study manual, with the comment: "The
Prasabagikas accept these passages literally." See Jeffrey
Hopkins' partial translation of this study manual in Meditation
on Emptiness, London: Wisdom Publications, 1983, where this
occurs on p. 623.]
This seems to also provide us with a firm basis for tracing the
Theosophical svabhava or svabhavata doctrine in Buddhist sources.
If the element is thought of as svabhava, and svabhava is indeed
given as one of its meanings in Maitreya's Ratna-gotra-vibhaga,
we would have it. So what happened to this teaching?
[Ratna-gotra-vibhaga 1.29 gives ten meanings for the dhatu, the
first of which is svabhava.]
Early Buddhism was divided into many schools. Although they
classified the dharmas differently, and even had different
numbers of dharmas, generally speaking they held that each dharma
was a real existent (dravya), had its own svabhava, and was
impermanent (anitya). ---
[See: Etienne Lamotte, History of Indian Buddhism from the
Origins to the Shaka Era, translated from the French by Sara
Webb-Boin, Louvain-la-Neuve: Institut Orientaliste de
l'Universite Catholique de Louvain, 1988, p. 600.]
--- Thus the svabhava of a dharma is here its individual nature,
which is non-eternal. An exception to this was the Sarvastivada
school. The teachings of this once-dominant school have been
preserved for us as taught by the Vaibhasikas of Kashmir in
Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-kosha . This text, however, says little
about their svabhava teaching. But the same author wrote a
commentary on this text criticizing many of its teachings from
the standpoint of the Sautrantika school. Strangely enough, it
is here in a verse ridiculing this teaching that we find its
> svabhavah sarvada casti bhavo nityash ca nesyate |
> na ca svabhavad bhavo 'nyo vyaktam ishvara-cestitam ||
> Svabhava always exists, but an existent entity is not held to be
> permanent; yet an existent entity is not different from svabhava.
> Clearly, [and absurdly,] this is the doing of [some imaginary]
[This verse is found in Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-kosha-bhasya on
No Buddhist school has ever believed in God. The Sautrantikas
are saying that this position is so illogical that it would have
to be the work of an all-powerful God who could transcend the
laws of reason, and hence for Buddhists it is completely absurd.
The Sarvastivada position seems to be that the svabhava of a
dharma is eternal, although an independently existing entity
(bhava) is not eternal. If this svabhava is taken to be the one
element, we would have an exact statement of the Theosophical
position. There is the one element, only the one element, and
nothing but the one element; and it is eternal. All apparently
existing things are non-eternal as such. Yet, if there is
nothing but the one element, all apparently existing things
cannot be different from it. But the Sarvastivada position was
not seen in this way. Rather it was seen like that of the other
early Buddhist schools to refer to the svabhava of the individual
dharmas. For as stated in the early Samaya-bhedoparacana-cakra
by Vasumitra, who was himself a Sarvastivadin, "The svabhava [of
a dharma] does not combine with the svabhava [of another
["Origin and Doctrines of Early Indian Buddhist Schools: A
Translation of the Hsuan-chwang Version of Vasumitra's Treatise,"
trans. Jiryo Masuda, Asia Major, vol. 2, 1925, p. 48 (section
3, chapter 5, verse 29). See also Abhidharma-kosha 1.18 for a
--- Vasumitra's treatise is terse and admittedly not always easy
to understand, but my bracketed material in the above quote
certainly reflects how later schools understood the Sarvastivada
position, namely that their eternal svabhava is that of the
Buddhist thought as studied in Tibet for the last millennium
holds that the Sarvastivadins or Vaibhasikas were refuted by the
Sautrantikas; the Sautrantikas were refuted by the Yogacarins or
Cittamatrins; the Yogacarins were refuted by the Svatantrika
Madhyamikas; and these were refuted by the Prasabagika
Madhyamikas. This latter is accepted as the highest teaching on
earth by the majority of Tibetan Buddhists. In this manner the
old Sarvastivada teaching of svabhava as eternal, taken to refer
to the individual dharmas, was superseded.
The teaching of the eternal element or dhatu as the basis of all
the dharmas, allowing the possibility of seeing in it a single
eternal svabhava, was taken differently by different schools.
The Yogacarins understood the dhatu to refer to the
alaya-vijnana, or substratum consciousness. The Madhyamikas
understood the dhatu to refer to the tathagata-garbha, or
Buddha-nature, taken to be the emptiness of the mind. Buddhist
schools sought to avoid emphasizing this teaching in any way
which could be seen as holding a unitary eternal svabhava,
apparently because of the similarity of this idea to the Hindu
THE QUESTION OF ANATMAN
All known schools of Buddhism have always taught that all dharmas
are anatman or "without self." This means that atman as the
universal higher self taught in Hinduism and also taught in
Theosophy is denied. This distinctive teaching of Buddhism
defines for Buddhists their teachings as Buddhist. Thus most
Buddhists regard Theosophy as derived from Hinduism, not from
Tibetan Mahatmas who as Buddhists could not hold the atman
doctrine. Conversely some Theosophists as well as others have
attempted to show that Buddhism does not really deny atman.
Since this doctrine is so central to Buddhist teachings, any
Theosophist who wishes to trace a svabhava or svabhavata doctrine
in the Buddhist texts must first reconcile the anatman doctrine
one way or the other with the Theosophical teachings. To do this
we should consider the words of Walpola Rahula:
> What in general is suggested by Soul, Self, Ego, or to use the
> Sanskrit expression Atman, is that in man there is a permanent,
> everlasting and absolute entity, which is the unchanging
> substance behind the changing phenomenal world. . . .
> Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying
> the existence of such a Soul, Self, or Atman . gccording to the
> teaching of the Buddha, the idea of self is an imaginary, false
> belief which has no corresponding reality. . . .
> "The negation of an imperishable Atman is the common
> characteristic of all dogmatic systems of the Lesser as well as
> the Great Vehicle, and, there is, therefore, no reason to assume
> that Buddhist tradition which is in complete agreement on this
> point has deviated from the Buddha's original teaching."
> It is therefore curious that recently there should have been a
> vain attempt by a few scholars to smuggle the idea of self into
> the teaching of the Buddha, quite contrary to the spirit of
> Buddhism. These scholars respect, admire, and venerate the
> Buddha and his teaching. They look up to Buddhism. But they
> cannot imagine that the Buddha, whom they consider the most clear
> and profound thinker, could have denied the existence of an Atman
> or Self which they need so much. They unconsciously seek the
> support of the Buddha for this need for eternal existence--of
> course not in a petty individual self with small s, but in the
> big Self with a capital S.
> It is better to say frankly that one believes in an Atman or
> Self. Or one may even say that the Buddha was totally wrong in
> denying the existence of an Atman . But certainly it will not do
> for any one to try to introduce into Buddhism an idea which the
> Buddha never accepted, as far as we can see from the extant
> original texts.
[What the Buddha Taught, pp. 51-56.]
The term atman is used in Theosophy for the seventh or highest
principle in man. In the "Cosmological Notes" from January 1882
a Mahatma gives in parallel columns the seven principles of man
and of the universe in Tibetan, Sanskrit, and English. ---
[in The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, comp.
A. T. Barker, 1925; facsimile reprint, Pasadena: Theosophical
University Press, 1973, pp. 376-386.]
--- The term atman is found in two forms in the Sanskrit column
for the principles of man. The Tibetan terms given for these,
however, are not translations of the Sanskrit terms, but rather
represent a different system. In other words, the Tibetan system
used here by the Mahatmas does not have atman or its translation;
only the Sanskrit system does, which consists of terms drawn from
Hinduism. It is well known to readers of The Mahatma Letters to
A. P. Sinnett that the Mahatmas expressed great difficulty in
finding appropriate terms with which to teach their doctrines,
and they often drew from wherever they could find similar ideas,
including even the European philosophy of the time. Indeed, this
practice could satisfactorily explain their references to the
Svabhavika school of Buddhism thought to exist in Nepal, were it
not for the fact that the term svabhavat is given seven times in
the Stanzas from the "Book of Dzyan." Since the Mahatmas had
Hindu chelas, they would have already had intact a system of
Hindu terms. But it does not necessarily follow that the
Mahatmas were themselves followers of the schools from which the
terms were taken. E.g., "We are not Adwaitees [followers of the
Hindu school of advaita or non-dual Vedanta], but our teaching
respecting the one life is identical with that of the Adwaitee
with regard to Parabrahm." ---
[The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, comp. A. T. Barker,
2nd ed. 1926, p. 53; 3rd ed. 1962, p. 53; chronological ed.
1993, p. 271.]
--- So also, from their use of parallel terms it does not
necessarily follow that the Mahatmas accept all the implications
of the term thus used, as we learn from an article published at
that same time.
An article by the Adwaitee Hindu chela T. Subba Row, "The
Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man,"
came out in The Theosophist, January 1882, with notes by H. P.
Blavatsky. These notes were written before the publication in
1883 of A. P. Sinnett's highly influential Theosophical
classic, Esoteric Buddhism, and therefore before Blavatsky felt
obliged to counter the view that Theosophy is esoteric Buddhism
so as to stress its universality (as she later did in The Secret
Doctrine). Thus she here speaks unguardedly of the differences
between the esoteric Buddhist or Arhat doctrine of the Tibetan
Mahatmas and the esoteric Brahmanical or Aryan doctrine of the
Hindu Initiates. By the time this article was reprinted three
years later in Five Years of Theosophy, key sentences giving
these differences were omitted; and in her subsequent writings we
read only of the identity of the Hindu Vedantic parabrahman and
atman with the Buddhist teachings and with Theosophy. Here are
the relevant excerpts from her notes:
> So that, the Aryan and Tibetan or Arhat doctrines agree perfectly
> in substance, differing but in names given and the way of putting
> it, a distinction resulting from the fact that the Vedantin
> Brahmans believe in Parabrahman, a deific power, impersonal
> though it may be, while the Buddhists entirely reject it. [p.
> The Impersonal Parabrahman thus being made to merge or separate
> itself into a personal "jivatma," or the personal god of every
> human creature. This is, again, a difference necessitated by the
> Brahmanical belief in a God whether personal or impersonal, while
> the Buddhist Arahats, rejecting this idea entirely, recognize no
> deity apart from man. [p. 410]
> We have already pointed out that, in our opinion, the whole
> difference between Buddhistic and Vedantic philosophies was that
> the former was a kind of rationalistic Vedantism, while the
> latter might be regarded as transcendental Buddhism. If the
> Aryan esotericism applies the term jivatma to the seventh
> principle, the pure and per se unconscious spirit--it is because
> the Vedanta postulating three kinds of existence--(1) the
> paramarthika (the true, the only real one), (2) the vyavaharika
> (the practical), and (3) the pratibhasika (the apparent or
> illusory life)--makes the first life or jiva, the only truly
> existent one. Brahma or the one self is its only representative
> in the universe, as it is the universal life in toto while the
> other two are but its "phenomenal appearances," imagined and
> created by ignorance, and complete illusions suggested to us by
> our blind senses. The Buddhists, on the other hand, deny either
> subjective or objective reality even to that one Self-Existence.
> Buddha declares that there is neither Creator nor an Absolute
> Being. Buddhist ration-alism was ever too alive to the
> insuperable difficulty of admitting one absolute consciousness,
> as in the words of Flint--'wherever there is consciousness there
> is relation, and wherever there is relation there is dualism.'
> The One Life is either "mukta" (absolute and unconditioned) and
> can have no relation to anything nor to any one; or it is
> "baddha" (bound and conditioned), and then it cannot be called
> the absolute ; the limitation, moreover, necessitating another
> deity as powerful as the first to account for all the evil in
> this world. Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony
> admits but of one absolute, indestructible, eternal, and
> uncreated unconsciousness (so to translate), of an element (the
> word being used for want of a better term) absolutely independent
> of everything else in the universe; . . . [pp. 422-23]
[H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, ed. Boris de Zirkoff,
The central doctrine of the upanisads, and therefore of Vedanta,
is that there is nothing but brahman, or parabrahman, and further
that brahman and atman, the Self in all, are one. Buddhism, for
whatever reason, did not teach an a-brahman or "no brahman"
doctrine, but rather taught an an-atman or "no self" doctrine.
At the time of the Buddha there existed in India other Hindu
schools, such as Sabakhya, who interpreted the upanisads
differently than the Vedantins. The Sabakhya school understood
brahman as referring to unconscious substance. This may be seen
from the extensive polemics against them by Shabakaracarya in his
commentary on the Brahma-sutra, also called the Vedanta-sutra,
whose whole point is to prove that brahman is omniscient, and
therefore not unconscious. Since they are the primary target of
Shabakaracarya's polemics, we may assume that the Sabakhya school
was once quite influential; and this is indeed borne out by the
old epic literature of India. So there was in early India an
influential Hindu school which held that brahman was unconscious
substance (acetana pradhana or prakriti). But despite the
teaching that brahman and atman are one, the Sabakhya school
understood atman as referring to the conscious purusa or spirit,
much like the Vedanta school's atman as the conscious jivatman in
man. Thus, if the Buddha's point was to refute an absolute
consciousness, he would have been obliged to refute atman rather
than brahman. As such, I would choose to reconcile the
Theosophical teachings in favor of the anatman doctrine of the
Buddhist teachings, despite Theosophy's use of the term atman,
which I would then take as a working but not entirely overlapping
If, on the other hand, the Buddha's point with the anatman
doctrine was not to refute an absolute consciousness, but to
refute an absolute substratum of any kind, the Buddhists have
some very embarrassing sutras of their own to reconcile. These
are the Tathagata-garbha or Buddha-nature sutras, ---
[There are said to be ten Tathagata-garbha sutras: Sh
--- said by the Jonangpas to be of definitive meaning, and said
by the Gelugpas to require interpretation. For example, one of
these, the Maha-parinirvana-sutra, teaches that:
> The atman is the Tathagatagarbha. All beings possess a Buddha
> Nature: this is what the atman is. This atman, from the start,
> is always covered by innumerable passions (klesha): this is why
> beings are unable to see it.
[Etienne Lamotte, The Teaching of Vimalakirti, Eng. trans. by
Sara Boin, London: The Pali Text Society, 1976, Introduction, p.
It is noteworthy that this very sutra, extracts from which had
been translated by Samuel Beal as far back as 1871, was quoted in
The Mahatma Letters on this very question of atman:
> Says Buddha, "you have to get rid entirely of all the subjects of
> impermanence composing the body that your body should become
> permanent. The permanent never merges with the impermanent
> although the two are one. But it is only when all outward
> appearances are gone that there is left that one principle of
> life which exists independently of all external phenomena. . .
[The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 2nd ed. p. 455; 3rd
ed. p. 448; chron. ed., p. 217. Compare: A Catena of
Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, by Samuel Beal, London:
Trubner & Co., 1871, p. 184.
The teachings of the Tathagata-garbha sutras are synthesized in a
unique and fundamental text, the Ratna-gotra-vibhaga, which is
considered in Tibetan tradition to be one of the five texts of
Maitreya. This text refers to the four qualities which Buddhism
had always taught as characterizing all dharmas or phenomena,
namely, impermanence (anitya), suffering (duhkha), no-self
(anatman), and impurity (ashubha); but says that their opposites
characterize the dharma-kaya or absolute, namely, permanence
(nitya), happiness (sukha), self (atman), and purity (shubha).
The commentary then quotes in explanation of this a passage from
the Shri-mala-sutra, which I here translate in full:
> O Lord, people hold mistaken views about the five perishable
> personality aggregates which form the basis of clinging to
> existence. They have the idea of permanence about that which is
> impermanent, the idea of happiness about that which is suffering,
> the idea of self (atman) about that which is without self
> (anatman), and the idea of purity about that which is impure.
> Even all the Shravakas and Pratyeka-Buddhas, O Lord, because of
> their knowledge of emptiness (shunyata), hold mistaken views
> about the dharma-kaya of the Tathagata (Buddha), the sphere of
> omniscient wisdom, never before seen. The people, O Lord, who
> will be the Buddha's true sons, having the idea of permanence,
> having the idea of self (atman), having the idea of happiness,
> and having the idea of purity, those people, O Lord, will hold
> unmistaken views. They, O Lord, will see correctly. Why is
> that? The dharma-kaya of the Tathagata, O Lord, is the perfection
> of permanence, the perfection of happiness, the perfection of
> self (atman), and the perfection of purity. The people, O Lord,
> who see the dharma-kaya of the Tathagata in this way, see
> correctly. Those who see correctly are the Buddha's true sons.
[Ratna-gotra-vibhaga-vyakhya after 1.36; E. H. Johnston ed. p.
30-31; Z. Nakamura ed. p. 59. A perfectly good translation of
this exists by J. Takasaki from Sanskrit, pp. 209-210, and also
by E. Obermiller from Tibetan, p. 166. I have retranslated it
in order to bring out the technical terms, particularly atman,
which Takasaki and Obermiller translate as "unity" rather than
Terms such as Tathagata-garbha and dharma-kaya have multiple
connotations, so I have left them untranslated above. As
mentioned in an earlier Book of Dzyan Research Report, the
Tathagata-garbha, or Buddha-nature, and thei dharma-kaya, or body
of the law, are what the dhatu, or element, is called when
obscured and when unobscured, respectively; and these three terms
correspond well with the "One Life," the "One Law," and the "One
Element," of The Mahatma Letters . These three terms for the
absolute are interpreted by the Gelugpas as referring to the
absolute truth of the emptiness of all things, and not to any
absolute substratum. But for the Jonangpas they come from texts
of definitive meaning which require no interpretation, so do
refer to an absolute substratum which is empty of everything but
itself. The Tathagata-garbha texts, like all Buddhist texts,
still deny atman in regard to phenomenal life, but accept atman
in regard to ultimate reality; that is, as applied to the
Tathagata-garbha and the dharma-kaya, or the obscured and
unobscured dhatu, the element, which is described as eternal, but
not as conscious. This certainly justifies the Mahatma's use of
the term, even from a Buddhist standpoint.
THE QUESTION OF SHUNYATA
Having reconciled the Buddhist anatman doctrine with Theosophical
teachings, at least to my own satisfaction, we can now proceed to
the shunyata, or "emptiness" question, which is closely linked
with the svabhava question. The doctrine of anatman is taught
throughout Buddhism from beginning to now, and in all its
branches. The doctrine of shunyata, however, comes from sutras
said to have disappeared from the realm of humans forty years
after the time of the Buddha, and only brought back centuries
later. These texts form the basis of Mahayana or northern
Buddhism, but were not accepted by Hinayana or southern Buddhism.
Primary among these are the Prajna-paramita or Perfection of
Wisdom sutras, which were brought back by Nagarjuna from the
realm of the Nagas, the "serpents" of wisdom, called by
Blavatsky, "initiates." ---
[The Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky, vol. I, p. 404;
vol. II, pp. 211, 501.]
--- Hinayana Buddhism in general teaches that all dharmas, though
they are impermanent or momentary, really exist, so each has its
own svabhava. The Prajna-paramita texts teach that all dharmas
do not really exist, that they are empty of any svabhava of their
own; thus adding to the early anatman doctrine regarding persons
(pudgala-nairatmya) an anatman doctrine regarding dharmas
The doctrine of shunyata, the central teaching of the
Prajna-paramita texts, is stated in terms of the shunyata, the
"emptiness" or "voidness" of all dharmas; or more fully, that all
dharmas are svabhava-shunya, "empty" (shunya) of svabhava. These
texts never tire of repeating this teaching: ---
[These representative examples are drawn from the 25,000 and
18,000 line Prajna-paramita sutras. There is at present no
complete Sanskrit edition of any of the three large
Prajna-paramita sutras. But as pointed out by Edward Conze,
their contents are essentially identical, with the 100,000 line
version spelling out in full the extensive and repetitive lists
of categories which are only abbreviated in the 18,000 and 25,000
line versions. So each of the three can be divided according to
subject matter into eight progressively achieved "realizations"
(abhisamaya), following Maitreya's Abhisamayalabakara. Using
this, we can readily see what the available Sanskrit editions
Catasahasrika-prajna-paramita, ed. Pratapacandra Ghosa, vol. 1
(18 fascicles, 1676 pp.), vol. 2 (1 fasc., 71 pp., incomplete),
Calcutta, 1902-1914, Bibliotheca Indica 153; includes 13
parivartas covering most of the 1st abhisamaya.
The Pancavimshatisahasrika Prajnaparamita, ed. Nalinaksha Dutt,
London: Luzac & Co., 1934, Calcutta Oriental Series 28; covers
the 1st abhisamaya.
Pancavimshatisahasrika Prajnaparamita II - III, ed. Takayasu
Kimura, Tokyo: Sankibo Busshorin Publishing Co., 1986; covers the
2nd and 3rd abhisamayas.
Pancavimshatisahasrika Prajnaparamita IV, Takayasu Kimura, Tokyo:
Sankibo Busshorin Publishing Co., 1990; covers the 4th
The Gilgit Manuscript of the Astadashasahasrikaprajnaparamita,
Chapters 55 to 70 corresponding to the 5th Abhisamaya, ed. &
trans. Edward Conze, Roma: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed
Estremo Oriente, 1962, Serie Orientale Roma 26.
The Gilgit Manuscript of the Astadashasahasrikaprajnaparamita,
Chapters 70 to 82 corresponding to the 6th, 7th and 8th
Abhisamayas, ed. & trans. Edward Conze, Roma: Istituto Italiano
per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1974, Serie Orientale Roma 46.
The 25,000 line editions of Dutt and Kimura, covering the first
through fourth abhisamayas, and the 18,000 line editions of
Conze, covering the fifth through eighth abhisamayas, make up the
complete subject matter of these texts. Thus it was not until
1990, with Kimura's edition completing the last of the eight
abhisamayas to be edited, that we had access to a complete large
Prajna-paramita sutra in printed form.]
--- No dharma has ever come into existence (anutpada); they do
not exist (na samvidyate); they are non-existent (abhava); they
are empty (shunya); they are empty of svabhava (svabhava-shunya);
they are without svabhava (nihsvabhava); their svabhava is
non-existent (abhava-svabhava). Again, I have left svabhava
untranslated. One may employ any number of possible
translations: essence, own-being, inherent existence,
self-existence, self-nature, essential nature, intrinsic nature,
intrinsic reality. As may now be seen, most occurrences of the
term svabhava in these texts are found in conjunction with
occurrences of the term shunyata, because the whole point of the
doctrine of shunyata is to refute the doctrine of svabhava.
The shunyata or emptiness teachings of the Prajna-paramita sutras
were first formulated into a philosophy by Nagarjuna. This is
the Madhyamaka or "middle way" philosophy, so called because it
seeks to avoid the two extremes of eternalism and nihilism. Its
primary text is the Mula-madhyamaka-karika, or "Root Verses on
the Middle Way." In this text Nagarjuna underscores how critical
it is to understand shunyata correctly:
> An incorrect view of emptiness destroys the slow-minded, like an
> incorrectly grasped snake, or an incorrectly cast spell.
> vinashayati durdrista shunyata manda-medhasam |
> sarpo yatha durgrihito vidya va dusprasadhita ||]
Yet early on, varying schools of interpretation of Nagarjuna's
treatise arose. Its verses or karikas are concise and often hard
to understand without a commentary. Nagarjuna is thought to have
written his own commentary on it, called the Akutobhaya, but his
authorship of the extant text of that name found in the Tibetan
canon is rejected by Tibetan tradition. ---
[Meditation on Emptiness, Jeffrey Hopkins, p. 360]
--- By the time of Tsong-kha-pa, more than a millennium after the
original text was written, there existed many commentaries.
After studying these, Tsong-kha-pa wondered what the correct
interpretation was. Through mystical means, the Buddha of Wisdom
Manjushri told him that the interpretation by Chandrakirti was in
all ways reliable. ---
[The Door of Liberation, by Geshe Wangyal, New York: Maurice
Girodias Associates, Inc., 1973, p. 66.]
--- In this way Tsong-kha-pa and the Gelugpas came to champion
Chandrakirti's school, the Prasabagika Madhyamaka, which became
dominant in Tibet.
The Prasabagika or "consequence" school uses a type of statement
called prasabaga, somewhat reminiscent of Socratic dialogue,
which points out unexpected and often unwelcome consequences in
whatever anyone can postulate. It reduces these postulations to
absurdity. Through this type of reasoning dharmas are analyzed
and shown not to be findable, and as a consequence are proven to
be empty. This school seeks to avoid making positive statements
of its own. Not only are all dharmas empty, so too is emptiness
empty. Shunyata itself does not exist any more than anything
else. It is not the void in which things may exist. Shunyata is
here absolute only in the sense of being the absolute truth of
the emptiness of all things, including itself.
Would this, then, also be the Theosophical understanding of
shunyata? The Theosophical teachings are said to represent an
esoteric school of interpretation, so one should not expect them
to agree with the exoterically known schools, such as "the
Prasabaga Madhyamika teaching, whose dogmas have been known ever
since it broke away from the purely esoteric schools." ---
[The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, p. 43.]
--- For as Blavatsky points out:
> Esoteric Schools would cease to be worthy of their name were
> their literature and doctrines to become the property of even
> their profane co-religionists--still less of the Western public.
> This is simple common sense and logic. Nevertheless this is a
> fact which our Orientalists have ever refused to recognize.
[H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 433.]
So now that Blavatsky did bring out to the western public some of
the esoteric teachings, under instruction from certain of the
Tibetan Mahatmas who believed that the time had come for this,
where do we find the Theosophical understanding of shunyata?
Returning to the passage quoted earlier from Blavatsky's notes on
Subba Row's article, we continue reading:
> Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony admits but of one
> absolute, indestructible, eternal, and uncreated unconsciousness
> (so to translate), of an element (the word being used for want of
> a better term) absolutely independent of everything else in the
> universe; a something ever present or ubiquitous, a Presence
> which ever was, is, and will be, whether there is a God, gods or
> none; whether there is a universe or no universe; existing during
> the eternal cycles of Maha Yugas, during the Pralayas as during
> the periods of Manvantara: and this is Space, the field for the
> operation of the eternal Forces and natural Law, the basis (as
> our correspondent rightly calls it) upon which take place the
> eternal intercorrelations of Akasha-Prakriti, guided by the
> unconscious regular pulsations of Shakti--the breath or power of
> a conscious deity, the theists would say--the eternal energy of
> an eternal, unconscious Law, say the Buddhists. Space, then, or
> Fan, Bar-nang (Maha-Shunyata) or, as it is called by Lao-tze, the
> "Emptiness" is the nature of the Buddhist Absolute.
[H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 3, p. 423.]
The term "space" is Samuel Beal's rendering of shunyata in his
1871 translation of the most condensed Prajna-paramita sutra, the
Heart Sutra. ---
[Found in A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, by
Samuel Beal, London: f304 Trubner & Co., 1871, pp. 282-284. It
had been published earlier in Journal of the Royal Asiatic
Society, n.s. vol. 1, 1865, pp. 25-28.]
--- Blavatsky had quoted it earlier in another note to Subba
> Prakriti, Svabhavat or Akasha is-- Space as the Tibetans have it;
> Space filled with whatsoever substance or no substance at all;
> i.e., with substance so imponderable as to be only metaphysically
> conceivable. . . . 'That which we call form (rupa) is not
> different from that which we call space (Shunyata) . . . Space
> is not different from Form. . . .' (Book of Sin-king or the
> Heart Sutra . . . .)
[H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 3, pp. 405-406.]
Beal was one of the first western translators of Buddhist texts.
Influenced by Brian Hodgson's account of the four schools of
Buddhism, Beal believed that Chinese Buddhism followed the
Svabhavika school, accepting a "universally diffused essence."
[Beal, Catena, p. 11: "Both these writers adopted the teaching
of the Swabhavika school of Buddhism, which is that generally
accepted in China. This school holds the eternity of Matter as a
crude mass, infinitesimally attenuated under one form, and
expanded in another form into the countless beautiful varieties
of Nature." Also, p. 14: "The doctrine of a universally diffused
and self-existing essence of which matter is only a form, seems
to be unknown in the Southern schools. It would appear,
therefore, that there has been no advance in the Southern
philosophical code since the date of Nagasena [i.e., Nagarjuna],
who was a strenuous opponent of the Swabhava theory."]
--- So in Beal's understanding, shunyata or space was just
another form of the absolute svabhava. Several decades later the
first comprehensive study in English of the Madhyamaka school
based on a thorough study of Nagarjuna's original Sanskrit text
came out: T. R. V. Murti's The Central Philosophy of Buddhism,
1955. Although no longer based on a Svabhavika idea, Murti still
understood shunyata to be the Buddhist absolute. Therefore
Madhyamaka was seen by him as a kind of absolutist philosophy.
In recent decades, however, since the Tibetan displacement, a
number of new works have come out based on collaboration with
Tibetan Gelugpa lamas, which severely criticize the earlier
absolutist interpretations of Madhyamaka. ---
[See, for example: Tsong Khapa's Speech of Gold in the Essence of
True Eloquence: Reason and Enlightenment in the Central
Philosophy of Tibet, by Robert A. F. Thurman, Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1984; The Emptiness of Emptiness: An
Introduction to Early Indian Madhyamika, by C. W. Huntington,
Jr., with Geshe Namgyal Wangchen, Honolulu: University of Hawaii
Press, 1989; The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way:
Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, by Jay L. Garfield, New York
and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.]
--- They point out that Madhyamaka is by definition the middle
way which avoids the extremes of eternalism and nihilism.
Neither of these two forms of absolutism can be the correct
interpretation. The Tibetans are heirs to an unbroken tradition
of Madhyamaka spanning more than fifteen hundred years. Since
this tradition has been thoroughly sifted by generations of
scholars, they have every reason to believe that theirs is the
correct interpretation of shunyata; and this shunyata is not
something which itself exists in any absolute way such as space.
Do we here have another case where Blavatsky quoted whatever she
could find which seemed to support the esoteric teachings, but
which later turns out not to support them after all? I don't
In one of the most significant extracts drawn from secret
commentaries and found in The Secret Doctrine, we find:
> . . . As its substance is of a different kind from that known
> on earth, the inhabitants of the latter, seeing through it,
> believe in their illusion and ignorance that it is empty space.
> There is not one finger's breadth (angula) of void Space in the
> whole Boundless (Universe). . . .
[The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, p. 289.]
This leaves no doubt that shunyata or space is indeed understood
in the Arhat secret doctrine as the absolute, the one element,
the eternal substance. But how can there be an absolute in the
middle way taught by the Buddha?
[To be concluded]
BUILDING UPON WHAT HPB WROTE
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins
[Based upon a January 24, 1997 posting to email@example.com. The
following article was revised by the author, but was still felt
to lack the detailed background information needed by an
uninformed reader. Such background information, he says, would
require a whole book. An historically informed reader, however
will be able to follow what was written.]
I've heard it said that TPH is publishing a lot of fine books by
creative authors, but the authors aren't Theosophists, don't
write about Theosophy, nor do they really know much about the
subject. This may be so, yet the books may have theosophy (note
the small "t") of some sort within them. For instance one can
argue that a book like MARY'S VINEYARD is "theosophical" in some
sense of the word.
After all, many Theosophers of the past were mystics and/or
Christians. Surely, most any book can be argued to be
theosophical in some sense -- whether it is a book of Christian
mysticism or the latest study in chaos theory, it will in one way
or another touch upon some Theosophical issue.
But I think that a Theosophical publisher with limited resources
cannot be all things to all people. Rather, the Theosophical
Society was originally built upon the teachings of HPB's teachers
and communicated primarily through HPB's writings.
Therefore, I believe that the priority of the Theosophical
publishers should be to make the core Theosophical text
available, and to publish those classical theosophical texts upon
which the Theosophical teachings stand. I am think here of the
classical religious and philosophical texts of the worlds great
I'm not suggesting that HPB should be canonized as holy writ.
Rather, HPB herself made it clear that she did not present her
writings as infallible nor did she want them to be regarded as
such. Rather, she hoped that later generations of Theosophists
would study her works and follow up on its leads in order to
expand upon what she began. Her writings are so rich with hints
and suggestive statements begging to be researched in light of
I think this kind of work, if it had been pursued by students of
Theosophy could have led to the publication of thousands of
volumes of fresh and interesting material, that would have led to
innovations of practical application for all of humanity. But
alas, the Adyar TS abandoned this kind of follow up after 1908.
In a promising beginning of scholarship, TPH made an initial
commitment to the translation and publication of good
translations of the world scriptures. This was a first step in
the fulfillment of HPB's program of making available source
theosophical texts. Scholars at Adyar brought to the world
translations of Indian texts never before seen by the Western
These theosophical texts and others like them are necessary in
order to evaluate HPB's Theosophical texts. But by 1908 the
Adyar TS became preoccupied with Krishnamurti as the returned
Christ, and the TS began to abandon the translation of
theosophical writings as well as to de-emphasize the core modern
Theosophical writings that were designed to lead to realization.
In their place, the new generation of leaders produced a new
breed of discourse based upon revelation. References to the
MAHABARATA were replaced with revelations from the Mahachohan.
In contrast, students in the Point Loma TS during this same
period produced studies that were spun off of hints in HPB's
writings and based in current science. They produced some very
interesting research papers on anthropology, physics, geology,
meso-American and Biblical history. But much more could have
been done if the Point Loma TS remained stable, and that research
continued after 1951. But the Point Loma TS became withdrawn for
about thirty years and the research of its earlier quality came
to an end.
U.L.T. has a long history of keeping the original Theosophical
texts in print, and Theosophy magazine used to be full of fine
examples of Theosophical scholarship in current fields. Even
today, the editors of Theosophy magazine continue a section on
Theosophy and current issues.
They have done what they can, but U.L.T. does not have the human
resources of the other organizations, and like the Pasadena TS,
ULT by virtue of its use of the word Theosophy, was doomed to
suffer from the public rejection to Theosophy generated by events
in the Adyar TS.
The Anthroposophical Society also took HPB's que and developed
theories and applications in education and agriculture. Most of
their agricultural applications were appropriated by Rodale and
are widely practiced under the label "organic gardening," but
much of this came from the Anthroposophical "Biodynamic
I think there is still much for the Theosophical Organizations to
do, if only they would be able to put their efforts in this
direction once again. But innovative research and writing that
considers Eastern paradigms is now being done in academic and
scientific circles which would never associate itself with
Theosophy because of its reputation for cultism and
How often I find academic or independently written works which
draw from HPB's ideas without any acknowledgment whatsoever. I'm
not suggesting plagiarism, but rather, that so many of HPB's
ideas are more timely than ever and are permeating the thought
atmosphere -- these ideas are "in the air."
HPB made a prediction in the S.D. that by the end of this
century her secret doctrine teachings would be vindicated by
science. I think that to a small extent her prediction is coming
HPB's hints are already being pursued in physics, anthropology,
astronomy, Biblical studies etc. Likely, most of these
researchers know nothing about HPB or her writings, but it is
interesting that they are pursuing the very questions that HPB
raised and they are moving in directions that she pointed. It is
therefore ironic that so many academic circles which condemn HPB
and Theosophy are more in touch with her ideas than most
What would have happened if the original program was followed --
if the TS did not become an organization based upon a revelation
that eventually met public discreditation? What would have
happened if generations of Theosophical scholars had continued to
work ceaselessly for the last hundred years researching HPB's
leads and publishing the results?
For instance, HPB's then absurd statement concerning the
divisibility of the atom when pursued by Rutherford and Milliken
yielded the atomic age. How great it would have been for the
Theosophical Movement if these scientists were among "the
greatest minds" that the Mahatmas wanted to attract.
More currently, HPB's hints and dating of the age of physical
humanity is far closer to current science than in her time. But
the no Theosophical Organization can take credit for the Louis,
Mary and Richard Leakey's very Theosophical outlook either.
Yet there is still far more to be done by future researchers. In
the early days, HPB tried to accommodate the researchers of her
time by offering a special classification of membership to them.
This is no longer done, and the TS no longer attracts the great
minds that it once did.
Though the Quest book line occasionally publishes some
interesting books (interesting to me), they are drawing from
independent authors most of whom are involved in traditions very
different from the one established by Blavatsky or the other
established by Besant and Leadbeater.
I believe that if the TS had followed up on the original
writings, rather then publishing books like Mary's Vineyard, they
might have been the ones to publish more influential works like
THE TAO OF PHYSICS and THE DANCING WU LI MASTERS.
The quest book line would be full of cutting edge theoretical and
practical discourses on subjects like naturopathy, astrophysics,
biblical archeology, chaos theory, and yes, spiritual
development, written by students of Theosophy.
Though I have nothing against publishing appropriate works from
other traditions, it is sad that we have to seek writers from
outside of the Theosophical tradition because of the lack of
writers within it.
What is to be done to bring the TS and its publishing policies
back to the original program? I suggest three steps: First, I
believe that the Adyar TS needs to recognize and acknowledge that
with the advent of Krishnamurti, they had changed direction and
cut their lines to the original impulse begun by HPB, Judge and
When Krishnamurti baled out in 1930, the Adyar TS was left with a
tradition of revelation without a revealer. After Besant's death
in 1933, George Arundale took the Presidency, ignored
Krishnamurti, and tried to make Theosophy all things to all
people. But he failed to realize that if Theosophy is
everything, it is nothing. Though the TS membership was near an
all time high when Arundale took the Presidency in 1934, it was
at an all time low when he left the Presidency in 1945.
Second, I think the Adyar TS needs to carefully re-evaluate the
traditions that were adopted during and after the Krishnamurti
era and still held to this day. The "Theosophy is everything"
philosophy is still held by many members, while the inner group
holds to more rigid definitions developed during the Besant
This inherent contradiction weakens the TS because it creates an
unintentional hypocrisy. An organization can have strength when
devoted to an ideal, or it can be strong when it is all
embracing, but it cannot be both and remain strong. I believe
that if nothing else, the history of the TS has demonstrated
This same contradiction is the source of a major weakness of the
Quest magazine: it tries to appeal to the new age crowd (by being
all things to all people), while attempting to promote a very
specific philosophy. It cannot do both.
Either Theosophy is all things to all people (in which case it
becomes nothing), or it is a particular definable thing that
people can accept or reject. If it is the latter, then it must
be defined for the sake of honesty and for the benefit of the
public and the membership.
Third, the TS needs to re-evaluate the original program from
which it abandoned in 1908. If the program established by the
founders is still suitable for the times, we ought to consider
returning to it.
I personally believe that the original program is still suitable
for today's world. But does the TS have the will, the resolve,
and the strength to reclaim its place as a source for relevant
theoretical and practical discourse in current thought? If so,
the TS will have to take the above three steps before they can
attract and find expression through students, researchers,
writers and workers united by the ideals of the original program.
Many people dedicated to the original program have come to the TS
in the past fifty years. But because of the kind of changes that
have taken place in the TS over the last eighty, they find
themselves marching to a different drummer. The potential
supporters of Theosophy were seeking realization, not revelation.
Because they do not march to the tune played by the TS
leadership, they have been again and again marginalized or driven
out of the TS altogether. In other words, for those who wish to
build upon HPB's original program through realization, (i.e.
though critical discourse and discrimination), they are not
welcome in her organization. A pity.
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application