They who know of no purer sources of truth, who have traced up its stream no higher, stand, and wisely stand, by the Bible and the Constitution, and drink at it there with reverence and humility; but they who behold where it comes trickling into this lake or that pool, gird up their loins once more, and continue their pilgrimage towards its fountainhead.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849)
from Theosophy Magazine [November, 1938
One of the most mysterious characters in modern history is the famous Count de St. Germain, described by his friend Prince Karl von Hesse as
one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived, the friend of humanity, whose heart was concerned only with the happiness of others.
Intimate and counselor of Kings and Princes, nemesis of deceptive ministers, Rosicrucian, Mason, accredited Messenger of the Masters of Wisdom-the Count de St. Germain worked in Europe for more than a century, faithfully performing the difficult task which had been entrusted to him.
The amazing and inscrutable personality in which the Adept known as St. Germain clothed himself was the outstanding topic of conversation among the nobility of the eighteenth century. During the 112 years that he is said to have lived in Europe, he always presented the appearance of a man about forty-five years of age. He was of medium height, with a slender, graceful figure, a captivating smile, and eyes of peculiar beauty. "Oh, what eyes!" signed the Countess d'Adhemar. "I have never seen their equal!" He was an extraordinary linguist, speaking French, German, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Swedish without the slightest trace of an accent, and his knowledge of Sanscrit, Chinese and Arabic showed that he was well acquainted with the East. His proficiency in music was equally remarkable. As a violinist he is said to have rivalled Paganini, while his performances on the harpsichord called forth enthusiastic applause from Frederick the Great. His ability to improvise made a great impression on Rameau, who met him in Venice in 1710. St. Germain was also a composer. One of his musical compositions was given to Tchaikowsi, Prince Ferdinand von Lobkowitz inherited a second, while two others, bearing the dates 1745 and 1760, are the property of the British Museum.
The Count de St. Germain was also a painter of rare ability, famed for his power to reproduce the original brilliance of precious stones on canvas. Although he refused to betray his secret, it was commonly supposed that he produced the effect by mixing powdered mother-of-pearl with his pigments. He was highly esteemed as an art critic and was frequently consulted in regard to the authenticity of paintings.
The prodigious memory of the Count de St. Germain was a constant source of amazement to his friends. He would merely glance as a paper, and days afterward repeat its contents without missing a word. He was ambidextrous, and could write a poem with one hand while he framed a diplomatic paper with the other. He frequently read sealed letters without touching them and was known to answer questions before they had been put into words.
Many of St. Germain's friends had practical proof of his alchemical knowledge. Casanova relates that one day while visiting St. Germain in his laboratory, the latter asked for a silver coin. In a few moments it was returned to Casanova as pure gold. St. Germain also possessed the secret of melting several small diamonds into one large stone, an art he learned in India, he said. While visiting the French Ambassador to The Hague, he broke up a superb diamond of his own manufacture, the duplicate of which he had recently sold for 5500 louis d'or. On another occasion he removed a flaw from a diamond belonging to Louis XV, increasing the value of the stone by 4000 livres. On gala occasions he appeared with a diamond ring on every finger and with shoe-buckles estimated to be worth at least 200,000 francs.
The charming personality of the Count de St. Germain made him a welcome guest in the homes of the nobility of every land. But while he often sat at table with his friends, his own food was specially prepared for him in his own apartments. He ate no meat and drank no wine, his favorite beverage being a tea which he prepared for certain herbs, and which he frequently presented to his friends. His extraordinary popularity was due to his prowess as a raconteur, to his well known intimacy with the greatest men and women of the day, to his familiarity with occult subjects, and especially to the mystery of his birth and nationality, which he consistently refused to reveal. He spoke with feeling of things which had happened hundreds of years in the past, giving the impression that he himself had been present. One evening, while he was recounting an event which had happened many centuries before, he turned to his butler and asked if any important details had been omitted. "Monsieur le Comte forgets," his butler replied, "that I have been with him only five hundred years. I could not, therefore, have been present at that occurrence. It must have been my predecessor." If, as many claimed, St. Germain affirmed that he had lived in Chaldea and possessed the secrets of the Egyptian sages, he may have spoken the truth without making an miraculous claim. There are Initiates, and not necessarily of the highest, who are able to recall many of their past lives. This may have been St. Germain's way of calling attention of his friends to the doctrine of reincarnation. Or perhaps he knew the secret of "the Elixir of Life."
Although no one knew when the Count de St. Germain was born, his life from 1710 to 1822 is a matter of history. Both Rameau and the Countess de Georgy met him in Venice in 1710. Fifty years later the aged Countess met him in Madame Pompadour's house and asked him if his father had been in Venice that year. "No, Madame," the Count replied, "but I myself was living in Venice at the end of the last and the beginning of this century. I had the honor to pay you court then, and you were kind enough to admire a little Barcarolle of my composing." The Countess could not believe her ears. "But if that is true," she gasped, "you must be at least a hundred years old!" The Count smiled. "That, Madame, is not impossible!"
In 1723 the Count showed his mother's portrait, which he always wore on his arm, to the mother of the future Countess de Genlis. It was a miniature of an exceptionally beautiful woman, dressed in a costume unfamiliar to the Countess. "To what period does this costume belong?" the Countess inquired. The Count merely smiled and changed the subject.
From 1737 to 1742 the Count de St. Germain was living in the Court of the Shah of Persia, occupied with alchemical research. On his return from Persia he settled in Versailles and became an intimate friend of Louis XV and Madame Pompadour. In the following year he was caught in the Jacobite Revolution in England. From there he went to Vienna, and afterward visited Frederick the Great in his castle of Sans-Souci in Potsdam, where Voltaire was also an honored guest. Although Voltaire was opposed to St. Germain's fellow-Theosophist Saint-Martin, his admiration for St. Germain was unbounded. In a letter to Frederick, Voltaire expressed his opinion that "the Count de St. Germain is a man who was never born, who will never die, and who knows everything."
In 1755 the Count de St. Germain accompanied General Clive to India. On his return to France Louis XV gave him a suite of apartments in the Royal Chateau of Chambord, in Touraine. Here he often entertained the King and members of the Court in the alchemical laboratory with the King had provided for him.
In 1760 Louis sent the Count de St. Germain on a delicate diplomatic mission to The Hague and London. At that time he discovered the Duc de Choiseul, who up to that time had been implicitly trusted by the King, was playing a double game. Although St. Germain confided this fact to the King, the former was determined that the Peace Treaty between England and France should be signed, no matter who received the credit. So one evening in May, 1761, St. Germain called upon the Duc de Choiseul and remained closeted with him the whole night. This conference resulted in the celebrated alliance known as the Family Compact. This in its turn was the forerunner of the Treaty of Paris, which brought the colonial war between England and France to a close.
In the following year St. Germain was called to St. Petersburg, where he played an important part in the revolution which placed Catherine the Great upon the throne of Russia. he left the country in the uniform of a Russian general, with full credentials to which the imperial seal of Russia was affixed. Shortly afterward he appeared in Tunis and Leghorn while the Russian fleet was there, again in Russian uniform, and known under the name of Graf Saltikoff.
After the death of Louis XV in 1774, St. Germain spent several years travelling in Germany and Austria. Among the Kings, Princes, Ambassadors and scholars who met him during those years, how many suspected that the soul of a great Adept looked out through the eyes of the Count de St. Germain? How many realized that they were conversing with an emissary of that Great Fraternity of Perfected Men who stand behind the scenes of all the great world-dramas, one who was directly not only the minor currents of European history, but some of the major currents as well? How many were aware of St. Germain's real mission, part of which was the introduction of Theosophical principles into the various occult fraternities of the day?
The Rosicrucian organizations were certainly helped by him. While Christian Rosencreuz, the founder of the Order, transmitted his teachings orally, St. Germain recorded the doctrines in figures, and one of his exciphered manuscripts became the property of his staunch friend, Prince Karl von Hesse. H.P.B. mentions this manuscript in The Secret Doctrine (II, 202) and quotes at length from another (II, 582). While St. Germain was living in Vienna he spent much of his time in the Rosicrucian laboratory on the Landstrasse, and at one time lived in the room which Leibniz occupied in 1713. St. Germain also worked with the Fratres Lucis, and with the "Knights and Brothers of Asia" who studied Rosicrucian and Hermetic science and made the "philosopher's stone" one of the objects of their research.
Although an effort has been made to eliminate St. Germain's name from modern Masonic literature, careful research into Masonic archives will prove that he occupied a prominent position in eighteenth century Masonry. He acted as a delegate to the Wilhelmsbad Convention in 1782 and to the great Paris Convention of 1785. Cadet de Gassicourt described him as a travelling member of the Knights Templar, and Deschamps says that Cagliostro was initiated into that Order by St. Germain.
The Count de St. Germain is said to have died on February 27, 1784, and the Church Register of Eckernforde in Danish Holstein contains the record of his death and burial. But as it happens, some of St. Germain's most important work was done after that date. This fact is brought out in the Souvenirs de Marie-Antoinette, written by one of her ladies-in-waiting, the Countess d'Adhemar. This diary was started in 1760 and ended in 1821, one year before the death of the Countess, and a large part of it is concerned with St. Germain's efforts to avert the horrors of the French Revolution.
Early one Sunday morning in 1788 the Countess was surprised to receive a visit from the Count de St. Germain, whom she had not seen in several years. He warned her that a giant conspiracy was under foot, in which the Encyclopaedists would use the Duc de Chartres in an effort to overthrow the monarchy, and asked her to take him to the Queen. When Madame d'Adhemar reported the conversation to Marie-Antoinette, the Queen confessed that she also had received another communication from this mysterious stranger who had protected her with warnings from the day of her arrival in France. On the following day St. Germain was admitted into the private quarters of the Queen. "Madame," he said to her, "for twenty years I was on intimate terms with the late King, who deigned to listen to me with kindness. He made use of my poor abilities on several occasions, and I so not think he regretted giving me his confidence." After warning her of the serious condition of France, he asked her to communicate his message to the King and to request the King not to consult with Maurepas. But the King ignored the warning, and went directly to Maurepas, who immediately called upon Madame d'Adhemar. In the midst of the conversation St. Germain appeared. He confronted Maurepas with his treachery and said to him: "In opposing yourself to my seeing the monarch, you are losing the monarchy, for I have but a limited time to give to France. This time over, I shall not be seen here again, until after three successive generations have gone down to the grave."
The second warning from St. Germain came on July 14, 1789, when the Queen was saying farewell to the Duchesse de Polgnac. She opened the letter and read: "My words have fallen on your ears in vain, and you have reached the period of which I informed you. All the Polignacs and their friends are doomed to death. The Comte d'Artois will perish."
His farewell letter, addressed to Madame d'Adhemar, arrived on October 5, 1789. "All is lost, Countess!" he wrote. "This sun is the last which will set on the monarchy. Tomorrow it will exist no more. My advice has been scorned. Now it is too late.x" In that letter he asked the Countess to meet with him early the next morning. In that conversation the Count de St. Germain informed her that the time when he could have helped France was past. "I can do nothing now. My hands are tied by one stronger than myself. The hour of repose is past, and the decrees of Providence must be fulfilled." He foretold the death of the Queen, the complete ruin of the Bourbons, the rise of Napoleon. "And you yourself?" the Countess asked. "I must go to Sweden," he answered. "A great crime is brewing there, and I am going to try and prevent it. His Majesty Gustavus III interests me. He is worth more than his renown." The Countess inquired if she would see him again. "Five times more," he answered. "Do not wish for the sixth."
True to his word, the Count de St. Germain appeared to the Countess d'Adhemar on five different occasions: at the beheading of the Queen; on the 18th Brumaire; the day following the death of the Duc d'Enghien in 1804; in January, 1813; on the ever of the assassination of the Duc de Berri in 1820. Presumably the sixth time was on the day of her death, in 1822.
What happened to the Count de St. Germain after that date? Did he, as Andrew Lang asks, "die in the palace of Prince Karl von Hesse about 1780-85? Did he, on the other hand, escape from the French prison where Gorsley thought he saw him, during the French Revolution? Was he known to Lord Lytton about 1860? Who knows?" Who indeed. One of the Masters spoke of the "benevolent German Prince from whose house, and in whose presence he (St. Germain) made his last exit-home."
In the last decade of the eighteenth century St. Germain confided his future plans to his Austrian friend, Franz Graeffer, saying,
"Tomorrow night I am off. I am much needed in Constantinople, then in England, there to prepare to new inventions which you have in the next century-trains and steamboats. Toward the end of this century I shall disappear out of Europe, and betake myself to the region of the Himalayas. I will rest; I must rest. Exactly in 85 years will people again set eyes on me. Farewell. " (Kleine Wiener Memorien.)
These words were spoken in 1790. Eighty-five years from that date brings us to 1875. What part did St. Germain play in the Theosophical Movement of last century? What part is he going to play in the present century? H.P.B. gave a cryptic suggestion of the time when he would again appear:
The Count de St. Germain was certainly the greatest Oriental Adept Europe has seen during the last centuries. But Europe knew him not. Perchance some may recognize him at the next Terreur, which will affect all Europe when it comes, and not one country alone.
Was the event of which she spoke the last great War, or does the
real Terreur still lie before us?
The Brookings Theosophy Study Group held its second annual conference during the weekend of August 9-11, 1996. Participants began to arrive on Wednesday and there was a Television talk show presentation done on Thursday morning. The station had originally planned this presentation and call-in session for about fifteen minutes, but it was extended to almost double that. The program received a second showing at 10 PM on Thursday.
The primary meeting for the annual get-together was held at 7:30 PM in the Conference Room of the Brookings Best Western Beachfront Inn. In attendance were students of Theosophy from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and Paradise. In addition, the audience of fifty-five included numerous enquirers who had heard of the meeting through newspapers, posters, radio, and television.
Gratitude was expressed for the life and work of William Q. Judge a Great Theosophist who passed away 100 years ago, and an informative biographical sketch of his life and work was presented.
The meeting then went on to acquaint newcomers with the Fundamental Principles of Theosophy, their value, inspiration and practicality in the everyday life of Humanity and nature.
The idea of Universal Brotherhood was uppermost in the discussion of the Fundamentals. We are all one divine in our innermost nature was the underlying thought followed by questions related to Karma and Reincarnation. The questions included:
Why do we seem to experience injustice in the world?
Is there no accident?
We reap what we sow; but why don't we remember our past lives?
Is regression a good practice? Would not feelings of guilt overwhelm us?
Ideas were expressed concerning the vision of the soul just after death and preceding birth. It was said that these visions burn into the nature a wider view of karmic law so that the involved soul sees the innate justice and intelligence at work in the universe.
The ancient Pythagorean practice was recommended to the audience: that we assess our defects, motives and values before going to sleep at night so that correction can be made.
Suicide was pointed out as a desperate act which has grave karmic consequences.
Ecology and over-population were discussed in the light of Theosophy. Our myopic vision of cycles combined with our lack of due regard for the creative function, combine to present a foundation for pessimism, which from a larger perspective has no foundation. Man's lack of regard for the kingdoms or sheaths in his immediate control make him likewise irresponsible to everything surrounding him, whether it be a tree, a dolphin, or a fellow human.
A Bible-based inquiry regarding our status was expressed. In answer to this it was mentioned that we are ethereal (spiritual) beings who take on human form for purposes of raising all nature to a higher stature of godhood, and that this is what is implied in the expression, "the fall of the Angels."
There is a progressive development of form and mind in our evolution, and if we awaken to our divine potential, we will also awaken to our responsibility to all of life. That is, we will awaken in the sense of seeing avenues of alleviating work of which we are capable, avenues which were ignored or simply not seen before.
Thus "awakening to one's divinity" is no so much personal growth as it is a process of reuniting oneself to the human family and Mother Earth herself. Thus Occultism or Theosophy is the renunciation of the fallacious egotism that strangles us from the cradle to the grave. Give up the soot on the window-pane, and we will see the light that was always there.
All in attendance came away with renewed trust and determination to make the future better. The reading of the United Lodge of Theosophist's Declaration closed the meeting. As the meeting closed, all present were invited to a 10:30 Brunch on Saturday followed by a more informal meeting at 12:30.
A follow up meeting was held Saturday, as 12:30 PM. Its purpose was to find ways and means to further the Three Objects of the Theosophical Movement in a practical way and to define Peace Theosophically.
The Chair presented the three Fundamental Propositions briefly:
1. One universal Reality the core of all being the divine in all things.
2. Universal Life, Periodicity and Cycles; the Law of Cause and Effect, Life is a whole not a part.
3. We are all in it together, the purpose of Life is to learn.
Students were asked to volunteer in giving the Three Objects of the Theosophical Movement, which are:
1. To form a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color;
2. The study of ancient and modern religions, philosophies and sciences, and the demonstration of the importance of such study; and
3. The investigation of the unexplained laws of Nature and the psychical powers latent in man.
In regard to the First Object and its implementation, the following thoughts were expressed:
Recognize that we need to consider others first.
Practice the Heart Doctrine, feel gratitude for All Life and its contributions.
Define ego and ego and appreciate the distinction.
Control the lower nature.
Unconditional giving and helping.
One of the lessons to learned is that we are not perfect.
Act from the heart.
Reference was made to The Bhagavad-Gita in regard to giving gifts out of season.
The focus of the group should be on the quality and understanding of the nucleus, not on numbers.
Then the question was asked, "What is Perfection?"
We are not complete. We're never perfect, but always perfecting! Spiritual growth unifies and makes broad and deep one's sense of the One Self. Matter diversifies, and while needed as a vehicle of expression, presents the danger of intensified isolation and selfishness. We have mixed motives. We are a microcosm. Putting what we know into practice makes it practical.
Some more questions considered:
* If mind is everything why not let mind control us?
It was pointed out that strong line is drawn between man's ego and Ego one being external, the other internal to Mahat; the one being like a rock with sun shining on it, the other being the sunbeam itself.
* How do theosophists arrive at the idea that Masters of Wisdom exist?
As to the Masters of Wisdom, the simple logic of evolution, even from a scholastic standpoint, points in that direction.
The following thoughts and questions were expressed and discussed in regard to the second object:
The study brings us to a better understanding of Karma. In understanding the ancients we are understanding the history of ourselves. Within each of us is a receiver. We have a dual mind and spiritual body. What is the difference between natural decay and pollution?
The intention is important. We can pollute with the thinking principle. Motive is to be examined. All things work under Law, not by chance or luck.
In regard to the Third Object there were just two ideas expressed: There is an inter-connection between all natures. Remain open-minded.
* How do we define peace theosophically?
Various comments were offered in reply to this question:
Sense of comfort; some level of satisfaction.
Peace is harmony. Harmony implies diversity.
Peace has to do with attitude.
Peace is justice justice to All.
Work for Peace wherever we are.
Peace springs up in the Natural order of things.
Focus, go within, seek silence.
Realize there are differences and maintain balance.
Peace is founded on Eternal Love.
Recognition of Karma.
Ideas change the world. Thoughts coalesce with elemental lives.
The importance of setting up Right Causes.
The meeting was closed with a strong bond of unity among us and a
determination to meet again.
by Darrin Potaka
The Australian Section of the TS now has an email address:
but Blavatsky Lodge still has not moved
much closer to getting a machine installed that can run the
software etc. They have got a couple of old machines there
(XT's) but they really need to do better than that. Maybe early
next year they will. The section is in the process of building a
Web site (which I am involved with, preparing graphics only) but
this, like so many things associated with the Lodge and Section
seem to move painfully slow. Many good ideas seem to get bogged
with committees, or halted for one reason or another.
by Eldon Tucker
After having studied the literature for a number of years, a theosophical student may come to be dissatisfied with the exoteric material found therein. The student may hunger for something more. But what about new students, people only first coming across the grand ideas of the Esoteric Philosophy?
As an more advanced student, one may forget one's own feeling of opening vistas that the basic ideas gave one, when as a beginner one first came to study them. Certainly one knows more now that one did then, and has passed on to deeper understandings, but that's one's personal experience, not the experience of everybody else.
For every person that may have studied the basic, most simple view of the esoteric doctrines, there are perhaps thousands that are starving for those simple, soul-healing ideas.
For those with the good fortune to have studied the teachings and benefited from them, they may have moved yet deeper in their understanding of life. But that "moving yet deeper" is in stages, and someone new to the philosophy will get nowhere if they're offered the basic teachings with one hand and hear them denounced, discredited, and despised with the other. That would be giving a new student a mixed message that would simply turn them away.
But shouldn't we define Theosophy as a collection of core teachings, and then present its categories? We could give out H.P.B.'s version, and acknowledge it as exoteric, giving students a warning that there's much more to it than what we teach?
There's a problem when we say "Here's something to study, but it's only exoteric, for beginners, watered-down stuff, things I know to be untrue and to have personally risen above, etc." That's certainly not respectful of the Wisdom Tradition, and misses the point that the teachings are true, but simply understood in simpler and more basic models at first, and later understood with growing sophistication and insight.
But isn't H.P.B.'s version of Theosophy an exoteric husk? Isn't it wrong to limit Theosophy to her version? If we did so, wouldn't that limit the truth seeker to an exoteric shell?
That's not really a problem. From one's personal standpoint, one may feel H.P.B.'s writings to be an exoteric crust over the living Truth. To a new student, the opposite may be experienced.
There are a few flavors of the basic doctrines, and H.P.B.'s is not the only one. But not all that passes as esoteric wisdom is a genuine flavor of the Mysteries. There's more fools gold than the real thing out in the world.
But when teaching Theosophy, what do we do when we want to discuss things that H.P.B. never mentioned? If she doesn't mention something, doesn't it suggest it is untrue?
No. The problem is not whether the idea is true or not, but upon what basis do we present our ideas. We're all entitled to present our views, whatever they are, if we label them as such. If we want to suggest that a particular idea we have is found in Theosophy, we can use direct citations and a scholar approach to show the connection. Or we can argue the idea from a philosophical standpoint as being consistent, in accord with, and integral to what is presented in Theosophy. Or yet again, we can simply say "this is what I think".
The best approach may be to be moderate in our statements
regarding how "exoteric" the theosophical Teachings might be. We
don't want to seem to be rejecting them out-of-hand and telling
others how clever we are in seeing how untrue they all are!
Especially when we accepted them and valued them highly, as new
students, and can look back in life now and see how they helped
us find our way towards a lifelong path of self-discovery and
service in the world.
by Alan Bain
On April 4th, 1996, I had been involved in matters theosophical for 40 years.
During that month, while reading a book by Ernest Wood, I was reminded by his experiences of many of my own, including the occasion that has enabled me through the years to recall the precise date and even the approximate hour of my own entry into the mysterious world of occult philosophy (as Cornelius Agrippa called it) or theosophy (as we call it).
On the night of 3rd/4th April 1956 I had reached a point in my life whereby it seemed that I had been given no choice but to stand firm on matters of spiritual principle as it seemed at the time and was in consequence quite alone in the world, with hardly a single friend, living in a small bedsitter in London.
I was exhausted in the same way as one can be after a "psychic battle" and more than ready simply to lie down on the bed in my clothes and fall asleep. But I was afraid. For no reason I could fathom, hard as I tried to rationalise the matter, I was filled with a conviction that if I went to sleep I would die. And I mean die - finished, dead, kaput - no more. The obvious - the only - means of avoiding this was to remain awake, presumably forever, though my thoughts did not follow through that far, and so I tried, tired as I was, not to stay awake, but to prevent myself falling asleep.
Eventually - about three in the morning - I realised I was not going to make it, and quite literally resigned myself, reconciled myself to the fact - yes, fact - of my impending demise. By the morning would I would have died. I lay on the bed, no longer fearful, just exhausted and ready as I could be to face the inevitable.
And so it was that I awoke - rather late on the 4th April - dead. That is to say that the Alan Bain who lay down on the bed at three in the morning was gone, complete with phobias, inadequacies and inhibitions, and a new Alan Bain had emerged, chrysalis-like, from the shell of the old. Reborn.
Within six months I had worked my way through the rudiments of Astrology, Theosophy (via Jinarajadasa) and Qabalah (as in Dion Fortune's "Mystical Qabalah"). Within a year I was heading a small group of students, mostly around my own age - by then 23 - which was unusual for those days, as most people seemed to become interested in such matters in their early forties.
Qabalah, later spelt "Kabbalah" to avoid being confused with the "magical" variety, became my personal working and teaching method, and the first draft of my "The Keys to Kabbalah" was completed in 1970-71. It received its latest redefinition and extensions last year, 1995.
Like many theosophists since the time of Besant and Leadbeater, I have been involved with all three of the later manifestations of the movement: the Liberal Catholic Church (which I find to be neither liberal nor catholic); Co-Masonry (of limited but some value, once you have finished playing "Knock knock, who's there?") and the Adyar-based Theosophical Society.
Like many theosophists I have met, mostly electronically, during the past year or two, I have come to realise that the real strength of the occult or theosophical ideal was that, however imperfectly expressed, by Madame Blavatsky and friends back in 1875.
120 years later, some of us, returning (I suspect) to both our
source and our roots, are wondering about starting over, about
ridding ourselves of hierarchical and power structures which seem
to have done as much harm as they have good. Without their
having existed, it is fair to say I would have nothing to write
about today, but I think it is also fair to say that their day
is passing, and we truly are moving into a "New Dimension" if not
a "New Age" - no doubt we shall see.
by Richard Taylor
[Following is a discussion of the source teachings of Theosophy by Richard Taylor on firstname.lastname@example.org, found in five messages over September 4 to 9, 1995. The materials have been merged then reviewed by the author.]
H.P.B. herself gives the idea of "source teachings" and warns against false prophets within Theosophy giving out their own warped ideas AS Theosophy itself. No ideas are left out, they are simply pointed out as later than the original stuff. It doesn't "include certain writers in a select group and leave others out."
No one can deny that H.P.B. and William Q. Judge were among the Founders of Theosophy in 1875, and The Mahatma Letters were from 1880-1884. Everything after this is later, and spins off from the original teachings.
Even as a ULT student, I recognize that my hero Robert Crosbie (the founder of ULT) is a student and giving his own understanding of what he learned from H.P.B. and W.Q.J. His writings are not Source Theosophy, neither are de Purucker's, neither are Leadbeater's. We are not playing favorites here, you see, we all trace our roots to the same place.
With no source teachings, there is no Source, no direction by which we may approach the Masters and their School except our own personal wanderings. In fact, we Westerners first learned about Masters and Theosophy from H.P.B., and if we ignore her direction most of us will be really directionless in Theosophy, and leap from thing to thing, learning very slowly.
Some may say that this is divisive, that it doesn't seem in keeping with the spirit of theosophy to "find the source within." But is not divisive, it is unifying. Many of us think some second-generation writers were real poops and weirdos. But I recognize that most of what they knew, they learned from H.P.B. and the Masters. Their ideas can be traced back to the "source teachings."
Have you ever come across William Q. Judge and his work? He is rather practical, but he has one glaring defect in the eyes of many: he held to the lines laid down by H.P.B. after her death, while most everyone else went about "developing" the ideas according to their own likes and dislikes and psychism. Mr. Judge is extremely practical and humble and readable, but most T.S. people ignore him because he was declared anathema.
The idea of Source Teachings is not about arrogance or humility. Source Teachings is an idea, and people are the ones who are arrogant or humble about it. Many people who recognize the truth of source teachings are very humble.
The philosophy of Theosophy is beautiful when it is understood as a whole, and not adulterated by later, corrupt teachings which destroy the laws of analogy, correspondences and the sevenfold constitution of Man.
With regard to the Masters, and their direct representatives, H.P.B. and W.Q.J., there are no intermediaries. No one deserves our respect because they have written books or have ideas or lived a century ago. They deserve our respect when they are moral, accurate, and hold to the lines laid down by the Masters. Failing this, they are poor guides, and certainly not people to set up as "closer and more familiar to the teachers and the teaching." We will all come ot know the Masters by following their teachings and their lines, not any intermediaries.
In my mind, whatever the Masters were silent on, on that we don't know Their opinion. We can have our own opinions, and of course we do, but we can't in good conscience teach our own ideas as the Masters ideas, and it is important to distinguish that "we see through a glass darkly" but They see clearly and certainly. I too have many ideas how Theosophy and Buddhism overlap, but those are MY ideas, inspired by the teachings, but I can't run around saying my ideas are the original teachings.
I don't see us living today as "third" or "fourth" generation writers and students, we too are secondary. Nothing stands between us and the Masters as long as we still have their original teachings and program. We thinkers and students today are every bit as important as Mr. Crosbie (ULT), Mr. de Purucker (Pt. Loma), Besant (Adyar), etc. We too can comment on the original teachings and come up with our own ideas. We can read whoever primary or secondary we want to, but we are not subordinate to them, we are thinkers in our own right.
A common suggestion is that the Teachings be presented in a form that can be understood and worked with by the current generation and culture. Some even ask if the Teachings themselves should evolve.
I partially agree and partially disagree. I agree that the presentation of the teaching need to be in the language of the people, accessible and understandable. And I agree that that's our job, to keep the teaching available in that way.
But I don't agree that the Teaching evolves. If Theosophy is truly "truth" based on facts in nature, then it simply IS and does not change. However the presentation of those truths may vary from culture to culture, time to time.
I don't ever think we will outgrow the original stuff taught by H.P.B. and William Q. Judge, but I do think their written English will differ more and more from the spoken and written vernacular as the decades, and centuries go by.
The question is: how do we keep ourselves based firmly on the tradition handed down to us that tradition of eternal truths while keeping it current, at the same time avoiding the pitfall of "pandering" to popular prejudices, like and dislikes, thus altering or losing the essential truths.
It seems to me the only way to prevent this decay is to really know and master the original stuff, and be able to rephrase it in our own words at any time, differently for every audience (scientists, scholars, Christians, Buddhists, housewives, business people, farmers, kids, etc.) Learning the original stuff well also allows one to spot other people's interpretations and see of they are on track or not.
Theosophy has material that can be found here and there, scattered throughout the world's religions, all being tied together with some new materials. Doesn't that make it a hodgepodge? H.P.B. quotes Montaigne:
I have here made only a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the string that ties them.
The Secret Doctrine, I, xivi
From this it might be said that a "nosegay of culled flowers" is, in a sense, a hodge-podge, and that the "string" that links them is the real key offered by theosophy.
Some might say this. But as for me: No, no, and again I say no. Theosophy is a distinct path, it is the practice and study of the Great lodge through all time, at least if we are correctly understanding H.P.B. Theosophy does not teach Buddhism or Christianity per se, but mentions certain aspects of them as helpful comparisons to what the Masters intended to teach.
The reason that H.P.B. and her teachers bothered to bring in stuff from all other religions and cultures was that no one would bother to study Theosophy in such a skeptical age if it couldn't be shown to have some objective legitimacy. IF H.P.B. were to say "just follow this path I show, in 25 years you will be a chela and understand everything" in 19th century Europe, would a single person have signed up?
Rather, traces of past Theosophical thinkers and workers needed to be shown, in every culture, in every epoch. This is the single greatest mistake newcomers make with Theosophy as well. They think "synthesis" means "eclectic." It doesn't. (Try a dictionary if you doubt it.)
A synthesis is harmonizing what truly is from a homogeneous source. And that is the thesis of the Masters all religions are sprung from a common trunk ("Pre-Vedic Buddhism and Brahmanism") and must now be made to merge back into their parent source. The Masters preserve and practice that esoteric parent source which has existed unchanged through the millenia or so Theosophy teaches.
Theosophy is not constructed a posteriori (after the fact) from bits and pieces that H.P.B. happened to run across. It is a living tradition among the Adepts, and not a theoretical jargon and mishmash thrown together just to make the Secret Doctrine publication.
Theosophy is a priori the philosophical study of Nature, its laws and processes, and it forms the vehicle of attaining our highest natural state. Wherever the Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Neo-platonists, Brahmins etc. have been successful in this, H.P.B. quotes with approval. She also criticizes all these traditions harshly for their blatant and not-so-blatant failures.
What is her yardstick to judge? If Theosophy is truly a hodgepodge, how then can all organized religions be criticized? This is a nonsensical idea. The Masters do not live and teach some vague consortium of religious practices, doing puja one day, Catholic Mass the next, and attending a bar-mitzvah the third. Their path is what lies behind all exoteric paths, that white light out of which all colored light comes.
Insofar as Theosophy is the truth, of course it can be found here
and there in part. But it is much, much more than a
compilation and comparison of world tradition this was merely
an exercise to show us little moles that there is a pursuit here
and a discipline worth studying. But beyond exoteric Theosophy,
there is Occultism, that single, certain knowledge of nature's
mysteries, which again, are not a hodgepodge but a single,
by Eldon Tucker
In the May, 1993 issue of Discover Magazine, there is discussion of the progress of the photon in escaping the sun. (A photon is a "particle" of light.)
The article tells us that a photon created at the center of the sun doesn't simply come flying out, but may take as long as 170,000 years to reach the surface. It suggests that a photon's average forward speed is about 5/1000 inch per second (1.5 feet per hour). Once the photon reaches the surface, it achieves the full speed of light, which is 186,282 miles per second.
If the photon wasn't slowed by the sun, it would reach the surface in 2.6 seconds rather than 170,000 years.
Although physical existence inside the surface of the sun is not possible, in bodies as we currently have, it would be interesting to observe what life is like there astrally.
There was a time when our physical bodies were quasi-astral, up until the Third Rood Race, so that physical conditions, including a hostile climate or perhaps the threat of the dinosaurs, did not pose a risk.
Since such existence was possible then, perhaps it might be possible for some individuals now, and for humanity as a whole in future times? Would it be possible to visit the sun in such a form, or would the energies still be too intense?
What would things be like in a locality where the speed of light was 1/3 inch per minute, where space was filled in a sea of energy, where physical forms as we know them simply could not exist?
This place, below the surface of the sun, is a world, a locality, a solar globe belonging to a solar chain. What begins inhabit it and how would we see and experience them?
We know that this world is a higher one than our earth, a globe of a planetary chain. The solar globe is a place that the highest of humanity may visit in high initiation, and is the heart of the life energies of our solar system as we know it.
Were we to enter this globe as we know ourselves today, as human personalities, we'd be blinded by a sea of light and energy. We'd face destruction, which would be likely even were we to approach it in astral rather than physical forms.
In Initiation, though, the Initiant leaves behind his human self on the earth, and approaches the sun in his higher-human or glorified self. This self is not the "higher self" we know of in our everyday life, which is really more like a guardian angel or parent to us as human beings. It is rather our own innate higher nature, starting to awaken on its own.
To us as human personalities, the sun appears as a formless world, as a world where there are no apparent forms, shapes, images to represent its living creatures. This is just an appearance from our point of view. On a higher subplane, the sun would appear as a world of forms to its own inhabitants. And we'd seem like insubstantial ghosts, lifeless and without energy, unable to affect things, if it were possible for them to sense us.
If we could generalize this situation, of what a world looks like from its own point of view and the point of view from "down below", we could say that the "underside" of a world of forms appears, on a lower plane, to be a blazing fount of light and energy.
Whenever a life enters the world, including the sun itself, it takes on a form. A byproduct of having this form is the outpouring of lifeatoms and pranic life energies, which support and nourish lower life forms. The solar globe nourishes the planetary globes about it. And perhaps, on yet lower subplanes, there are lower orders of existence, receiving light and nourishment from our physical earth itself?
There is much to think about regarding the sun and its
relationship to the earth. The sun is both an important symbol, a
useful analogy for understanding life, and an key component in the
workings of the inner worlds. Scientific information about the sun
provides us clues with which we can deeper our metaphysical
understanding. Let's explore!
by Daniel H. Caldwell
[These comments formed one message in a discussion held on "theos-l" regarding the value of the Mahatma Letters, and of how appropriate it may be for their publication and public discussion.]
One of the Masters (K.H.) wrote the following concerning the publication of his own letters and notes to Sinnett:
The letters, in short, were not written for publication or public comment upon them, but for private use, and neither M. nor I would ever give our consent to see them thus handled.
Mahatma Letter No. 63
(One should read the whole letter from which I have quoted in order to see the context in which those words were made.)
But there is another letter from the Mahatma K.H. which throws additional light on the issue of publishing the letters from the Masters. In the summer of 1884, Mohini Chatterji and Laura C. Holloway were writing a book on Theosophy entitled Man: Fragments of Forgotten History. Both Mohini and Laura were chelas of K.H. In a letter addressed to Mohini, Master K.H. wrote:
You may, if you choose so, or find necessity for it, use in man [the above titled book] or in any other book you may chance to be collaborating for, anything I may have said in relation to our secret doctrines in any of my letters to Messrs. Hume or Sinnett. Those portions that were private have never been allowed by them to be copied by anyone; and those which are so copied have by the very fact become theosophical property. Besides, copies of my letters at any rate those that contained my teachings have always been sent by my order to Damodar and Upasika [H.P.B.], and some of the portions even used in The Theosophist. You are at liberty to even copy them verbatim and without quotation marks. ... Thus not only you, a chela of mine, but anyone else is at liberty to take anything, whole pages, if thought proper, from any of my "copied" letters and convert their "dross" into pure ore of gold, provided they have well grasped the thought. Show this to L.C.H. who was already told the same.
Letter 39 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, First Series
It should also be noted that a great deal of the teaching letters from K.H. and M. were quoted in the following books published in the 1880s:
* The Occult World by A.P. Sinnett. (First edition published 1881)
* Esoteric Buddhism by A.P. Sinnett. (First edition published 1883)
* The Occult World by A.P.S. See 4th English edition, 1884, Appendix, pp. 145-149 for an additional KH letter.
* Man: Fragments of Forgotten History by Two Chelas [Chatterji and Holloway) (First edition, published 1885)
* The Secret Doctrine by H.P. Blavatsky. (First published 1888). See especially Vol. I where H.P.B. quotes from several of KH's letters to Sinnett.
* In additional to the above books, excerpts from the Masters letters were published in various articles in The Theosophist (1881-1883).
* Also W.J. Judge published lengthy extracts from K.H.'s letters to Sinnett dealing with Kamaloka and Devachan. See The Path, August, 1889, Nov., 1889, May, 1890 and June, 1890. These articles have been reprinted by The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, in their compilation Theosophical Articles and Notes, 1985, pp. 236-247.
* H.P.B. also quoted extracts from KH's Letters to Sinnett in the pages of Lucifer.
* Judge published the Prayag Letter [also contained in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett in The Path in the early 1890s.
And there are many more ...
It would be an interesting exercise to take a copy of The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett and underline in red all the passages that have been published in the above sources.
Directing attention back to KH's letter to Mohini in which mention is made of the "copied letters" which have "become theosophical property", Francesca Arundale, an early Theosophist, had "three manuscript books" of "these early teachings" from the Masters. Evidence indicates that Sinnett copied these "teachings" from the letters of the Masters and sent them to London for the benefit of Arundale and other students of Theosophy. These "teaching letters" as found in Arundale"s manuscript books were eventually published by C. Jinarajadasa in 1923 under the title The Early Teachings of the Masters 1881 to 1883. This book by Jinarajadasa was published some months before A. Trevor Barker published the complete collection of letters from the Masters K.H. and M. in London in Dec. 1923.
In the light of the above historical facts, would the ULT Associates be willing to study The Early Teachings of the Masters? Would they be willing to publicly circulate this volume by Jinarajadasa or a similarly compiled work?
Now another issue. ULT Associates privately read and study The Mahatma Letters. But if we are to take literally and at face value the Master K.H.'s prohibition on the publishing of the letters in their entirety, then once any ULT Associate reads this prohibition, would not reason and logic dictate that they should close the book and never pick The Mahatma Letters up again? As H.N. Stokes once wrote about this very subject,
If The Mahatma Letters are private documents today, no one without a diploma of sanctity and a special permit from the Mahatmas is more entitled to read them than any others.
Speaking of H.N. Stokes, the editor of The O.E. Library Critic (Washington, D.C.), Dr. Stokes wrote at least two articles on the ULT's attitude toward The Mahatma Letters. The articles are:
"Is the ULT Boycotting The Mahatma Letters?" (The O.E. Library Critic, April, 1934.)
"Magazine Theosophy Places The Mahatma Letters on ULT Index Expurgatorius." (The O.E. Library Critic, May-June, 1935.
Stokes notes that soon after The Mahatma Letters were first published in London in Dec., 1923, Theosophy Magazine (the L.A.-based ULT periodical) "hailed" the publication of these Letters as follows:
These letters are, beyond all question the one great and final contribution to Theosophical literature and history since The Secret Doctrine. They solve the hitherto baffling and inscrutable mysteries in connection with the public course of the Movement, by bringing to light the missing links of its degradation through theosophists, theosophical societies, and the world at large. ... Let all true Theosophists rejoice at the light that is now shed on the dark places of the past and present.
Theosophy Magazine, March, 1924
But Stokes points out that four ULT magazines (including Theosophy Magazine) had the practice of quoting from The Mahatma Letters but never telling their readers that they were quoting from the book entitled The Mahatma Letters To A. P. Sinnett. Stokes found that in the years 1928-1933, these four ULT magazines had quoted 87 times from the Letters. Stokes writes:
Of the 87 quotations from The Mahatma Letters only one gives reference; the others afford not the slightest clue to the source, not the slightest possibility of the student locating it without laborious search. He is not even permitted to know the existence of such a book as The Mahatma Letters.
The O.E. Library Critic, April, 1934
In the other article cited above, Stokes discusses an article published in Theosophy Magazine for February, 1935. The anonymous ULT Associate writes for two or three pages on The Mahatma Letters but then concludes:
All that is taught in the Letters is contained in The Secret Doctrine ... and is there presented in proper form for students under the direct instruction and sponsoring of the Mahatmas themselves. The publication of the Mahatma Letters in violation of Their own injunction, and recourse to these Letters [by Theosophical students] instead of to The Secret Doctrine for instruction in Occultism, shows the difference between true and false psychology. Mr. Sinnett's use of the Letters was such as to close to him the door opened via H.P.B. with the Mahatmas: What will be the effect of the unlawful publication and use of them thus made possible to so many hopeless Incurables in the Mysteries?
Stokes points out that several of the assertions made in this quotation are not true. Stokes goes on to say:
But when the Theosophy Magazine writer speaks of "false psychology" and of "hopeless Incurables in the Mysteries" one is prompted to ask whether these rather strong terms do not apply to himself. He is constantly referring in these articles to The Mahatma Letters. Consequently he must have read them. If so, why does he do that which he thinks it improper for others to do because of their private nature? And why did the magazine Theosophy in its series [of articles] later published as The Theosophical Movement [in 1925 as a book] constantly quote from documents [written by H.P.B. and] marked private and issued to E.S.T. members under pledge of secrecy? Are we to suppose that this anonymous writer, or the editors of Theosophy Magazine, are above all rules applying to lesser mortals? No, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If The Mahatma Letters are private documents today, no one without a diploma of sanctity and a special permit from the Mahatmas is more entitled to read them than any others, or to discourage others from doing what he does himself when it suits his purpose ... .Sensible students will not be deterred by talk from those who do not practise what they preach.
The O.E. Library Critic, May-June, 1935.
In the above quote from Stokes, he refers to the book The Theosophical Movement issued by the top officials of the ULT, Los Angeles, CA.
In Chapter XI ("Work of the Esoteric Section", pp. 163-177) of this book, the anonymous author(s) quote(s) from two of H.P.B.'s E.S. documents which were marked: "strictly private and confidential". The author of this chapter writes:
Permissible extracts from the Preliminary Memorandum to the E.S. applicants show her esoteric treatment.
Then long extracts are given from this E.S. document.
Permissible extracts? Who gave the writer of this chapter
permission to quote from H.P.B.'s "strictly private and
confidential" paper? This is not discussed in the pages of The Theosophical Movement.
by Katherine Tingley
[The following article was written as part of the preface to a series of Theosophical Manuals issued by the Point Loma Theosophical Society in 1907.]
Theosophy strikes unfamiliar ground in modern civilization, because it does not come under any particular one of the familiar heads of Religion, Science, Philosophy, etc., into which our age has divided its speculative activities. It date back to a period in the history of mankind when such distinctions did not exist, but there was one Gnosis or Knowledge embracing all. Religion and Science, as we have them today, are but imperfect growths springing from the remnants of that great ancient system, the Wisdom-Religion, which included all that we all know as religion and science, and much more. Hence Theosophy will not appeal to the same motives as religion and science. It will not offer any cheap and easy salvation or put a premium upon mental inactivity and spiritual selfishness. Neither can it accommodate itself to the rules laid down by various schools of modern thought as to what constitutes proof and what does not. But it can and does appeal to the Reason. The truth of doctrines such as Theosophy maintains, can only be estimated by their ability to solve problems and by their harmony with other truths which we know to be true. But in addition to this we have the testimony of the ages, which has been too long neglected by modern scholarship, but which is now being revealed ...
It may perhaps be as well also to remind those who would criticize, that the state of modern opinion is scarcely such as to warrant anybody in assuming the attitude of a judge. It would be quite proper for a Theosophist, instead of answering questions or attempting to give proofs, to demand that his questioners should first state their own case, and to be himself the questioner. The result would certainly show that Theosophy, to say the very least, stands on an equal footing with any other view, since there is no certain knowledge, no satisfying explanation, to be found anywhere ...
Until, therefore, religious teachers have something definite, consistent, and satisfactory to offer, and until science can give us something better than mere confessions of nescience or impudent denials with regard to everything beyond its own domain, Theosophy can afford to assume the role of questioner rather than that of questioned, and does not owe anybody any explanations whatever. It is sufficient to state its tenets and let them vindicate themselves by their greater reasonableness; and any further explanation that may be offered is offered from goodwill than from any obligation ...
An earnest student of Theosophy will be wise enough to hold many
of his difficulties in reserve, until, by further investigation,
he has gained better acquaintance with his subject. In the case
of those who are not willing to adopt these wise and patient
methods of study, it may be reasonably questioned whether they
are the more anxious to learn or to disprove ...
by Richard Ihle
My first real memory of Joy was perhaps twenty-five or more years ago, now. She was passing through Madison and gave my wife and I a call because she had noticed our names as new members. Could she stop by for a minute? OK.
We were somewhat poor and peculiar in those days. Sandra was finishing her Ph.D. at U.W., and I had the word ubermensh on the bumper of my V.W. van for some reason. Joy and someone else showed up at our door. We moved aside some of the squalor, let them have the two chairs we owned, and sat more-or-less at their feet in hillbilly embarrassment.
The president of the American Section was right in our living room, and the signs of our sins and sloth from overflowing ashtrays to candy wrappers to cheap sex novels occupied 100% of every available horizontal surface. Youth was our only possible excuse; Joy accepted with enthusiasm.
We served our visitors Lipton tea in cups which were clean but not above suspicion, and the four of us talked gloriously for a couple hours of many things high and low. Joy tried to interest us in something she called the theosophical philosophy ("Theosophy" was not yet the synonym for "Core Teachings" in those days), but she seemed genuinely interested in hearing our perspectives on theosophy as well.
After she had left, Sandra turned to me and said, "You know, it was like Joy Mills was treating US like the honored guests rather than vice versa."
Yes, that is how she had treated us, all right. In fact, that is how she treated me in all the years which followed. This is significant, I feel, because later it became obvious that I was not her "cup of tea" as far as (T)theosophy was concerned. Still, throughout all of her presidency, she encouraged me and gave me many speaking and writing opportunities. Not only did Joy seem to have a gracious finesse in carrying out her responsibilities, but she also had a highly developed sense of fair play as well.
All in all, I am almost tempted to describe Joy in the same way I once heard her describe Clara Codd: "one of Theosophy's saints."
Naturally, though, I am inclined toward hyperbole. Maybe Joy is a saint; maybe not. Nonetheless, I notice that she is scheduled to speak at the convention, and for some not fully definable reason something seems to be prompting me once again to drive down to Wheaton to hear what she has to say especially in what must be the late-afternoon of her life.
I mention this up-coming appearance of Joy's just in case anyone
wants to take advantage of one of the perhaps few remaining
opportunities to meet the refined, loving, and indefatigable old
crusader for Theosophy.
by Mrs. Harry Benjamin
[This article comes from the September, 1972 Corresponding Fellows Lodge of Theosophists Bulletin.]
We have received this interesting letter from W.A. Magee of Macclesfield, Cheshire:
Many thanks again for the latest Bulletin, long may it reign. But, I have wondered many time lately if we Theosophists spend too long sat on our backsides studying the tenets of our beliefs in order to discover ever more secrets locked up in The Secret Doctrine, worrying ourselves about rounds and races, and arguing about this and that, when we should be out in the world giving full vent to the compassion which we preach.
It's all very well to hit upon some abstruse interpretation of this or that, while millions starve. Let the theologians interpret or misinterpret, abstruse phraseology, and let us get on with the job of loving everything good and beautiful. Many of us have individual gifts which should be, and must be used for the benefit of mankind if we are to get the ultimate perfection so long preached about (and listened to) and forgotten so quickly.
Of course it is not given to all of us to be great orators, poets, or musicians, and I have no doubt that many are working quietly, and unobtrusively for the good of mankind, and perhaps the Bulletin is not the place to discuss it, (or is it?); but I do think that sometimes we should take stock of ourselves in order to discover our real value to humanity which, after all, is our true purpose in the scheme of things.
In conclusion, may I quote a few lines attributed to Oscar Hammerstein, which illustrate very gently in verse his philosophy of life:
A bell is no bell 'till it's rung. A song is no song, 'till it's sung. And the love in your heart, Isn't put there to stay, For love isn't love, Till you give it away.
We quote Mr. Magee's letter because he strikes a note that needs emphasizing and clarifying these days. Perhaps he had this purpose in mind when he wrote, giving us a change to use his letter as a peg on which to hang our discussion! On the face of it, we think his letter is based on several misconceptions. But that is his point of view. Here is ours, discussed under several headings:
1. Is there a dichotomy between studying 'abstruse' subjects, and 'being out in the world giving full vent to the compassion which we preach'?
Why not both? Personally we know of several students who are deeply interested in such 'abstruse' subjects as the Bulletin discusses and as Theosophy teaches, who are constantly and generously embodying compassion and service to others in their daily lives. Their studies do not seem to handicap them for this work. But they don't publicize their activities, nor 'demonstrate', nor boast of what they are doing. In fact, we would say that the deepest aspects of Theosophy enable us to put into practice its precepts much more effectively and wisely, than if we were going on the precept merely: "We should be good (or do good) because it is good to be good."
2. The assumption seems to be that the 'abstruse' side of Theosophy has no relation to our daily living.
Again we take exception to this, having found exactly the opposite in the various crises, puzzles, etc. of our life. But we might advise those who do not find this close relationship in Theosophy, to seek it elsewhere in some other form of study and endeavor: in Christianity, in Buddhism, in social work, per se, in Humanism, etc. Especially if the theosophical teachings appear to them only abstruse.
3. What is the chief purpose of our Lodge?
That is the question we must ask ourselves. What is our Dharma as a Lodge? It is to study and disseminate Theosophy to those who want it. There is little use in our calling ourselves theosophists, or students of theosophy preferably, if we do not have at least some measure of understanding of what Theosophy teaches? But and this is an important point Theosophy, and those who work in consonance with the 'rules' laid down when the Society was formed, do not dictate to its members how they should live their lives and apply their theosophical precepts, what they should do or not do to help others and how; nor do they dictate to us what we should believe. It is literally true that "we have no creeds nor dogmas in our philosophy."
But Theosophy supplies us, IF we know what it is all about, with the keys which we individually can use (or discard) in adjusting our lives compassionately to Humanity at large and to individuals with whom we come in touch. Merely to stop studying is not going to 'feed the starving millions,' nor does such study prevent us maybe not feeding the starving millions if we lack the means but from carrying on humanitarian work simultaneously.
4. "Helping others" can have its snares.
We must combine wisdom with our helping. We must use our minds too. How often have we found in making our own efforts to help another, that sometimes 'he also serves who only stands and waits', to quote Milton's Essay on (his own) Blindness; that by our unwise efforts we have sometimes done more harm than good. This does not imply a negative and selfish attitude, but a positive recognition that sometimes unwise interference does not accomplish our purpose, maybe is not even wanted by the recipient.
We found this passage in Agatha Christie's Towards Zero:
There are so many kind friends about in the world always anxious to arrange other people's lives for them to suggest courses of action that are not in harmony ...
and there the speaker in her book breaks off, but he might have concluded: "with their dharma!"
5. The Importance of using our minds.
We mentioned Wisdom. How can we attain wisdom to guide our actions? H.P.B. has a wonderfully clarifying passage where she is discussing the importance of all the Seven Principles of Man, from the lowest to the highest, that all are needed if we are to gain the necessary illumination from above; that if even one is by-passed or neglected, there is distortion, like a telegram, she instances, that is handed in to the starting office correctly worded, but becomes mangled en route, before it reaches its destination. She describes how our impulses start form below, must travel the route through all the principles (and that includes mind), until they reach the Spiritual plane, and are then returned along the same route illuminated by the wisdom the Spirit can give us. That is on illustration showing the help that technical theosophy can render.
6. The value of the recognition of the Reality of this Higher Part of us.
This recognition which Theosophy gives us can be illustrated by a homely analogy: A house built without any windows might contain within it what we need for comfortably living, in isolation. But no man 'is an island unto himself'. We need the light and the sun Nature provides, we being an integral part of universal nature. We need windows in our house, we need the wider expansion of consciousness that theosophy gives, opening as it does the windows of our minds, in order to ally ourselves with others whom we seek to help. After all, as Paracelsus says: "A man is not his physical body, he is his consciousness" and the wider his Consciousness, the more greatly does compassion enter our lives.
7. Spectacular actions are not always the wisest.
We read once of a demonstration against air pollution by motor cars, conducted by some enthusiastic teenagers in Los Angeles. They bought a new motor car, coming to the scene of their demonstration each in his own car, and set fire to the new car air pollution? then happily having 'done their duty,' each got into his own car and sped homeward leaving a trail of polluted air and fumes behind.
8. It would seem that the more we study the causes, by the use of our minds, of what we wish to ameliorate, the better equipped we are.
Another analogy: A burst water main, and friends rushing to help mop up the cascade of water which is streaming down. An Engineer comes who has been trained to think in terms of causes. He goes to the source of the flood and turns off the tap or whatever is involved. Trying to deal with effects as we do so much these days, without either knowing the causes or changing them, is illustrated partially by the wonderful remedial work down to help children born with serious handicaps; but there are precedent causes which lie in the prenatal period which need to be studied, and which are largely ignored, to bring full Compassion into play.
9. Dharma comes into the question here.
Some of us may not be equipped either with money, time, influence, to 'help feed the starving millions,' but if we seek to find along what path our dharma lies, we might find, nearer at hand, one elderly neighbor in need of help, one lonely sorrowing person, or one mentally disturbed. Not specular, of course.
10. To sum up the dominant thought that came to us when we started writing this: What's wrong with using our minds by giving them exercise?
Our minds are an inherent part of us, they too must be fed and exercised. They were, literally, god-given to mindless man (if one does not object to the term 'god'.) Let's not denigrate our minds. Let's use them. And thus, not by-passing them but rising above them, tap that source of Compassion which lies in the Buddhi, the spiritual part of ourselves.
And the other dominant thought was well, it is implicit in the title of this article.
We had reached this point, and then turned to Volume VIII of the Blavatsky Collected Writings, in order to quote her on altruism, which is the final paragraph in the article: "let every man prove his own work," in which she is answering a criticism leveled at Theosophists and others, epitomized as follows:
Surely one of the purest and least self-incrusted duties of man is to alleviate the sufferings of his fellow men?
which he implies few theosophists do. H.P.B.'s answer, much more forceful than our own comments, is largely concerned with what IS the primary purpose of the Theosophical Society: the need to work intelligently, but also that each must find what is his dharma and follow it; and this is something each individual, each Society, must find out for himself or itself. While we seek to know our own dharma, equally we must realize that it is not our dharma to point to the dharma of another. One strong point H.P.B. makes is that 'charity' is often not what is wanted by the recipient of such. Which reminds us of a passage in C.S. Lewis' brilliant The Screwtape Letters:
She's the sort of woman who lives for others you can always tell the others by their hunted expression.
H.P.B.'s words could be applied to our Lodge: as follows, in part of her article:
It must not be forgotten that practical charity is not one of the declared objects of the Society. It goes without saying, and needs no 'declaration' that every member of the Society must be practically philanthropic if he be a theosophist at all; and our declared work is, in reality, more important and more efficacious than the work in the everyday plane which bear more evident and immediate fruit, for the direct effect of an appreciation of theosophy is to make those charitable who were not so before. Theosophy creates the charity which afterwards, and in its own accord, makes itself manifest in works. ... Theosophy teaches the spirit of 'non-separateness,' the evanescence and illusion of human creeds and dogmas, hence, inculcates universal love and charity for all mankind 'without distinction of race, color, caste, or creed,' is it not therefore the fittest to alleviate the sufferings of mankind?
And she ends her article:
It is well known that the first rule of the society is to carry out the object of forming the nucleus of a universal brotherhood. The practical working of this rule was explained by those who laid it down, to the following effect:-He who does not practice altruism, he who is not prepared to share his last morsel with a weaker or poorer than himself, he who neglects to help his brother man, of whatever race, nation, or creed, whenever and wherever he meets suffering, and who turns a deaf ear to the cry of human misery: he who hears an innocent person slandered, whether a brother Theosophist or not, and does not undertake his defense as he would undertake his own is no Theosophist.
A Hike in the Woods
by Paul Johnson
This morning I had my first chance to hike in the woods behind the acre on which I live. My neighbor has 21 acres of sloping woodlands, which contain two springs that create streams. The two streams feed a pond that is just beyond the woods on the next property.
There's no point in boring everyone with details of how beautiful the hike was, or how peaceful it was down at the pond, or how wonderful I felt hiking through these woods that start near my back door.
But there are two thoughts that struck me coming back from the pond. First, there's something wholly new about living where one can directly walk into wilderness. Living in the city and driving to nice rural spots created a sense of distance and deprivation. Nature was not continuous with the reality in which I lived; it was something you had to escape to. Moving to the edge of the woods feels like opening a direct link to Nature itself. Seeing the Milky Way at night adds to that sensation. Something about moving to the country is powerfully evocative of a new level of nature- mysticism. And feeling enveloped and inspired by Life itself out in the woods is a deeply healing and encouraging experience. It does wonders in terms of making one see that all one's worries about who thinks and feels what are nothing but flapdoodle.
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