The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
George Bernard Shaw [in The Revolutionist's Handbook]
by Henry T. Edge
[From The New Century, October 22, 1898, page 2]
The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real.
The Voice of the Silence
The mind of man is, in the present age, chiefly under the dominion of the senses; hence it cannot be accepted as a true guide to right conduct. If the senses rule the mind, and the mind rules the man, then the man is obviously a sensualist.
It is useless, therefore, for any man who is still a slave to his senses, to attempt to attain wisdom or arrive at truth. His mind is full of illusions, produced by those senses, and the truth will be obscured. As well might an astronomer scan the heavens with a bent reflector or a cracked lens.
So long as the mind of man is impure and the senses uncontrolled, it is impossible for him to obtain true premises from which to reason; hence his conclusions will be equally false. This is sufficient to account for the impotence of so many of our scientific theories and metaphysical systems when we seek a beacon- light by which to guide our daily steps in life.
Many of the great intellectual fabrics of modern civilization have been evolved by the unawakened minds of people under the delusions of the senses. They have analyzed and classified the impressions of the senses and the ideas derived from those sense- impressions, but have dumped us down and deserted us at the gateway of Truth, which they have named the "Great Unknown" and the "Unknowable."
Wisdom can only come to the pure. As our great Eastern forerunners in philosophy have warned us, "A troubled lake cannot reflect the true image of the sun." These wise old masters set themselves first to purify the mind, that it might become a faithful reflector of the Truth. We, in our insane and conceited folly, have turned our rusty and clouded glasses to the heavens, hoping to see something else besides the cobwebs and spiders on the lenses.
The few simple but eternal truths, which a child knows, are sufficient to enable us to purify our minds. Brotherly love, mutual forbearance, justice, calmness, and the like, are truths which we recognize independently of the intellect. Children and savages know them, and even the great masters of materialistic scepticism act upon these principles, though they do not include them in their philosophy.
But these laborious weavings of vast cobwebs of ideas are not only useless, but positively harmful. They can, for instance, vindicate such practices as the dissection of live animals, or even men; practices which toll the death-knell of sympathy and whose justification leads directly to the justification of worse and worse horrors. Thank heaven! the mass of the people go on living their simple lives, unaffected by the lucubrations of materialists and metaphysicians, and the philosophers themselves have not courage to live down to their own ideas.
The mind is only a secondary faculty. It cannot perceive truths; it can only collect impressions and form them into ideas and chains of ideas. These impressions may be derived from the senses, or from the spiritual eye of man, which is above the mind and prior to it. The mind can obtain knowledge from the spiritual eye, if only the din of the senses and passions can be stilled. Patanjali's Yoga Philosophy pursues this method, and so do the Buddhist and many other teachings. Our own Chirst urges us repeatedly to seek light from above and within, and to seek first the "kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
The road to knowledge lies through the purification of the mind by controlling the passions and senses. The passions and senses are producers of illusions which obscure the mind, as mist rising from the damp earth obscures the sun. The greatest of all such illusions is the sense of separateness, caused by shutting up the mind in the prison of the senses. This illusion is like the old geocentric system of astronomy; it upsets the whole plan of the universe and involves complicated explanations to account for what is really simple. It is undoubtedly this wrong point of view that has led some eminent thinkers to see in Nature nothing better than an eternal conflict: the universe is seen in detail only, not as a harmonious whole; man is regarded as a number of isolated units, warring against each other. The same error is responsible for the competitive system in which "each man for himself, and the devil take the hindermost" is the rule.
This is not a tirade against free inquiry or speculation in general, but against useless learning and misguided speculation. The point insisted on is that right conduct and purity of life are necessary preliminaries to true knowledge. So long as the speculator leads a selfish or indifferent life, his mind will only distort things for him; he will not see life in its true colors. It is easily understood, for example, that an armchair philosopher cannot frame a system which shall guide the toiling man of affairs. Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Socrates, the Christ of the Gospels these are the really wise, and their knowledge was all sufficient. Such men can face every situation and adapt themselves to every need.
Clear vision is better than all the groping in the world. A
merely learned man is like a blind man with a map; a wise man is
like a man who can see.
by Thoa Tran
[based upon a January 7, 1997 posting to email@example.com]
I have a friend who's sanity depends on pills. He sometimes "forgets" to take them so that he could have a dialogue with God and communicate with the mystical. His suffering comes when he has to deal with the mundane, a job, a wife, his children, or the consequences of his madness.
When he is enthusiastic or happy, he's talking about the new world that he had just drawn or written about, he's talking about communicating with God via the TV, or he's talking about how his minor hexes work. I don't know when he is truly happy or suffering, but on the surface, that is what it appears to me. Communicating with God during his manic episodes give it a purpose. It relieves some of his suffering.
Are the people who claim that they can actually talk to God really talking to God? Are they special communication vessels for God? Or are they just mad? Similarly, what about those who were able to communicate with the Divine through rigorous exercises and meditation? Were they special people who have been able to finely tune their senses to pick up signals from the Divine? Are most people just plain insensitive to the miracles around them, having undeveloped senses? Or are they just very sane? I heard that Joan of Arc was insane. Right now, the humming of my printer sounds like the eternal Ohm.
I sometimes envy my friend's ability to let go of the constraints of everyday life just by tossing away some pills. On the other hand, I understand the fear of being uncertain of one's sanity moment to moment. Everyday, I am uncertain of what my subjective experience will be like. The sun could be shining both days, but one day could be full of hope and the Divine is everywhere, and the other day the Divine is non-existent.
There are stressful days when I wonder how much it would take for my nerves to break. However, I live my life and never came close to losing my sanity. The shadow is always with me, though. The shadow that is capable of heinous acts, immoral acts, a total opposite of what I would do now in my present situation. But I can feel it. I know it's there. I wonder what I would do if I was placed in a situation that would test my convictions.
How is it that a whole nation of basically decent people can conspire together to commit awful acts? Look at the Holocaust, look at the Chinese Revolution, look at Apartheid. The kind person can easily turn into one who condemns a fellow human to death.
I think that is why artists are often fascinated by the dark side. On the one hand, I wonder why we don't all just create reminders of the light and the goodness. On the other hand, the Divine is in everything. I often disagree to the hiding or shaming of the dark side as if they don't exist. The shaming exists in a listing of the hierarchy of spirituality in most religions. Your physical is in the lower plane. Your emotion is in the lower plane. Sex is in the lower plane. Instead of accepting them as another part of the whole Divine, we condemn them. They shouldn't exist.
Accepting the dark side, some of us can choose to be in the light side of subjective reality. I am mad. I chose to not confront. I am lusty. I chose to not give in to desires. I am lazy. I chose to work everyday. I am curious about some of the obvious dark side. I chose to not imbibe in any of it. I am vengeful. I chose to not seek revenge.
Some of us have the awareness that we create our own karma, and can act accordingly. My friend has less control over his faculties than a lot of people. However, his karma has placed him smack in a situation where he has to work on it. Through his shaky sanity, he has managed to hold a job for years, deal with a critical wife, and raise two children at his young age.
I wonder, though, what opportunity would he have to work on his
karma if he did not have those pills. What about those people
who are not able to have those pills? How is their karma dealt
with? Do they miss the train and have to wait for the next one?
Or is suffering during that lifetime is working on karma? What do
they learn from that? What do they learn from a constant state of
by Eldon Tucker
[based upon a December 10, 1993 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org]
It is important to maintain balance and perspective in life. But the rules change when we become aware of the higher life. When we realize and start working with our higher natures, we come to see our personalities as vehicles of something grander within, and no longer as what we'd consider to be our conscious selves.
A psychological approach to live would tell us to stay personality centered. It would have us keep our awareness in the personality and experience everything in life in terms of how it relates to that shadowy image of self which we have made.
We are told to not lose this orientation. We must keep the personality as our seat of consciousness. If we were to identify with something bigger than it, we would be told that we are experiencing "inflation", with perhaps destructive psychological consequences. But is this true?
The description of someone experiencing inflation is not flattering. There is often a puny, undeveloped person, someone whom has neglected life, someone clinging onto an external sense of grandness to compensate for the lack of proper psychological growth and maturity.
This use of the word maturity is funny, though, because the psychologist is oblivious to what could be called true maturity, the ripening, the flowering, the fullness of development of the spiritual nature, which comes from countless lifetimes of training, lifetimes of sacrifice, lifetimes of devoted service to the spiritual.
We can be infilled with the higher, and have it as our seat of consciousness, and not be neglecting the personality. And it may or may not appear as inflation. Any temporary inflation in the personality would just be one of the temporary adjustments made in life during the period of probation, something that if it came at all would be gone long before the seven years were up.
Now it is possible for certain flaws in the personality to emerge that might not have otherwise appeared. This is from the quickening of karma, from the expansion of the experiences that are coming to us in life. We are rewroking the personality to be a better instrument, and yet have less time and energy to spend on its self-cultivation. There may even appear gaps in the personality, as well, and these are to let in something higher into our lives.
We are devoting our attention, our awareness, our consciousness to selfless service, to universal love, and to the grandest of philosophy, and are just somewhere else.
There are people whom wish to escape the petty nature of life, to free themselves from the aweful oppressive feeling of existence in a heavy, burdensome, grossly-material personality, a personality that is sickened by the weight of material existence and selfishness. They pretend, they make believe, they imagine and play at being something else, something bigger, but do not fool themselves very well.
They carry with themselves a feeling of horror, of shame, of unreality, of failure that brings a sense of pain to the daily events of life. This feeling is the opposite of what we train ourselves. We bring the opposite into play, filling the background of our lives with hope, with accomplishment, with reality, with success, with bliss, that brightens our lives and the lives of those around us!
We too want to escape the sense of personal self, since it is the cause of suffering, and seek the bliss of transcending it. We also shift our attention away from the person that we are, from our personality. But this does not mean that we do not wish to care for it, to imporve it, to broaden and enlighten and infill it with the light of the spirit. We care for the personality, it is an important element of our nature and we give it its due respect.
Transcending the personality does not happen by pretense, by make believe. It is not done by calling oneself something. We do not become greater by comparison to others, by putting down other people nor by finding things to call ourselves that make us seem greater. Nothing is gained by status, recognition, by symbols or external trappings that merely provide ego gratification.
If we feel different, special, better than others, if we feel we are somehow set apart, in a special group, if we feel that we have some particular characteristic that makes us superior, then that feeling is our biggest enemy. Anything that pulls us out of our communion with our inner nature, and makes us self-aware of being particular personalities, apart from others, is a barrier to our progress.
We become the higher nature by doing it, by living it, by making life an expression of it. And this comes by forgetting self, not by magnifying the sense of self, not by felling bigger, better, higher than others.
Inflation is the psychological term for an abnormal sense of self, where one feels hs is bigger, better, vaster than he really is. It is a dream, a delusion, a dysfunction of personality.
Were a little girl to put on her Mom's clothes, and say she was grown up, and were she to truly believe it, she would be fooling herself. An egotist needs to feel that he is better than others in some way. A member of some new age group may need to be told, and to believe, that he is very advanced spiritually, far above the common man. A preacher may believe that his opinion is really the word of God. There are countless ways that we can fool ourselves, that we can associate with something bigger and identify with it and use that indentification as an escape from the duties and lessons of life.
Feeling special, unique, superior because of having some unique possession, or having some rare attribute of personality, be it physical beauty, wealth, a strong mind, abnormal psychical development, is a failure, a failure of the spiritual nature to make its presence felt. We are centered in the personality, grasping for things to incorporate into it, strengthening the sense of personal self, and attempting to take in and claim personal ownership of things that are simply greater than ourselves. And we become inflated, swept away in a delusion!
We can, though, be infilled with the higher, with the real, the true, the ever-present spiritual reality about us. And this is not delusional, it does not lead to inflation. We are not focusing on the personal, centered in the personality, and it therefore does not puff up like a balloon with a sense of self-importance.
As we shift our focus away from the personal, as we establish our seat of consciousness higher within, the spiritual passes through us, permeating us, but we attempt in no way to personally contain it.
Looking at someone on the spiritual path, we may see more personal problems than the average person. As he cultivates the spiritual and works out karma, his life becomes fuller, and he has much less time for personal cultivation. He is busy helping others rather than perfecting himself.
Having personal problems is not a sign that we have taken the wrong path. We may end up less beautiful, less healthy, less normal psychologically, poorer, more misuderstood many of the outer aspects of our personal self may decline. There is no guarantee which way they will change when we enter probation. And it really does not matter.
Something wonderful is at work, though, something wonderful within our natures, for we are really much more than is readily apparent. We are much more than the personality that we use, the personality that currently houses us as human egos on our earth, on Globe D.
There is a certain holiness, a spiritual peace, a strength of heart, a inner wisdom that is special, unique, and transcends anything that we could possibly have attained through personal self-cultivation. The higher principles are beginning to be active in our lives, and their affects are starting to show.
As we start along that path which will one day lead to our becoming forces for good in the world, we may or may not fit in well with our particular culture. We may sometimes be unknown, othertimes be an outcast or misfit, and at others have fame and honor bestowed upon us.
We have reached the stage, though, where it does not matter to us; we are unaffected by worldly acclaim. For we serve the work, the order, the plan, the Law of Compassion, and we function from a higher seat of concsiousness within ourselves.
Psychology may still describe the workings of our personalities, and from a merely psychological point of view we may be worse off in how we function. But we are operating from a higher level of consciousness and see life from a vista, a wide panorama of which the personality-centered people are blind. Others may look at us and see malfunctions of the personality, with poerhaps some nice side effects, and miss entirely what is going on.
The personality was evolved forth as a carrier, a vehicle, as a means to hold and express our true nature, our real self, and not to function as a thing in its own right. It is this functioning, apart from the spritual nature, that is the true malfunctioning of the personality. It is the lack of the inner light, as a guide, to the personal life, that allows the personality to not function according to its intended purpose.
We must not get caught up in psychology, although a minimal psychological health is necessary to be functional, it is not an end in itself. Like maintaining minimal physical health, it is useful, but life should be no more devoted to body building, and centered around the gym, than to psyche-building, centered around the therapist.
A doctor is seen if we are in poor physical health. And we may see a psychologist if necessary to keep ourselves functional in our materialistic western society. But let's find ourselves those doctors and healers whom have open hearts, developed inner natures that allow them to treat the whole man.
The importance of psychology is not denied, no more is the importance of physiology. But let us not dwell on the physical self, and picture ourselves a bodies of meat, nor dwell on the psychological self, and picture ourselves as a bundle of needs, a living kamarupa.
Let us, instead, dwell in the highest, in the holy, the
spiritual, the grand side of life. Let us keep the highest
present in our lives as we go about the day, from waking until we
drop off to sleep at night. Let us awaken to the rich sea of
beauty that all of live is bathed in, be infilled with it, and
become a thing of beauty ourselves, as we give expression to it
in our lives.
by Michael Rogge
[based upon an August 7, 1996 posting to email@example.com]
I hold a healthy degree of disbelief in the philosophy of theosophy. My disbelief is shared by quite a number of others.
(Incidentally, I am of the opinion that "belief" implies an emotional attachment to a number of concepts. It holds the believer spell-bound and prevents him from moving forward.)
In 1956 I posted a manifest to the Delegates of the National Sections of the Pasadena (James A. Long) Theosophical Society. It is eight pages long and heralds present-day discussions on freedom of belief in theosophical groups. As though I were evicted, I never heard from the Society after that.
The manifest beseeches the leadership to return to the original aims of the Theosophical Society and subject H.P.B.'s contributions to a further scrutiny. It was never answered and all our Theosophical "friends" gave us a cold shoulder. It made me see what all these high sounding "truths" were worth really.
Many years later it made me conceive my homepage: "On the psychology of spiritual movements":
although that is not aimed at the Theosophical Society.
In the forty years that have passed I have come into contact with many knowledgeable and spiritual people from different cultures during my stay in the Far East and Europe which has broadened my outlook. Moreover I have kept abreast of developments in many areas in those four decades. If all that is is considered a step backwards, because I should have kept to former outworn ideals, I bow my head.
If Theosophists wish to adhere to the original enquiring spirit of before they should be prepared to question and even throw overboard concepts that have become dogma's like Karma and reincarnation.
They should also direct far more their attention to Spiritualism, because in my opinion, it is far more tied up with Theosophy and its communicators "The Masters" than they are prepared to accept. They should not embrace it, though, but seek for clues for instance in comparing teachings of the Mahatma's with similar communications from other sources of channeling and ask themselves what is the true nature of this phenomenon and how to access it (see my page "The presence phenomenon":
An enquiring mind should be prepared to lay all is pet theories on the block, including the concepts of soul, monad, atman, budhi, manas etc. All of this is pure speculation, and leads one away from the real contact with the spiritual. Philosophizing with the intellect on matters spiritual may become an escape. I am quite sure that if we see in the end backwards we shall perceive that we missed the point completely.
Finally, I owe a lot to the teachings I question now and I have a
high regard of Theosophists.
by Gerald Schueler
[based upon a January 27, 1997 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
There is no such thing as "pure subjectivism." Subject and object are two sides of a duality, and one can't exist without the other. Every subjective I has its own objective world or reality around it. We (the monads in this life wave) do create our own reality, and make up the rules of life, and agree to abide by them. Who else?
Objectivity is as real as subjectivity. The only thing to remember is that each subjective I has its own objective Not-I. The fact that a lot of people see the same object is the result of the overlapping of Not-I's.
The pink elephants seen by a drunk are as real as the computer that I am typing this on. They are not physical, like my computer, but real nonetheless. What is reality, but that which we can experience? Dreams, for example, are very real. The angels that are evoked in magic are very real.
Hallucinations are actually objective reality seen by one person and not by others a part of their Not-I that does not overlap. We all tend to think reality is what is overlapped (i.e., shared experiences).
My thesis is that anything the I experiences is real it has a mayavic (maya in the Buddhist sense) reality. In the sense of maya, everything that we experience is real. In a more absolute sense, nothing that we experience is real.
Your perception is your reality. As your perception changes, so your reality changes. What is real for you may not be real for me because we have difference perceptions. This is the key to overcoming or extinguishing our past karma.
The past is only as real as we recall it, and our karma affects us only as long as we allow it to do so. Karma is extinquished to the degree that we recognise the unreality of our past. Thats why all Adepts tell us to focus only on the present.
There is always subject and object in dualism. This business only disappears in nonduality, which few theosophists understand and none have ever written about.
However, it is true that our experiences always tend to substantiate our belief system. Whenever we experience something that doesn't fit into our belief system, we must either change our belief system (very difficult) or die (the usual case).
The occult connection between our subjective self (I) and our
objective world (Not-I) is called Fohat, and this mysterious
force is the culprit rersponsible for our manifestation in
space-time. It connects the polar sides of duality and makes
by David Reigle
[January 1997 Book of Dzyan Research Report from Eastern School Press, reprinted with permission.]
1. ... Where were the builders, the lumnious sons of Manvantaric dawn? ... In the unknown darkness in their Ah-hi Parnishpanna. The producers of form from no-form the root of the world the Devamatri and Svâbhâvat, rested in the bliss of non-being.
2. ... Where was silence? Where the ears to sense it? No, there was neither silence nor sound; naught save ceaseless eternal breath, which knows itself not.
3. The hour had not yet struck; the ray had not yet flashed into the Germ; the Matripadma had not yet swollen.
4. Her heart had not yet opened for the one ray to enter, thence to fall, as three into four, into the lap of Maya.
5. The seven sons were not yet born from the web of light. Darkness along was father-mother, Svâbhâvat; and Svâbhâvat was in darkness.
6. These two are the Germ, and the Germ is one. The Universe was still concealed in the Divine thought and the Divine bosom. ...
There are seven technical terms in stanza II of the "Book of Dzyan" as translated in H. P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine: "ah-hi" (ahi) and "parnishpanna", which are also found in stanza I, so were discussed in a previous report; manvantara and mâyâ, which are commonly found in Hindu Sanskrit texts in the same meaning, so require no comment; "devamatri" (deva-mâtri) and "matripadma" (mâtri-padma), which though rare in Sanskrit texts, still pose no particular problem; and "svâbhâvat," a fundamental concept in The Secret Doctrine which poses fundamental problems. Among the doctrinal issues raised by the teachings of The Secret Doctrine, none poses greater problems for its philosophy than svâbhâvat. While Theosophists who in the innocence of reading only their own books remain blissfully unaware that there are any problems here, for outside investigators, once they have gotten past the fraud charges and begun to investigate the actual doctrines, and leaving aside historical questions, it is the doctrine of svâbhâvat which raises the most serious questions in the philosophy of The Secret Doctrine.
In the "Summing Up" section immediately following the seven stanzas from the "Book of Dzyan" given in volume I of The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky recapitulates the system of the Secret Doctrine. There she says (p. 273):
The fundamental Law in that system, the central point from which all emerged, around and toward which all gravitates, and upon which is hung the philosophy of the rest, is the One homogeneous divine substance-principle, the one radical cause.
It is called "Substance-Principle," for it becomes "substance" on the plane of the manifested Universe, an illusion, while it remains a "principle" in the beginningless and endless abstract, visible and invisible space. It is the omnipresent Reality: impersonal, because it contains all and everything. Its impersonality is the fundamental conception of the System. It is latent in every atom in the Universe, and is the Universe itself.
Near the beginning of the "Proem," which precedes the Seven stanzas given in volume I of The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky quotes (p. 3) what she had written earlier in Isis Unveiled, to show what "will be explained, as far as it is possible, in the present work":
The esoteric doctrine teaches, like Buddhism and Brahminism, and even the Kabala, that the one infinite and unknown Essence exists from all eternity, and in regular and harmonious successions is either passive or active. In the poetical phraseology of Manu these conditions are called the "Days" and the "Nights" of Brahmâ. The latter is either "awake" or "asleep." The Svabhâvikas, or philosophers of the oldest school of Buddhism (which still exists in Nepaul), speculate only upon the active condition of this "Essence," which they call Svâbhâvat, and deem it foolish to theorize upon the abstract and "unknowable" power in its passive condition.
Earlier, the Mahatma K.H. in the first of a series of letters of instruction to A. O. Hume wrote (Chron. ed. p. 165):
To comprehend my answers you will have first of all to view the eternal essence, the Swabhâvat not a compound element you call spirit-matter, but as the one element for which the English has no name. It is both passive and active, pure spirit essence in its absoluteness and repose, pure matter in its finite and conditioned state even as an imponderable gas or that great unknown which science has pleased to call force.
A few months later, after some rather exasperating exchanges which led the Mahatma K.H. to comment that "All this reminds one of wrangling for seniorship," he again advised A. O. Hume to study this fundamental concept (Chron. ed. p. 281):
Study the laws and doctrines of the Nepaulese Swabhavikas, the principal Buddhist philosophical school in India, and you will find them the most learned as the most scientifically logical wranglers in the world. Their plastic, invisible, eternal, omnipresent and unconscious Swabhavat is Force or motion ever generating its electricity which is life.
What sources could Hume have studied the laws and doctrines of the Nepalese Svâbhâvikas from? The only sources on this, available either then or now, are the essays of Brian H. Hodgson published in Asiastic Researches, etc., starting in 1828, and later collected into a book entitled Essays on the Languages, Literature and Religion of Nepal ond Tibet, London, 1874. Hodgson had been British Resident in Kathmandu, living there from 1821 through 1843. Since Nepal was otherwise closed to foreigners, Hodgson's writings were for nearly a century the only source of information on Nepalese Buddhism. Al the early Buddhist scholars, including Eugene Burnouf, Samuel Beal, Joseph Edkins, Hendrik Kern, etc., most of whom were quoted by Blavatsky and K.H., relied on these writings.
Upon studying Hodgson's essays, however, we find in his description of the Nepalese Svâbhâvika school of Buddhism only the term svabhâva, not svâbhâvat or svabhâvat and svabhavat (the spellings sva- or swa- are merely alternate transliterations). And yes, svabhâva is there described in the same terms used by Blavatsky and K.H. to describe svâbhâvat. So why the final "t"? Svabhâva is a noun (which can also be used adjectivally); svâbhâvat or svabhâvat are grammatically unintelligible; while svabhavat, as stated by G. de Purucker (Occult Glossary, p. 167), would be a neuter present participle. As such, it would function as a verb meaning "self-being," or "self-becoming." We would then expect to find this in the actual Sanskrit Buddhist texts; but we don't. We find only svabhâva, as reported by Hodgson, and occasionally svabhâvatâ or svabhâvatva. The "-tâ" and "-tva" suffixes form abstract nouns, and can often be translated by the English suffix "-ness." Thus from shûnya, "empty," we get shûnyata, "emptiness." Svabhâvatâ, then, could mean something like "self-be-ness." in the case of words like svabhâva, however, which are frequently used adjectivally, these suffixes often serve only to fix their usage as a noun rather than an adjective, whihout any real change in meaning. Certainly, the exegetical tradition of Tibet treats them synoymously. It is possible, in terms of meaning, that svabhâvatâ is what Blavatsky meant. A final long "â", however, cannot be dropped like a final short "a" frequently is in north Indian pronunciation (e.g. râj yog for râja yoga); and it is the spellings ending in "t" that are found throughout the early Theosophical writings. Blavatsky says in The Secret Doctrine (vol. I, p. 98) about svâbhâvat: "The name is of Buddhist use ... " and in a footnote, "As for Svâbhâvat, the Orientalists explain the term as meaning the Universal plastic matter diffused through Space, ... " I have checked the books on Buddhism referred to in Blavatsky's writings and available in her day, but found no svâbhâvat, etc., only svabhâva. Although the theoretical form svabhavat as a present participle is grammatically possible, we do not find it in either Hodgson's essays, the only actual source on Nepalese Buddhism available last century in any European language, nor in the Sanskrit Buddist texts where according to Blavatsky and K.H. it should be found. But with all this, our problems have only just begun.
Has nothing been published on the laws and doctrines of the Nepalese Svâbhâvikas since Hodgson's early nineteenth century essays? Although Nepal was closed to foreigners until 1951, a few Buddhist scholars managed to get in earlier, most notably Sylvain Levi and Giuseppe Tucci. Sylvain Levi went in 1898, writing after his return to France, Le Nepal, 2 vols., Paris, 1905. He found that there was no such school of Buddhism as the Svâbhâvikas in Nepal, nor could the other three schools of Buddhism described by Hodgson (Aiswarika, Yâtnika, Kârmika) and soberly discussed by generations of Buddhist scholars be found. Not only were there no Svâbhâvikas in Nepal, but the supposed Buddhist doctrine of svabhâva was also called into question, since Buddhists existing elsewhere did not hold such a doctrine. Recently, more detailed research has been carried on among the Buddhists of Nepal, the Newaris. An article by David N. Gellner in the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 12, 1989, entitled, "Hodgson's Blind Alley? On the So-Called Schools of Nepalese Buddhism," shows that the names Svâbhâvika, etc., were merely used by Hodgson's Newari pundit informant as designations of what he felt were the diagnostic tenets of the main systems of ideas found in the Buddhist texts. These alleged schools of Nepalese Buddhism were questioned at the time Hodgson's account of them was first published, so that he felt compelled to later (1836) publish extracts from the Buddhist texts in support of them. Among the extracts he then published in support of the Svâbhâvika school are two quotations from the Buddha-Carita, a biography of the Buddha written by Ashvaghosa. Gellner points out in the above-mentioned article that the quotations in question give not the doctrines of the Buddhas, but rather non-Buddhist doctrines spoken to the young Buddha-to-be by the councillor of the king, his father, in an effort to get him to give up his asceticism and return to the palace. These doctrines, of course, he rejected. Other quotations in support of the Svâbhâvika school come from the prajña-pâramitâ, or Perfection of Wisdom texts. It is well known that Nâgârjuna is said to have received these texts from the Nâgâs, and that he based his Madhyamaka system on them. It is equally well known that the basic tenet of his Madhyamaka system is emptiness, or the lack of svabhâva (nihsvabhâva) in all things (dharma-s). The Madhyamaka school has a long history in India in the first millenium of the Common Era, from whence it was transferred first to China and then to Tibet. In Tibet it flourished; virtually all Tibetan Buddists from then until now consider themselves to be Mâdhyamikas, and thus as their basic tenet reject svabhâva (see, for example, Nâgârjuna's mûla-madhyamaka-kârikâ, chapt. 15, "Examination of Svabhâva").
The Theosophical doctrine is quite unequivocal about this teaching. If no Svâbhâvika school of Buddhism can be found, and if no doctrine of svabhâva is taught by any existing Buddhist school, could we perhaps find this teaching under a different name in Buddhism? When Blavatsky quotes H. S. Olcott's The Buddhist Catechism in The Secret Doctrine (pp. 635-36), she inserts svâbhâvat as a paratial synonym of âkâsha: "Everything has come out of Akâsa (or Svâbhâvat on our earth) in obedience to a law of motion inherent in it, ... " âkâsha is there said to be one of the two eternal things, along with nirvâna, taught in Buddhism. This is a teaching of the Theravâda school of Buddhism, but shared also by other Buddhist schools. The old Indian Sarvâstivâda school of Buddhism teaches two kinds of nirvâna, so along with âkâsha holds three things to be eternal. It could possibly be considered "the principle Buddhist philosophical school in India" mentioned by the Mahatma K.H. in connnection with the Nepalese Svâbhâvikas; at least it may have been at one time. But of course there have been no Buddhist philosophical schools in India for nearly a thousand years, ever since the Muslim invasion destroyed Buddhism in India. The doctines of the Sarvâstivâda school, "they who say (vâda) that all (sarva) exists (asti), are studied in Tibet in the abhidharma-kosha, a text which is memorized in most Tibetan monasteries. This text gives the Sarvâstivâda doctinres as taught by the Vaibhâshikas of Kashmir. It is accompanied by Vasubandhu's auto-commentary which also gives counter-arguments by the Sautrântika Buddhists. However, both the Vaibhâshika Sarvâstivâdins and their Sautrântika opponents are considered as Hînayâna or "lessor vehicle" schools. Their doctrines are systematically refuted in the Tibetan yig-chas, or monastic study manuals, by the Madhyamaka school. Thus Tibetan Buddists do not hold these doctrines as ultimately true, since the eternal âkâsha is refuted along with everything else (see, for example, Nâgârjuna's mûla-madhyamaka-kârikâ, chapt. 5, "Examination of the Elements").
Is there anywhere else we can turn to for support of the svabhâva doctrine? Perhaps to Hinduism: to the venerable old Sankhya system, considered to be the oldest school of Indian philosophy. In a quotation from the anûgîtâ found in The Secret Doctrine (vol. I, p. 571), Blavatsky equates svabhâva with prakriti, the substance-principle of the Sânkhya system: "Gods, Men, Gandharvas, Pisâchas, Asuras, Râkshasas, all have been created by Svabhâva (Prakriti, or plastic nature) ... " The term prakriti is glossed as pradhâna in Gaudapâda's commentary on sânkhya-kârikâ verse 8. Earlier, in his commentary on verse 3, mûla-prakriti was also glossed as pradhâna. Thus the three terms: parkriti, pradhâna, and mûla-prakriti are in some sense synonymous, and all are described as unmanifest (avyakta). But in the list of synonyms given in Gaudapâda's commentary on sânkhya-kârikâ verse 22, of these only prakriti and pradhâna are found, along with brahma, avyakta, bahudhâtmaka and mâyâ, suggesting that the term mûla-prakriti was reserved to indicate the more abstract aspect. Blavatsky says in The Secret Doctrine (vol. I, p. 61):
Svâbhâvat, the 'Plastic Essence' that fills the Universe, is the root of all things. Svâbhâvat is, so to say, the Buddhist concrete aspect of the abstraction called in Hindu philosophy Mula-Prakriti.
All this fits together, then, in supporting the idea that the Sânkhya prakriti matches the svabhâva doctrine taught in The Secret Doctrine. But any gain from this match in supporting the teachings of The Secret Doctrine is soon lost. The Sânkhya school has been practically non-existent in India for centuries. Why is this? Because the Advaita Vedânta school, called in The Secret Doctrine the nearest exponent of the Esoteric philosophy (vol. I, p. 55), and its foremost teacher, Shankarâcârya, called in The Secret Doctrine "the greatest Initiate living in the historical ages" (vol. I, p. 271), refuted its substance-principle thoroughly and repeatedly (see, for example, Shankarâcârya's commentary on brahma-sûtra 1.1.5 ff., his summation at 1.4.28, then 2.1.1 ff., etc.). Thus the Sânkhya doctrines were studied in India only to be refuted by the dominant Vedânta school, much as the Sarvâstivâda doctrines were studied in Tibet only to be refuted by the dominant Madhyamaka school.
The term svâbhâvat occurs in the Stanzas seven times. It is supposed to be a Buddhist term, occurring in Buddhist texts, and known to orientalists. Yet this term is not to be found in either Buddhist texts nor in the writings of orientalists, but only the term svabhâva. It is supposed to be the doctrine of the Nepalese Svâbhâvikas. Yet no such school was found to exist. It is supposed to be taught by Buddhism and Brahmanism. Yet there is no known school of Buddhism now in existence which teaches it; but on the contrary, for the Buddhists of Tibet where the Book of Dzyan is said to have been preserved, it is the very doctrine they most pointedly reject. As for Brahmanism, while this doctrine may well have been found in the old Sânkhya school, Shankarâcârya's Advaita Vedântins have refuted it and the Sânkhya school practically out of existence in India. Clearly, Theosophists have in front of them some homework to do.
If Theosophists have for more than a century been taking in support of their doctrines terms and schools which actually do not support them, it is time to correct this. The doctrine of the one substance-principle is consistent throughout the early Theosophical writings, being particularly clearly laid out in the article, "What is Matter and What is Force?" (Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4). It is no longer appropriate to say that it is the mûla-prakriti of the Vedantin and the svâbhâvat of the Buddhist (e.g., S.D. I, 46; B.C.W. X, 304; B.C.W. XIV, 234; etc.), since mûla-prakriti is a Sânkhya concept which is refuted by the Vedântins, and the term svâbhâvat does not exist, while svabhâva is refuted by Buddhists existing today. If a term such as svabhâva is indeed found in the Stanzas, support for this doctrine should in fact be found in the Sanskrit Buddhist texts; and this requires research.
While studying Sanskrit during the summer of 1995 with Gautam
Vajracharya, a Newari Buddhist from Nepal, I asked him about the
supposed Svâbhâvika school. I had written ahead with the
question, and then in person asked him about it on two different
occasions so as to minimize the possibility of my
misunderstanding him. He was of the definite opinion that such a
school of interpretation actually did exist in Hodgson's time,
but he was equally sure that it does not exist at present in
Nepal. The situation in Nepal then and now is that very few
Buddhist pundits exist. There are somewhat scattered, and may
preserve traditions within their Vajracharya family not preserved
in other Vajracharya families. So Gautam felt that Hodgson's
pundit probably had preserved an authentic Svâbhâvika tradition,
but that it has now died out. Gautam, himself a Vajracharya, was
familiar with the other Vajracharyas living today, so was sure
that such a tradition no longer exists. Hodgson, however, had
provided four pages of quotations translated into English from
Sanskrit Buddhist texts in support of this doctrine. The texts
quoted from, including the lengthy prajña-pâramitâ texts,
together total thousands of pages. Due to this bulk, few of
these quotations have yet been traced, other than from the
buddha-carita. Perhaps a valid Svâbhâvika doctrine can yet be
found in the Sanskrit Buddhist texts. But Theosophists will have
to find it, because no one else is likely to be interested.
by John Algeo
[Part Two of Two Parts, reprinted with author's permission.]
What is Senzar?
What then is this "mystery language" of H.P.B.'s? What kind of "language" is Senzar? Blavatsky says that the Hermetic Philosophers (that is, alchemists) of the Middle Ages
renovated the ancient symbolical language of the high-priests of antiquity, who had used it as a sacred barrier between their holy rites and the ignorance of the profane, and created a veritable Cabalistic slang. This latter, which continually blinded the false neophyte, attracted towards the science only by his greediness for wealth and power which he would have surely misused were he to succeed, is a living, eloquent, clear language; but it is and can become such, only to the true disciple of Hermes. (CW I, 131)
In this passage, Blavatsky is clearly talking about alchemical "jargon" and saying that properly understood it is full of high meaning, and also that it is a renovated form of the "ancient symbolical language," apparently a reference to Senzar. Similarly, Blavatsky says that the Jewish holy writings from the Pentateuch to the Talmud were written
in a kind of Mystery-language, were, in fact, a series of symbolical records which the Jews had copied from the Egyptian and the Chaldaean Sanctuaries, only adapting them to their own national history. (CW XIV, 170)
Again, what is meant by "mystery language" here is an allegorical or symbolic use of narrative language, such as the biblical narratives of the creation, the fall, the crossing of the red sea, and so on (as interpreted in considerable detail by Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Geoffrey Hodson, and others). Blavatsky makes various references to such symbolism:
... the art of speaking and writing in a language which bears a double interpretation, is of very great antiquity; ... it was in practice among the priests of Egypt, brought from thence by the Manichees, whence it passed to the Templars and Albigenses, spread over Europe, and brought about the Reformation. (quoted from Charles Sotheran, CW I, 126)
The Hierophants and Initiates of the Mysteries in the Secret Schools ... had one universal, Esoteric tongue the language of symbolism and allegory. This language has suffered neither modification nor amplification from those remote times down to this day. It still exists and is still taught. There are those who have preserved the knowledge of it, and also of the arcane meaning of the Mysteries; and it is from these Masters that the writer of the present protest had the good fortune of learning, howbeit imperfectly, the said language. Hence her claim to a more correct comprehension of the arcane portion of the ancient texts written by avowed Initiates such as were Plato and Iamblichus, Pythagoras, and even Plutarch ... (CW XIII, 153-54)
As the Egyptian hierophants had their private code of hieratic symbols, and even the founder of Christianity spoke to the vulgar in parables whose mystical meaning was known only to the chosen few, so the Brahmans had from the first (and still have) a mystical terminology couched behind ordinary expressions, arranged in certain sequences and mutual relations, which none but the initiate would observe. (CW V, 296)
It is hard to imagine plainer statements that those just cited. Clearly, the "one universal, Esoteric tongue" is "the language of symbolism and allegory." Blavatsky also speaks of the mystery language as involving ideographs, hieroglyphs, and pictorial representations. She claims that of all the sacred and philosophical works ever written, those whose texts were not already veiled in symbolism have been "copied in cryptographic characters" (I, xxiii-xxiv). Further she says:
The Secret Doctrine teaches us that the arts, sciences, theology, and especially the philosophy of every nation which preceded the last universally known, but not universal Deluge, had been recorded ideographically from the primitive oral records of the Fourth Race, and that these were the inheritance of the latter from the early Third Root-Race before the allegorical Fall. (II, 530)
... placed side by side with the hieroglyphic or pictorial initial version of "creation" in The Book of Dzyan, the origin of the Phoenician and Jewish letters would soon be found out. (CW XIV, 206)
We have now to speak of the Mystery language, that of the prehistoric races. It is not a phonetic, but a purely pictorial and symbolical tongue. (II, 574)
The last cited statement shows that the Mystery language Senzar is not a spoken language, nor a system of writing that represents such a language, but is "purely pictorial and symbolical." In several places, Blavatsky is quite clear about the sort of thing the mystery language is. It uses written symbols that represent ideas, not the sounds of a language:
Moreover, there exists a universal language among the Initiates, which an Adept, and even a disciple, of any nation may understand by reading it in his own language. We Europeans, on the contrary, possess only one graphic sign common to all, & (and); there is a language richer in metaphysical terms than any on earth, whose every word is expressed by like common signs. (CW XIV, 101)
H.P.B.'s example is the Greek letter "Y", which she says is understood as representing the two paths of virtue and vice, white and black magic, and various other things. Such meanings correlate with the shape of the letter, which suggests the dividing of a way and a forced choice between alternatives. She elaborates the same idea elsewhere:
... all the ancient records were written in a language which was universal and known to all nations alike in days of old, but which is now intelligible only to the few. Like the Arabic figures which are plain to a man of whatever nation, or like the English word and, which becomes et for the Frenchman, und for the German, and so on, yet which may be expressed for all civilized nations in the simple sign "amp;" so all the words of that mystery- language signified the same thing to each man of whatever nationality. There have been several men of note who have tried to re-establish such a universal and philosophical tongue: Delgarme, Wilkins, Leibnitz ... (I, 310)
"Delgarme" is perhaps an error for George Dalgarno. He, Wilkins, and Leibnitz were three important figures in seventeenth-century efforts to design a "universal and philosophical" language. Dalgarno is little known today, but the other two were active in many endeavors.
John Wilkins (1614-72) was bishop of Chester but is best known as the chief founder and first secretary of the British Royal Society. Among his works is an Essay Towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language, in which he invented a language and writing system that attempted to classify all reality and represent it unambiguously and rationally; Roget's Thesaurus was later based on Wilkins's classification of ideas.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716), the philosopher and mathematician, was secretary to a Rosicrucian Lodge in Nuremberg (according to the encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., XVI, 385). He wanted to devise a way of symbolizing thought that could be used by people of all languages and that would be free of all the vagueness and ambiguities that ordinary languages abound in, to use for peacefully settling disagreements. The invention of universal, philosophical languages was a pastime, if not an obsession, of the seventeenth century.
It is clear from the foregoing passages that the mystery language is no ordinary spoken language, but is instead a symbolic representation that can be "read," that is, interpreted, in any language whatever. These passages seem to say that it was a kind of ideographic writing, but other of Blavatsky's comments make it appear more general than that. In speaking of Confucius and his interpretation of the hexagrams of the I Ching, Blavatsky says,
... the stanzas given in our text ... represent precisely the same idea. The old archaic map of Cosmogony is full of lines in the Confucian style, of concentric circles and dots. (I, 441)
The Stanzas are like the symbols of the I Ching, lines and figures, circles and dots. Blavatsky frequently emphasizes the "geometrical" nature of the mystery language:
... it becomes easy to understand how nature herself could have taught primeval mankind, even without the help of its divine instructors, the first principles of a numerical and geometrical symbol language. Hence one finds numbers and figures used as an expression and a record of thought in every archaic symbolical Scripture. (I, 320-21)
From the very beginning of Aeons in time and space in our Round and Globe the Mysteries of Nature (at any rate, those which it is lawful for our races to know) were recorded by the pupils of those same, now invisible, "heavenly men," in geometrical figures and symbols ... The ten points inscribed within that "Pythagorean Triangle" are worth all the theogonies and angelologies ever emanated from the theological brain. For he who interprets them on their very face, and in the order given will find in these seventeen points (the seven Mathematical Points hidden) the uninterrupted series of the genealogies from the first heavenly to terrestrial man." (I, 612)
One of the keys to this Universal Knowledge is a pure geometrical and numerical system, the alphabet of every great nation having a numerical value for every letter, and, moreover, a system of permutation of syllables and synonyms which is carried to perfection in the Indian Occult methods ... (CW XIV, 181)
In keeping with such comments on mathematical symbolism, Blavatsky refers to the Stanza's account of cosmic evolution as an "abstract algebraical formula" applicable to all evolutionary processes (I, 20-21).
The preface to The Voice of the Silence describes The Book of the Golden Percepts, on which The Voice is based:
The original precepts are engraved on thin oblongs ... They are written variously, sometimes in Tibetan but mostly in ideographs. The sacerdotal language (Senzar), besides an alphabet of its own, may be rendered in several modes of writing in cypher characters, which partake more of the nature of ideographs than of syllables. ... A sign placed at the beginning of the text determines whether the reader has to spell it according to the Indian mode, when every word is simply a Sanskrit adaptation, or according to the Chinese principle of reading the ideographs. The easiest way, however, is that which allows the reader to use no special, or any language he likes, as the signs and symbols were, like the Arabian numerals or figures, common and international property among initiated mystics and their followers. (The Voice of the Silence, 6-7)
Presumably Blavatsky does not mean that the same script can be read either phonetically or ideographically, making sense both ways. Such a script would be difficult to imagine. Rather she seems to mean that some parts of the precepts are written in Tibetan or another ordinary lagnuage, whereas other parts are written in ideographs or symbolic signs, with an indication to readers of what sort of communication they are about to encounter. That is very much the kind of mixed text she has described The Stanzas of Dzyan as also containing.
The cipher-like appearance of Senzar is amusingly involved in an affair that gave H.P.B. some pain. In a letter to A.P. Sinnett, Blavatsky answered a charge made against her of being a Russian spy:
Coulomb stole a "queer looking paper" and gave it to the missionaries with the assurance this was a cipher used by the Russian spies(!!) They took it to the Police Commissioner, had the best experts examine it, sent it to Calcutta[,] for five months moved heaven and earth to find out what the cipher meant and now gave it up in despair. "It is one of your flapdoodles" says Hume. "It is one of my Senzar MSS," I answer. I am perfectly confident of it, for one of the sheets of my book with numbered pages is missing. I defy any one but a Tibetan occultist to make it out, if it is this. (The Letters of H.P.B., 76)
Senzar must, then, be capable of looking like a cipher, though it is not what we usually mean by that term.
However, Blavatsky also associates Senzar with the pictographs of the American Indians:
The Red Indian tribes of America, only a few years ago, comparatively speaking, petitioned the President of the United States to grant them possession of four small lakes, the petition being written on the tiny surface of a piece of a fabric, which is covered with barely a dozen representations of animals and birds ... The American savages have a number of such different kinds of writing, but not one of our Scientists is yet familiar [with], or even knows of the early hieroglyphic cipher, still preserved in some Fraternities, and named in Occultism the Senzar. (II, 439)
The Indian petition referred to here is similar to the pictograph in Figure 2. The fact that Blavatsky refers to Senzar as a "hieroglyphic cipher" should not be given undue weight. H.P.B. did not use terms for languages and writing systems with the precision of a linguist today. The context in which she uses the expression in discussing the Indian pictograph makes it clear that for her terms like hieroglyph and cipher simply denote a picture-like form of written communication. All we are safe in concluding from her remark is that Senzar involved a pictorial representation of occult ideas.
In describing the "old book" referred to in Isis Unveiled and said in The Secret Doctrine to have been written in Senzar, Blavatsky says:
One of its illustrations represents the Divine Essence emanating from Adam like a luminous arc proceeding to form a circle; and then, having attained the highest point of its circumference, the ineffable glory bends back again, and returns to earth, bringing a higher type of humanity in its vortex. As it approaches nearer and nearer to our planet, the Emanation becomes more and more shadowy, until upon touching the ground it is as black as night. (Isis I, 1, cited in SD I, xlii)
Is it possible that the "illustration" described here is an example of Senzar, comparable to the Amerindian pictographs?
A script that can be read either phonetically or ideographically, and makes sense both ways, is difficult to imagine. Perhaps this description is deliberately mystifying (one of H.P.B.'s famous "blinds") and means no more than that a language written in a phonetic script can be used to express archetypal symbolic ideas. In interpreting passages like this, one is never sure whether H.P.B. is using a term in its technical sense or whether she is using it impressionistically for effect.
An Example of Senzar
Is Senzar quite unrecoverable, or is it possible that we have it all about us? In particular, can we have had a Senzar text lying under our noses ever since the publication of The Secret Doctrine? The proem to that work begins with these words:
An Archaic Manuscript a collection of palm leaves made impermeable to water, fire, and air, by some specific unknown process is before the writer's eye. On the first page is an immaculate white disk within a dull black ground. On the following page, the same disk, but with a central point. (I, 1)
Later more symbols from the manuscript are described and reproduced:
The first illustration being a plain disk
, the second one in the Archaic symbol shows , a disk with a point in it the first differentiation in the periodical manifestations of the ever-eternal nature, sexless and infinite ... In its third stage the point is transformed into a diameter, thus . It now symbolizes a divine immaculate Mother-Nature within the all-embracing absolute Infinitude. When the diameter line is crossed by a vertical one , it becomes the mundane cross. Humanity has reached its third Root-Race; it is the sign for the origin of human life to begin. When the circumference disappears and leaves only the it is a sign that the fall of man into matter is accomplished, and the fourth race begins. (I, 4-5)
One document that we are told is written in Senzar is the palm-leaf manuscript of the Stanzas of Dzyan. The content of the manuscript is described as these and other visual symbols. Of course, it is possible that the symbols are simply illustrations for a text of a more conventional sort, written in an alphabet or ideographic script also of a more conventional sort. But it is equally possible that these symbols these circles and lines are the "hieroglyphic cipher," the "geometrical figures and symbols" of Senzar. And indeed, the latter seems more likely, as the cut of Ockham's razor. Moreover, the version of cosmogenesis in the Book of Dzyan is said to be "hieroglyphic or pictorial" (CW XIV, 206), an apt description of these symbols.
In her discussion of myths about the origins of the gods, Blavatsky quotes a sentence from the Book of Dzyan (I, 434):
The great mother lay with
, and the , and the , the second and the in her bosum, ready to bring them forth, the valiants sons of the (or 4,320,000, the Cycle) whose two elders are the and the .
Most of the geometrical symbols in that sentence stand primarily for numbers in an obvious way. The first five represent 31415, the number of pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter: 3.1415). The next four stand for 4311 or 432, representing the number of years in a cycle totalling 4,320,000. The last two are more general symbols, zero representing the world boundary or ring pass not, and the point representing the nondimensional, unmanifested first logos. This sentence shows the use Blavatsky has described of geometrical symbols that is, Senzar in the Book of Dzyan.
Most significantly, Blavatsky speaks of "the 'Mystery-language' of the prehistoric ages, the language now called Symbolism" (I, 309). If the "Mystery-language" is Senzar, then Senzar is symbolism a system of symbols that are traditional, secret in their interpretation, but also known all over the world. The symbols H.P.B. describes from the palm-leaf manuscript are precisely the symbols we find from Polynesia to the caves of the Pyrenees, from the oldest rock carvings of Africa to present-day dream symbolism. They are truly a universal language. Senzar in the Book of Dzyan.
We can summarize what Blavatsky says or implies about Senzar as follows:
1. The Stanzas of Dzyan in The Secret Doctrine are based on an original Senzar version, and the original text of the Stanzas is described as pictographs and geometrical figures. The text of the Stanzas in The Secret Doctrine is not the original, but is a paraphrase based on Blavatsky's understanding of the original and adapted to our ability to grasp the ideas symbolized.
2. Senzar is the "Mystery language" used by initiates all over the world and from the earliest days of humanity. It is not a language known to philologists.
3. The Mystery language was originally the common property of all human beings and was, indeed, the one language of our race, but by the time of our present humanity it has become an esoteric, that is, an inner or private system.
4. Despite the fact that H.P.B. sometimes calls it "speech," the Mystery language is not normal spoken language, but is "pictorial and symbolical."
5. On the one hand, the esoteric language is allegory like that found in the writings of the alchemists and Jewish scriptures.
6. On the other hand, the esoteric language is a form of written symbols that can be interpreted in various ways and by various spoken languages, especially geometrical figures with a hieroglyphic, cipher-like appearance.
7. The Mystery language is what we now call symbolism: it speaks to our unconscious minds and can be only imperfectly translated into ordinary, logical language.
Thus we can think of Senzar as being the whole complex of sacred symbols with expressions of various kinds, but of two chief types:
1. the archetypal symbols in myths and fairy tales, allegories and parables, alchemical recipes and biblical history stories that have a hidden meaning underneath the obvious narrative, stories that bear "a double interpretation"; and
2. a visual representation of those archetypal symbols in pictographs or hieroglyphic and cipher-like characters whose meaning the initiated can interpret independently of any language.
If Senzar is the system of such symbols, many of the puzzles about it are automatically cleared up. Blavatsky's comparisons of Senzar with ordinary human languages are no problem. She used terms like language, speech, hieroglyph, ideograph, and cypher loosely. She was no philologist and had no interest in the detailed distinctions that academic scholars make when they talk about such matters. For her it was enough to convey a general meaning and let her readers work out the details for themselves. So the symbolic system of Senzar is a "language" in the broad sense of the term, but radically different from ordinary languages like Sanskrit, Latin, and English.
If Senzar is a system of verbal and iconic symbols, then we can understand why the Stanzas of Dzyan in The Secret Doctrine are necessarily imperfect paraphrases of their original. They are efforts to put into ordinary language ideas that can be expressed fully, albeit obscurely from the standpoint of language, only by symbolic signs and diagrams. That is exactly what Blavatsky seems to be saying in the recapitulation to volume I of The Secret Doctrine:
But such is the mysterious power of Occult symbolism, that the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, to set down and explain, in the bewildering series of evolutionary progress, are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs. (I, 272)
Those "few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs," the original of the Stanzas of Dzyan, have been paraphrased and explicated in many of the world's scriptures. They have certainly occupied, and bewildered, several generations of Theosophists since 1888, when H.P. Blavatsky published her articulation of them in The Secret Doctrine.
We can also understand the association of Senzar with devanagari and Egyptian hieroglyphs. By its etymology, devanagari is a form of "divine" or "sacred" writing; so is Senzar. Hieroglyphs are based upon symbolic pictures and thus fall into the same broad class as the symbols of Senzar. It is not that spoken Sanskrit or Egyptian and Senzar are related to Senzar, but rather that Senzar consists of sacred symbols, as devanagari also does, and that Senzar and hieroglyphs reflect the same archetypal images. Devanagari and hieroglyphs both express, in varying ways, the primordial symbolism that Blavatsky calls Senzar.
Blavatsky's odd remark that "'Amida' is the Senzar form of 'Adi'" (CW XIV, 425) is also explicable. Since Amida (or Amitabha) is one of the representations of the power of the primordial Adi Buddha, it is a symbol of that power. Adi Buddha is the absolute, which cannot be described or conceived, but can be symbolized, for example, by the figures of the Dhyani Buddhas, of whom Amida is one. If Senzar is a system of symbols for expressing the otherwise inexpressible, it makes perfect sense to say that "'Amida [the personification of boundless light] is the Senzar form [symbolic expression] of 'Adi' [the Absolute]." Far from being a mistake, H.P.B.'s comment is a simple truth, but symbolically expressed.
Blavatsky tells us that the marvelous Kumbum tree is a fact. Whether, however, it is a botanical as well as a symbolic fact is unclear. It is certainly the latter. The tree in whose branches the universe grows, the tree that produces the letters of the alphabet as its fruit, is a widespread symbol. It is a species that includes the Yggdrasil of the Northmen and the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, upon whose branches appear the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and which therefore includes in embryo the whole of the Torah.
That the Kumbum tree should grow in Tibet and bear the sacred symbols of Senzar on its leaves and bark is quite consonant with a view of Senzar not as an ordinary language, but as the primordial symbolism of the human species. The tree of humanity which Stanza 7 refers to as "the man-plant, called Saptaparna" (I, 231) spontaneously produces those symbols that H.P.B. names Senzar. They are written upon our souls as Senzar is said to be upon the leaves and inner bark of the wonderful Kumbum tree.
The Kumbum tree is the Cosmos and the microcosm of humanity. However deep one goes into the Kumbum tree, peeling away its bark, one discovers the sacred letters of the Senzar alphabet empressed there. However deep one goes into the fabric of the universe or into the levels of the human soul, one discovers the primal symbols of the Ancient Wisdom, the Secret Doctrine, in living shapes. We and the universe in our unity are the source of that Doctrine. We are the Kumbum tree that bears that Wisdom.
To literalize H.P.B.'s statements about the Kumbum tree to suppose that it is a tree like an oak or a pine, only queerer is to miss the significance and the magnificence of the symbol. The marvel of the Kumbum tree is not that it is a sight for tourists. The real marvel is that we are that tree. And so it is with other theosophical marvels. So it is with Senzar.
Senzar is the one language of the youth of humanity because it is the collection of symbols found worldwide and throughout the ages. It goes back to the earliest, prephysical and preintellectual, human races. Symbols are universal, for they arise spontaneously in the dreams and visions of all humans everywhere and have been recorded with remarkable consistency throughout human history, as C.G. Jung and his followers have demonstrated.
Ordinary language is a product of the mind and could not exist before the mind was activated, as H.P.B. makes clear in her history of human speech. However, symbols are prelinguistic and prelogical. Their proper place is not the conscious mind, but the unconscious. They belong to our most remote past and speak to us irrationally and therefore most powerfully.
Senzar is "the Mystery-language of the prehistoric ages, the language now called Symbolism." It is our first, our common language, the language of the unconscious, the universal language of symbolism the one language that expresses the one knowledge. And that is marvel and mystery indeed.
Blavatsky, Helena P. Blavatsky Collected Writings. 14 vols. Ed. Boris de Zirkoff. Wheaton, Ill.; Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1966-85.
. Isis Unveiled. Ed. Boris de Zirkoff. 2 vols. Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972.
. The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett and Other Miscellaneous Letters. Ed. A. T. Barker. Pasadena, Cal.: Theosophical University Press, 1973.
. The Secret Doctrine. 2 vols. Centennial Edition (1888 facsimile reprint), Pasadena, California: Theosophical University Press, 1973.
. The Secret Doctrine. Ed. Boris de Zirkoff. 2 vols. Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1978.
. The Theosophical Glossary. Los Angeles: Theosophy Co., 1973.
. The Voice of the Silence and Other Chosen Fragments from The Book of the Golden Precepts. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1892.
The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. &
K.H. Ed. A.T. Barker. 3rd ed. Ed. Christmas Humphreys
and Elsie Benjamin. Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1962, 1972.
by Donald J. DeGracia Ph.D.
There is an aspect of math that IS culturally independent. We cannot imagine existence without some concept of number. For after all, concepts of numbers and their interrelationships are actually an expression of the reality of differentiation, or variety, or separateness, that is inherent in physical existence. From this angle, all languages and cultural symbol systems will find some means of expressing this fundamental fact of physical reality.
Now, when you start from this point of departure, you have a basis to compare how different cultures symbolize the fact of "different-ness". Raising the point of the old Hebrew thought where numbers and letters were associated, as in the Cabbalah is a good point for illustrating just how variegated can be different cultures approach to the fact of different-ness.
This ancient Hebrew thinking is very far divorced from how we
perceive math today. Likewise with astrology. In the Middle
ages, the term "mathematician" meant an astrologer. Again, we
don't think like this today, at least academic mathematicians
don't. We Theosophists do, though!
So, I think its good to realize that what we call mathematics is actually our particular society's way of dealing with the fact of separateness in our physical experience. What you can then observe is how the particular symbol system we have evolved has gone off on its own line of evolution. We have moved from numbers as simple devices for counting used mainly in an economic context to more abstract generalizations.
Building on the ancient Greek mentality, we have taken the idea of abstract math way beyond what the Greeks could have envisioned. Asking the question of why this is the case is illuminating and also is an example of something sociologists (European sociologists, not American sociologists who are quite dim in comparison) have discovered that the reason the Greeks only went so far with their ideas is basically, because of their religious beliefs.
Or to say it as I already have, because of their metaphysical beliefs. The European culture that created modern abstract math had a much different metaphysics a mechanistic metaphysical outlook that the Greeks did not have. The ancient Greeks had a much more "mystical" metaphysical underpinning than Renaissance European mathematicians.
What is ironic though is that the "mystical" beliefs of the ancient Greeks served to stifle the evolution of abstract thought. This is what sociologist have discovered. That, when you compare mystical other-worldly views to pragmatic, sensory oriented views, that the sensory oriented views tend to develop, in the long run, much more abstract lines of thought. You see the same pattern in the evolution of science amongst various cultures. Why, for example, did not ancient Hindus, who were very abstract thinkers develop abstract theories of the physical world like we have in modern times? Again, its the same answer. The ideas of the Hindus, which were very "other-worldly"
prevented them from developing or spending a lot of time concentration on the world of the senses.
This all raises interesting questions about the relationship between "mystical" and "sensory oriented" metaphysics: Is there a happy medium? Can you have the best of both world-views? In other words, what is the metaphysics that can allow one to do astrology and topology at the same time, do astral project and do physics at the same time?
And, as is probably apparent, I'm funneling this discussion in the direction where I like to hang out: the relation between science, occultism and mysticism. And the idea that the metaphysical status of mathematics actually plays a fundamental role in the synthesis of these 3 world-views.
Personally, I think that math does exist independent of the human mind. In effect, the world of mathematics are regions of the mental plane. It is a human potential to access this region as the human mind can access any region of the mental plane.
Plato's "world of pure ideation" is much more literal a reality, when seen from the occult viewpoint of the planes, than most academic types would admit to today. So in this sense, math is a very real and object thing: it is a region on the mental plane.
However, as such, it is still just another element in the Maya so to expect nirvana from math is something akin to jnana yoga. It probably can be done, that is, find God through math. Yet, in our particular society we associate extremely secular and
aspiritual overtones with math, so you'd better be the kind of nut
who would find this list interesting, to go seeking God in math!
Regarding the relationship between math and physical nature. This relationship gets illuminated when seen in terms of the planes, and in particular in terms of the Hermitic axiom. The latter states "As above, so below", and the relationship between math and physical nature is probably just another example of the hermitic axiom in action.
"As above so below" can mean that higher planes are self-similar to lower planes. Thus, as one finds the Mandelbrot set (this is a famous mathematical object called a "fractal") within itself, one finds the patterns of the higher planes inside the lower planes. Therefore, patterns we discover in the mental plane (math) map (or correspond) to patterns we discover in the physical plane (e.g. modern science).
And of course, the human brain/mind combination, being a part of this system, maps equally well to both the physical and mental worlds Thus, when seen from an occult viewpoint, the fact that there is correspondence between our abstract thought (math) and physical nature is no surprise whatsoever.
Then we get the issue of the "messy" and imperfect physical world, and the perfect world of math ideas. Here I think we are dealing more with cultural attitudes than anything else. For what we have done in presenting this attitude is, in our ignorance of all possible mathematics, we have taken the little bit we do know and said "well, nature does not fit this bit of math that we know, so nature must be imperfect because math is holy and therefore perfect" (or something like this).
But this attitude is the folly of the half-knowledge of a pretentious intellect, and a secular, aspiritual one at that! For example, look at how fractals and chaos math have changed everything. Or just as good an example, look at the development and subsequent application of non-Euclidean geometry (which is the math Einstein used in his Relativity Theory).. Both of these examples illustrate that math can very effectively represent nature. However, prior to the development of these branches of math, we thought that nature was imperfect because it wasn't made of Euclidean circles and spheres. Now we know that nature has perfect mathematical regularity as fractals and chaotic dynamic plots.
So, my feeling is that saying that nature is imperfect and math
is perfect is putting the cart before the horse. For in all
likelihood, if there is some part of nature that doesn't gel well
with whatever math we presently know, its not that nature is
imperfect, its that our knowledge of math is imperfect. Both
nature and math are perfect. What needs work is human
understanding of both.
by Bee Brown
As you are all aware I have developed an interest in the writings of a guy called Vitvan that Martin Euser found in his crawl around the web.
I have read a lot of the stuff by now and I have just come across this bit that I thought most interesting. His name is or was Ralph de Bit and Vitvan was the name his Indian teacher gave him.
Back in 1919 I was assigned by the President of the Theosophical Society to revive the outlying lodges. I accepted the job, the commission. On one evening that my lecture was scheduled, there were other features going on that many wanted to attend so objectively we had a meager crowd. It so happened, at that time, that I consciously functioned in that inner world far more than I functioned in the objective world and I didn't notice the meager crowd. Afterward, the President of the local society apologized to me for the meager turnout. I said, "What? Not a crowd? Why, every chair was full and they were standing up around the aisle and in the back," I said just as innocently and honestly. He said, "No, Mr. de Bit, I'm sorry to tell you but they weren't." Then I said, "Wait!" I had lost the differentiation between the two levels. I honestly saw every chair full and they were standing up around and I lectured to an overflow crowd. Now, take it or leave it. I can't prove it to you but I'm telling you what I know.
This is an extract from his book Seven Initiations and seems to
indicate he was tied up with the Society back then. Actually I
am not surprised because so far his stuff compliments what I have
learned through Theosophy. He must have met Krishnamurti as they
were contempories but he doesn't mention any of this as he
changed his whole style and orientation in the 1940's when he
studied with Korzibsky.
by Eldon Tucker
[based upon a November 16, 1993 posting to email@example.com]
When we approach a study of Theosophy, how seriously do we take it? Is it something interesting to think about, but is soon forgotten as we set down our books and resume life in the so-called real world?
There is a lot more to the theosophical literature than a clever, entertaining mental puzzle! Theosophy is literally real! That means that it can be relied on as readily as the science and technology that we learn in our modern classrooms. It is not empty words, it is something that can be tried out in life and known to be true by our personal experience.
We won't really experience it in life not fully, truly, as a living Truth until we put in it as much confidence as we do in the simple things of life. We know that we will fall down if we lean over too far; we know that to touch something burning hot will hurt us; we know that the sun will rise in the morning. These are all simply facts of life. And Theosophy, too, needs to become a simple fact of our lives.
The numerous Teachings like the globe chains, karma, and the seven principles all have to become as real as money, housing, and food, as waking and sleeping, as physical exercise and meditation are in life.
This does not mean that we take ourselves too seriously. A sense of humor is important. There are many times in life when we need to be light, cheerful, and humorous; we are not expected to go about life with long faces, always somber and heavy, always gravely saying "do this" and "don't do that!"
Theosophy deals with real things. They may sometimes involve knowledge of life far removed from the experience of the moment, like the nature of our after-death experiences and I'd certainly hope that I'm far removed from after-death experiences! And they may involve things that happen about us at every moment, things that we simply haven't been paying attention to, things that are a part of our life that we have simply been ignoring.
We should be willing to look for Theosophy in unexpected places. And it can be found in the ordinary as well there but simply unseen until we know to look. There is a lot to life that stares us in the face, but our eyes, unfocusing and glazed over, do not take it in. A wonderful spiritual insight may await us by just stopping for a moment, and looking around in the room in which we not sit. The man that walks by in the hallway could very well be a Mahatma, but we just did not notice it. Making that phone call to a friend, needing encouragement and support, could be the spiritual experience that we most need to undertake; and it just awaits our recognition and action.
When we speak of being a true Theosophist, or a chela, we should not put up such a lofty, high, unapproachable ideal that we can never hope to experience it, to make the experience a part of our lives. The Masters have said that even if we approach their precincts in thought, that we are drawn into the vortex of probabation, that we have engaged the process.
The Path is a process, a natural process in life. It can be engaged, started, entered upon. It is as natural as eating or sleeping. There is a way that it works, a real way; it is a real process. It is not something imaginary, a delusion, a make-believe fantasy, like that of a three-year-old child wanting a magic carpet to fly through the sky on, because of seeing it in a movie.
The Path is real, it is a thing that can be done. And it is not an arrogant claim to superiority, a sign of pride and egotism, to start living it. A chela may not be able to say that he has undertaken certain training by a specific Teacher, becuause of being pledged to secrecy, but participating in the general process of hastened development, the Path, is not a secret thing. It is pointed out, in many different ways, as the noble life, the saintly life, the spiritual life; the many religions of the world all mention aspects of it. It is not a secret thing, it is talked about widely, under a multitude of names.
And the Masters are not unapproachable deities. They are men in bodies of flesh, such as us, and only are fully Mahatmas when they have engaged their higher natures, and stepped aside from physical life. We should neither deify them nor the Path. They are not so unapproachable, so rare, so removed from life that we can only humbly bow our heads and pay homage to them, if not give them our prayers and worship. That is nonsense! They are real and their participation in life is as actual men. They are somewhere and are doing something. They do not merely exist as the painted faces on pictures in someone's shrine room!
The difficult part, though, is knowing where and how to look. While giving the written word the high respect it is due, and deeply studying the Teachings, we do not allow ourselves to worship the dead letter, finding and giving proper citation to a nice quote is far removed from an actual experience of a deep insight. And when we look about us at the ordinary events of life, we do not allow us to take for granted our ordinary interpretation of what happens. There is a deeper mystery behind what happens to us, and we only need look at things with the right eyes, with the right awareness, with the right experiencing of the world.
Stop and listen correctly. Look again at what is before you.
Consider again what the other person said. Look at your friend's
face more closely. Be aware of the room you are talking in.
Lose yourself in the activity of the moment. See it in the big
picture of the life, a little but highly-important drama in a
meeting room, in a city, in a globe racing through space, in
vast, dark space lit up by starry orbs. Recognize that the whole
universe is present in the moment, in your discussion with your
friend. See greater mysteries behind ordinary life. And engage
the process, begin that long road that leads to spiritual
perfection, start to awaken the inner nature to the realities
that reach beyond our outer world, that go deep within, that lead
us to our inner divinities!