Behind the veil of all the hieratic and mystical allegories of ancient doctrines, bedind the shadows and the strange ordeals of all initiations, under the seal of all sacred writings, ... in the strange emblems of our old books of alchemy, in the ceremonies at reception practised by all mysterious societies, traces are found of a doctrine which is everywhere the same, and everywhere carefully concealed.
Eliphas Levi, Transcendental Magic, 3
by Eldon Tucker
[based upon a September 8, 1994 posting to email@example.com.]
A discussion of the principles of consciousness including the physical body, senses, feelings, desires, thoughts, and so forth is incomplete unless it proceeds to mention the Monads.
In early theosophical literature, the Monads, or rather Egos or centers of consciousness, were spoken of in association with the principles. The spiritual Ego was associated with Buddhi, the human Ego with Manas, the animal life-nature, nephesh, with Kama-Prana. There were many more associations.
Yet another type of association made with the principles was with the planes of consciousness, where our plane was associated with the physical, the next with the astral, the following with the mental, and so forth.
A third type of association was made with the Globes or worlds on which we can exist, where a particular Globe is on such-and-such a plane, and because of being on that plane is associated with the corresponding principle of consciousness.
When we talk about principles, planes, and Globes, we are talking about three quite different things. They are interrelated, but are not the same thing. Let's try to untangle our understanding of them a bit.
Regardless of whatever world we may come into existence on, we have consciousness. That consciousness can be understood as being composed of certain basic elements, certain essential parts. The principles represent those parts, those ingredients that go into making a fully-manifest being. By understanding the principles, how they work, and how they relate to each other, we understand the general pattern of the workings of consciousness, and understand the magical process by which the unseen is made manifest.
Apart from the understanding of the workings of consciousness, we may consider where we are coming into being. There are definite localities where existence may happen. These places are the "bodies" of great beings. By existing, and having bodies, they play host to us, they provide the worlds on which we may come into manifest existence. These worlds, for us, are the Globes of our planetary chain. (We call it a "chain" because each it linked to the next in sequence; we pass from the first one to the second, from that to the third, and continue to the last one, where we start over again. It is a "planetary" chain because it is composed of planets in space, although the only visible planet in our chain is the earth.)
When we come into birth, when we take on manifest existence in one of these worlds, on one of the Globes of our chain, we clothe ourselves in the principles of consciousness. If we clothe ourselves in all the principles, through and including the physical form, we are fully-manifest. If we but partially clothe ourselves in the principles, we may not participate in the activities of life on that world, we stay somewhat out of existence.
The principles are different than these globes. They should not be pictured as being concrete, tangible, physical objects of the substance of some other, higher world. A thought, for instance, is not literally a rock or pencil on some higher world; a thought is a way of experiencing life. Regardless of how high a world we may manifest on, the capacity of thought is part of the full experience of life.
Using a term like "mental body" is misleading, since thought is not physical substance of some higher world, and our capacity of thought is not itself but a physical body on that higher world. There is both a life and a form side to each of the principles. Each principle has its associated element. But this "substance" is the stuff that Skandhas are made of. To draw an analogy to quantum physics: we are talking about the wave-like and particle-like attributes of mind, where the life-side is the wave-like quality and the form-side is the particle-like quality. "Substance" is the tangible nature, the crystallized side of thought, as contrasted to its fluidic nature.
When we come into existence in a world, we could say that we take on thought, mental activity, if we sufficiently awaken our consciousness and go that far into coming into existence; e.g., if we clothe ourselves in Atman, Buddhi, and Manas. No "bodies" are involved, though, until we reach the physical, the Sthula-Sharira, or some substitute like the Mayavi-Rupa or Nirmanakaya, depending upon our evolutionary status.
Having now made a distinction between the principles and the Globes or places of existence, we now need to further distinguish the planes of consciousness from them. Consciousness is an experience we have of living life; it is not dependent on locality. We may have any consciousness throughout a wide spectrum of possibilities, and yet be in the physical body. We could be alive and awake and yet range in our experience from the horror of Avitchi through Kamalokic desire, ordinary waking consciousness, Devachanic spiritual dream experiences, to near-Nirvanic beatitude.
A plane of consciousness is measured by the range or extent of its effects. The "plane" could be compared to a magnetic field. Its extent is as far as any object over which it can exert some force. A plane is not an abstract, mathematical concept not any more so than the Laws of Nature. Each is caused by the actions of higher beings.
The planes of consciousness that we are able to experience on the earth could be compared to the "background radiation" of the great Being whose life enables the earth to exist. The qualities of consciousness of that Being are organized along the same lines as ours; e.g. His Atman, Buddhi, Manas, and so forth. We find, therefore, that the planes we experience, while on the earth chain, correspond to principles. There are, though, no planes in an abstract, mathematical sense. (This holds true for anything that we may consider in life: There are no absolute rules, laws, structures to life; everything is from the action of living beings.)
But when we leave our physical earth behind, our body asleep or entranced, and go on to other worlds, don't we travel to other planes? Not really. The qualities of consciousness that those other planes represent can be experienced just as well in this world as in the next. We are not going to other planes, but rather to other globes, other places of existence.
The other globes are non-physical in the sense that they are of different matter than our earth, globe D, is composed of. And they could be subject to different physical "laws of nature," based upon the behavior of the elemental and mineral kingdoms on those other globes. But when we say that the other globes are on other planes, we are really referring to the fact that each globe has its own keynote consciousness, centered in one of the principles. One globe is centered in Prana, another in Kama, yet another in Kama-Manas. Because of this association, a particular principle governs "how nature works" on a globe, and we could say, in a loose sense, that a globe was "on that plane," that it was on the plane associated with that particular principle.
How could we describe all this? We are "on a plane" when we experience the corresponding consciousness, regardless of what world, what globe we may be on at the time. We find it easiest to experience a particular plane when on the globe on which that quality of consciousness predominates. The globes, and not the planes, are the places that we visit, when "out of the body." The globes are limited in number, and visited sequentially; we should not think of a "fourth dimension" with an infinite number of places to visit in our out-of-the-body experiences. We do not literally have "bodies" for each quality of consciousness, except in a metaphorical sense, in reference to the living bundle of attributes and qualities that we acquire and carry with us; "bodies" in reference to "physical" forms are created for our use on any globe we would exist on.
This takes us to where the Monads enter the picture. In our constitution are various centers of consciousness, somewhat associated with the various principles, but each with its own sense of identity. We may focus in one center or the next. We have the Divine Monad or Ego, then the Spiritual, the Higher Human, the Human, the Animal, and so on. All these centers of consciousness within us are entities in their own right, yet paradoxically they also are all but facets of ourselves. We are currently centered in the lower Human Ego, but one day, as our evolution progresses, we will operate out of a higher center within. These centers in us, these Egos, as the Globes relate to us in our totality, might be compared to the Globes, as they relate to the planetary chain in its entirety both are the different centers of consciousness, associated with different principles, in which the life-energies of a being operate.
The early terminology of Theosophy was tangled, and I'm not sure
that simply using English terms for the Sanskrit would help pull
out the hidden meanings. I've found that Purucker's writings
help considerably in sorting things out. The most important
thing to do is to not crystallize in our thinking, to continually
strive to break the molds of mind, to always think things afresh
and breathe new life into them. There is always something new to
learn, even on the simplest of truths, the most basic of our
doctrines, if we'd just keep looking. The core concepts of
Theosophy are deep Koans offering much to the hungry mind!
by Alan E. Donant
[Printed with permission from The Theosophic Link, newsletter of The Theosophical Society, Pasadena, American Section.]
As FTS begin study groups or branches they encounter many schools of thought. Some of these use theosophic terms and concepts that too often do not have the same underlying philosophy and vast cosmogony of theosophy behind them. This can be confusing to study-group coordinators and participants alike.
Modern theosophy survived its first century largely due to the writings of H.P.B., W. Q. Judge, and their teachers. The willingness of theosophists to keep this literature readily available and to encourage its public study in an impersonal, nondogmatic fashion is equally important if this modern presentation is to remain intact and of benefit to the centuries to come.
Over the last century, some students have become interested in the cosmological forces called rays. A few have gone so far as to develop entire theories around this theme. I think this is what was, in part, intended. Each of us must try to understand, and apply the ideas of the theosophia perennis to the best of our abilities. However, as we reach forward with new insight we must also reach back to the source literature that inspired us a reality check so to speak. No matter how beneficial a new approach may seem to its adherents, when fundamental principles are altered we must be honest and say, what we now have is no longer an elucidation but a system of thought different from the original.
A major contrast between theosophy and many religions and schools of spiritual cosmological thought is theosophy's incompatibility with anthropomorphized metaphysical concepts, Deity in particular.
Theosophy shrinks from brutal materialization; it prefers believing that, from eternity retired within itself, the Spirit of Deity neither wills nor creates; but that, from the infinite effulgency everywhere going forth from the Great Centre, that which produces all visible and invisible things is but a Ray containing in itself the generative and conceptive power, which, in its turn produces that which the Greeks called Macrocosm, the Kabalists Tikkun or Adam Kadmon the archetypal man, and the Aryans Purusha, the manifested Brahm, or the Divine Male.
"What Is Theosophy?," Blavatsky Collected Writings II, 91.
The subject of the rays is woven through complex metaphysics that, in its entirety, is too much for a short article. However, H.P.B.'s thoughts on it can be outlined here. Two concepts must be borne in mind from the beginning. First, the universe is One. All the beings, and planes of existence that come into manifestation are collectively the One while each mirrors the One individually. Second, and most important, the rays are not beings nor do they continue in manifestation, but rather perish after being sunken into matter. The effect of this is that the monads awakened by the primeval rays have rays of their own, and so on throughout existence.
As the universe begins anew there is the One Ray that emerges from the First Logos (the unmanifested.) This One Ray is Divine Thought containing the future Primordial Seven Rays and the seven after them. The One Ray creates and fecundates the Second Logos (the matrix or womb, the partially manifest.) After doing so it is withdrawn. From this is born the Third Logos (the manifested). From the Third Logos come the Seven Primordial Rays really fourteen in all, seven spiritual and later seven material and the manifested universe. These rays are the manifestations of Divine Thought and relate to it in the same way the rainbow colors relate to white light the trinity of logoi being the prism through which the light is refracted.
The carrier of manifested Divine Thought is Fohat. As the saying goes: "Fohat is the steed and the thought is the rider." As such, the rays cannot be referred to as beings but are the impelling force of Divine Thought. H.P.B. 's example of the sun's rays not being entities, though the sun is, and the beings affected by the rays are entities is helpful at this point.
To understand the manifestation of the Primordial Seven Rays and their relationship to man H.P.B. draws our attention to the Sephirothal Tree. It is important to remind ourselves that H.P.B. was not making up a new system of thought. She was elucidating the universal mystery teachings. Consistent with this she utilized the Sephiroth to explain the rays, equating the two. It is a significant landmark for students seriously interested in the subject. The Sephiroth and the seven principles: atman, buddhi, manas, kama, prana, astral, and physical relate to the "rays". The illustration on the front page of this issue depicts the sephirothal tree found in Issac Myer's Qabbalah.
As Divine Thought manifests carried by Fohat and the kosmos materializes, Thought impresses itself upon the entire fabric of space: the spaces of space. All manifestation takes on the sevenfold nature of divinity. H.P.B. makes quite clear the major significance of the sevenfold nature of man and kosmos in The Secret Doctrine, I, xxxv:
Doctrines such as the planetary chain, or the seven races, at once give a clue to the seven-fold nature of man, for each principle is correlated to a plane, a planet, and a race; and the human principles are, on every plane, correlated to sevenfold occult forces.
Break these down, alter the sevenfold nature, and the entire system of philosophy as given by her teachers is altered.
The hierarchy of beings is this sevenfold nature of Divine Thought expressed as entities. Thus there are the seven creative "gods" or dhyanis expressed as seven collectives. Their influence (rays) transform all. In turn the regents of the sun and seven sacred planets are part of the hosts of "gods." Man is built of the combination of effects, or rays of rays of rays of monads, which were re-awakened into manifestation from the original impress of the Seven Primordial Rays, both the seven material and the seven spiritual, now perished as mentioned above. The fourteen rays are intimately connected by karma as neither can manifest without the other. So man is built of the material as well as the spiritual rays manifested through sun, moon, and sacred planets, each affecting the terrestrial man at different phases of evolution. The seven spiritual rays or consciousness-forces set into motion by the primordial seven, manifest as and through the manasaputras who awaken mankind. Human beings reflect these rays as their sevenfold nature and when awakened to their true self become the bodhisattvas, buddhas, manus, etc., of human history.
At death our true self returns to its parent star. This star, a dhyani-buddha one of the ones brought into being through the seven primordial rays remains the parent star throughout the entire manvantara. This star should not be confused with the zodiac. It is the individuality, whereas the forces of the zodiac delineate the personality, the temporary.
While a ray of the monad is affected by the influences of other emanations, it has its own history of receptive and nonreceptive responses that we call karma, and is under no special influence other than its own. For example, in the same way a reincarnating ego impersonally "picks its parents" in its process of reimbodiment on earth, it may also, through karmic affinity, identify with the spiritual-intellectual influences of a greater being, one of twelve, composing the zodiacal houses. Rather than being "imposed upon" as many may feel, the journey of the reincarnating ego may be a matter of relative free will and identity by means of accumulated habits.
Our future is written in the stars, but what a vast range this
is! An affect of the rays of Divine Thought, the universe is of
one light and one life. Our destiny is to emanate from within
ourselves the full array of infinite possibility and memory,
collectively as well as individually. What is that possibility
and that memory? It is the infinite potential for compassion and
love that repeatedly brings the universe into manifestation.
by L. Gordon Plummer
[From the question-and-answer session ending a talk given on the Sacred Seasons. The tape recording was circulated in the 1970's, but did not carry the time and place the talk was given.]
Saint Germain was certainly an Adept. Where he is, or what he is doing now, I have no idea. I am convinced that those who claim a certain group that you probably know of that Saint Germain is guiding them at the present time do not know what they are talking about.
I saw a large picture of Saint Germain in a window down in San Diego not very long ago. And also a picture of Morya, who was also supposed to be a Master who is once more working he was supposed to be holding a convention in the Middle East.
All that kind of stuff is well, in the first place, it is so confusing to people. It turns many people away in disgust. People who are trying to seek find this kind of thing and think: "Here is the answer, I'm going to get in touch with the Masters." They are deluded. And the responsibility for deluding serious human beings is a terrifying one.
If these people only realized it! They are incurring a karmic debt that they have got to set right some day. However, they do it I do not know. But, it is a terrible responsibility to mislead serious seekers for Truth into a bypath that is going to lead them nowhere. And they have got to retrace their steps; and somehow, somewhere along the line, the people that have misled them have got to help to lead them back to the Path. That is the only way I can see it.
As I think I said last time I was here, or perhaps it was at the lodge room, the responsibility of giving Teachings is an awesome one. No one should ever attempt it without being fully aware of that responsibility, making not doubly-sure, not three-times sure, but a hundred-times sure that he is giving the right Teaching. He dare not do otherwise.
That is why all Occult Teaching in the Mystery Schools began with the phrase, the Sanskrit iti maya shrutam, "thus have I heard." "I am passing it out as it was given to me in the purity of thought that I received it." That is the only way it can be passed on, the only safe way. And if you try to vary it, in any way whatever, you are assuming a responsibility that you are just not equipped to handle.
And now, people will say "that's dogmatism," but it is not anything of the sort. There is such a difference between doctrine and dogma, between Teachings and creed. The difference is that between light and dark. And to give these Teachings is no more dogmatic than to teach mathematics. In mathematics, to give a simple algebraic equation that is the way it is and it is not dogmatic to give it, one is simply enunciating a principle of mathematics.
You cannot have one school of mathematics teaching the quadratic equations one way and another school teaching them in another form it just does not happen, it cannot be. You are either learning it, or you are not, and there is nothing dogmatic about it, because it is just the way it is. And the principles of Theosophy, the principles of the Esoteric Wisdom, are just as fundamental in nature as are the principles of mathematics. You are no more dogmatic in giving the genuine Teachings than you are dogmatic in teaching mathematics.
Dogmatism occurs when a set of creeds have been thought out, as for instance in the Synod, the council of Nicaea, about 500 AD in fact, I think there were two or three of them, of these councils and their teachings were laid down in that council with no Spiritual insight, no Spiritual guidance. Certain teachings not compatible with the aims and the ambitions of those running the convention were cast out primarily the one regarding reincarnation. Origen taught reincarnation. His teachings were thrown out. It is stated that "from now onward, this is what is going to be taught." That is how dogma started. And from then on you either believed this or else! That is dogma.
We never say that in giving the Teachings. We say: "Here are the Teachings, if they seem right to you then take them. Take them to your heart. Take them to your lives. If you are not sure, meet them with an open mind. Take them for further study. Think over them. If there is anything in them that does not appeal to the best in you, cast it out." And it does not matter who tells it to you. If it does not appeal to you as being true, then you are not true to yourself if you try to accept it. No genuine Teacher will ever ask you to do anything that goes against your conscience or against your moral sense.
So there is the difference. But so many people cannot understand
and they say Theosophists are as dogmatic as anybody.
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by G. de Purucker
[Speaking of the mystical schools of former eras, G. de Purucker mentions their basic rules on pages 32 and 33 of The Fountain-Source of Occultism.]
The rules are simple in themselves, so simple that the novice, unversed in the occult code, is often disappointed at not finding something more difficult to achieve, forgetting that the grandest truths are always the simplest. One such rule is never to strike back, never to retaliate; better to suffer injustice in silence. Another is never to justify oneself, to have patience, and leave the karma to the higher law to adjust. And still another, and perhaps the greatest rule of this discipline, is to learn to forgive and to love. Then all else will come naturally, stealing into the consciousness silently, and one will know the rules intuitively, will be long suffering in patience, compassionate, and great of heart.
Can't we see the beauty of no retaliation, no attempt at self-justification, of forgiveness of injuries, of silence? One cannot take these rules too much to heart; but even so they should be followed impersonally in order that here be no possibility of brooding over real or imaginary hurts. Any rankling sense of injustice would be fatal and would in itself be a doing the very thing, in a passive way, that should be avoided either passively or actively.
The reason for the prohibition of any effort at self-defense in cases of attack or accusation is training: training in self-control, training in love. For there is no discipline so effective as self-initiated effort. Moreover, the attitude of defense not only hardens the periphery of the auric egg, but also coarsens it throughout; it emphasizes the lower personal self every time, which is a training in the inverse direction, tending towards disintegration, unrest, and hatred. Let the karmic law pursue its course. One exercises judgement and discrimination of an exceedingly high type when the consciousness of the effectiveness of this practice is gained. The more a man feels that he, in the light of his conscience, has acted well, the sense of injury, the wish to retaliate, the feverish need of self-justification, become small and unnecessary. Consciousness of right brings forgiveness, and the desire to live in compassion and understanding.
But let us not confuse the rule regarding self-justification with those responsibilities that as honest men and women we may be called upon to fulfill. It may be a clear duty actively to stand up for a principle that is at stake, or to spring to the side of one unjustly attacked. There is a kindness in being rigidly firm, in refusing to participate in evil doing. The sentimental crime of allowing evil to take place before our eyes, and thus participating in it for fear of hurting someone's feelings, is a moral weakness which leads to spiritual degradation. However, when we ourselves are attacked, preferable it is to suffer in silence. Only rarely do we need to justify our own acts.
Overcoming the eager itch of the lower part to prove that 'we are
right' may seem a negative exercise, but we shall find that it
requires very positive inner action. It is a definite spiritual
and intellectual exercise that teaches self-control and brings
equanimity. By practicing it. little by little, instinctively one
begins to see the viewpoint of the other. Yet here again, there is
a subtle danger, for this very practice may become so attractive
after one has followed it faithfully for some time, that there is
an actual risk of generating and cultivating a spiritual pride in
the success thus far achieved. This is something that one must
watch for and wrench out of one's soul.
by Kenneth Morris
[from The Theosophical Forum, September 1950, pages 535-548.]
This subject is a vast one; it is difficult to know how to tackle it intelligibly. Books and books have been written on it; hardly any two agreeing about anything. If you want to establish any conclusion you may draw, you have to bring forward pages and pages of evidence, from Greek literature, from Latin literature, from Welsh literature; and argue and argue and argue. That is the correct scientific way of doing things. I shall have to ask you to take all that for granted, and say that what I am going to give you are the conclusions my own mind has formed after considerable study, considerable pondering of all the evidence that remains to us; and that I could not prove any of these conclusions to anyone who did not want to believe in them.
You see, there are two types of mind, or two sides to the mind. One says, I'm from Missouri; show me; I won't accept anything unless it is proved; you've got no business to believe anything unless you can prove it in a chemical laboratory; measure it, weigh it, tie it up neatly into little packages, and stick a label on each. For that type of mind, or that side of the mind, there is nothing to say about Druidism; it dismisses the subject as something we know practically nothing about. But the other type is alert to catch suggestions of unknown greatness. When it hears of something, it does not ask for that something to be proved, but asks: Can I use that? Is that of value to me? Can I enlarge my soul, so to speak, by contemplation of it? To this second type of mind the subject of Druidism is one that must appeal very greatly.
The Druids were the priests of certain Celtic peoples in antiquity. They and their religion preceded Christianity in Gaul (France), in Britain and in Ireland; their headquarters was in Britain, where the religion started, and where the training colleges for the priesthood were situated. In the literature of Greece and Rome we find references to them from about 200 B.C. to 200 or 300 A.D.
The first is from an Alexandrian Greek writer named Sotion, about 200 B.C. He speaks of it as a common belief in Greece that philosophy came to the Greek world from certain foreign peoples: from the Brahmins, the Magi of Persia, the Egyptian priesthood, and the Druids. All that is proved by this is, that the highly civilized Greeks regarded the Druids not as the medicine men of a savage tribe, but as the possessors of a highly developed philosophy, capable of teaching the Greeks. Then we get references to them from the century before Christ as students and teachers of a very sublime philosophy. Then comes the time when Rome was at war with the peoples whose religion was Druidism. First there was Caesar's attack on and conquest of Gaul. It was quite unprovoked; its cause was Caesar's personal ambition; be is said to have caused the death of some three to five million Gauls in the course of the war. It is on his account of the Druids that the popular view of them is based: their supposed human sacrifices, etc. Now whatever Caesar was, there is no doubt that be was thoroughly unscrupulous. We know that he deliberately misrepresented and understated the civilization of the Celtic peoples, his enemies. We know that their civilization was in some ways more advanced than that of the Romans who conquered them: e.g., they used sailing ships, while the Roman ships were propelled by oars; and they manufactured better textiles, made and wore better clothes than the Romans, or even the Greeks. We know, too, that to lie about your enemies in war-time is a common practice with erring humanity; and Caesar did it liberally; as is proved by this fact: In giving his account of the Druids, he speaks of them as not only the priests, but as also in charge of the legal system of Gaul: which is correct. In this latter capacity, he says that the severest punishment they inflicted was excommunication: a criminal was forbidden to attend the religious services; but then two pages later be goes on to tell horrible tales about their punishing criminals by erecting huge wicker cages, filling them with criminals and burning them to death. Now if his first statement that the worst punishment they inflicted was excommunication was true, this second statement, made with a view to war-time propaganda, could not also have been true; nor does it jibe with what be says further about their being students and teachers of philosophy and science: in which connection he, like every other classical writer, speaks of them with high respect.
From Caesar's time, who conquered Gaul and twice invaded Britain unsuccessfully, for about 150 years until the Roman conquest of southern Britain was accomplished, we get a good many Roman writers referring to the Druids. They all copy Caesar in speaking of the human sacrifices; during this period the Druids were still actively or potentially the enemies of Rome. Then, when Britain was conquered and the war was finished with, we find that supposed dark side of Druidism forgotten; no writer seems to know about it any more; side and we get references once more classing the Druids with the Brahmins, the Magi and the Egyptian priesthood as possessors of a high wisdom, as the teachers of the Greeks in philosophy; as a class that knew the wisdom of the gods, the secret laws of the universe. Even in that period during which it may be supposed war-time propaganda would have influenced the Roman mind, every reference made to the Druids speaks of them as possessors of an occult knowledge, something not in possession of the Romans themselves. Sometimes it is in the way of poking a bit of fun at them they alone knew or they alone were ignorant of the secrets of the gods; sometimes it is very respectful indeed; but always it is there. I do not think an absolutely unprejudiced student could examine all the evidence from the literature of Greece and Rome without coming to the certain conclusion that the classical world held strongly to the belief that the Druids were philosophers, possessors of an esoteric wisdom, a deeper knowledge of the secrets of life and death than their neighbors and contemporaries. That undoubtedly was their reputation. Caesar with all his efforts could not shake that; indeed he does not attempt to; he accepts it. What he did was to add to it the statement that they were cruel and barbarous; which statement was believed while the Romans were at war with the Druidic peoples. When that war was over, and civilized Romans had the opportunity of mixing with civilized Celts and knowing their minds, the belief in Druidic barbarism seems to have died away.
Naturally, the Romans forbade the practice of Druidism during their occupation of Gaul from B.C. 50 say to A.D. 450, or about 500 years, and during their occupation of south Britain from about A.D. 70 to 410, say 340 years. But they never went to Ireland, which was also Druidic by religion, nor to northern Scotland; and even their occupation of Wales was very partial. There was nothing to prevent British, or to give them the modem name, Welsh, Druids from taking refuge in Ireland which country all along must have had a good deal of intercourse with Britain; there was very little to prevent Druidism being carried on in the quiet in Wales throughout the Roman occupation.
The cardinal doctrine of the Druids, according to the classical, i.e. Greek and Roman authors who refer to them, was Reincarnation. Almost every Latin author who speaks of the Druids emphasizes their belief in that natural law or fact. The idea was familiar enough in the Roman world; since it was a cardinal teaching of Pythagoras. But the way the Celts held to this doctrine or knowledge struck the Romans with surprise. To the Roman, as to us, death was rather an important event; it was the end of the book: you might speculate as to what lay beyond it; but you weren't quite certain at the best of times. Tuum semel occideris, et de te splendida Minos Fecerit arbitria, Non, Torquate genus, non te facundia, non te restituet pietas, says Horace, expressing the feeling of the Roman man in the street: When you die, and Minos, the judge of the dead, has passed judgment on you, neither genius nor piety nor wit will restore you; therefore spend what you have, enjoy your wealth now. But the Celt, the Welshman of those days, felt very differently; the Roman was both amused and amazed at the way he felt. To him, death was not much more than going to bed nightly; it was not any interruption in the long course of his life. At the appropriate time a new body would be born for him; he knew perfectly well that he would live again, here on earth. You could always even borrow money from him, to be repaid next life, or in the next but one, or in some future life, as the borrower and lender might agree. You could bank on the fact of reincarnation, just as you could bank on the sun's rising tomorrow.
Now thrice in my lifetime I have come on families in Wales wherein that knowledge had been handed down even to our own day. They were all pious Christians; but they knew that Reincarnation was a fact. Who then shall pretend to say that Druidism died out under the Roman proscription?
Soon after the Romans went in 410, Welsh literature began to be created. One of the first of the poets was Taliesin. Seventy-seven poems attributed to him come down. Scholars have fought over the question as to whether there ever was such a person, when he lived, who wrote his poems, and so forth. But according to the tradition and the most advanced scholarship these days believes that tradition is the best possible historical evidence, although the scholarship characteristic of last century was chiefly interested in picking it to pieces and pouring scorn on it according to tradition Taliesin made those poems in the sixth century, when Wales was freed from Roman rule. And if there is one idea they reek with, it is Reincarnation. "I have been in many a shape before I attained my congenial form; I have borne a banner before Alexander; I was in Canaan when Absalom was slain; My original country is the Region of the Summer Stars; I was formerly little Gwion. Now I am Taliesin."
So we see that when the classical writers contacted the Druids, they found them believers in Reincarnation as their first and most characteristic doctrine, and we find that same doctrine blazing up in Wales as soon as the Roman proscription was lifted. I think we are bound to believe that the Welsh remembered and held to their Druidism through the period of the Roman occupation.
Now I am going to speak of something rather intangible, but within the rights of a literary critic. If you take two literatures, the Welsh on the one hand, and the English, French, German or Italian, any modem literature on the other, you will notice one thing in particular. The great literatures are concerned with life as we know it. They sort and examine human experience; explore human thought. The best part of them is the work of great minds reaching out for something, trying to announce new truths concerning life; reaching out from here, from this present life in the world into the unknown. Welsh literature on the other hand, small and unimportant as it is compared to those others I have mentioned, does nothing of that kind. But and the farther you go back in it the more you feel it is haunted by something, a feeling of something vast, mysterious, in the past. Go back to the Triads, to the Mabinogi and romances, to the sixth century poetry, and you are drenched in this atmosphere. It issues from a grand mystery; it is haunted by a great unrecoverable memory. If I said that it was haunted with the memory of a real knowledge as to the inside of the universe, the secrets of life and death, once possessed in great fullness, now to be mentioned only with bated breath, to be only hinted at I think I should explain just the feeling that one gets.
Put that side by side with what the classical authors say about the wisdom possessed by the Druids, and I think we have the strongest kind of suggestion of the truth. Matthew Arnold, one of the very greatest of English literary critics, felt it strongly; he said that in studying the oldest Welsh literature he felt as if he were in a village of peasants huts built of the ruins of Ephesus. Ephesus can be taken as implying a grand, beautiful and forgotten city of the ancients, of which every stone had been curiously carved by a master artist. The literatures of the modem great nations: stones quarried out of the mountains of thought by each great writer, and built by him into the architecture of his imagining; the old Welsh literature stones quarried by giants and demigods of old, and by them fashioned into heaven knows what heaven-touching towers and pinnacles long since fallen into ruin; and of the broken ruins, peasants' cabins built. In those, the human spirit, blinded it is true, working its way from everyday human experience towards greatness, and achieving a high measure of greatness; in this one half understood reminiscence of an even greater greatness foregone. The very greatest poetry is that which most exalts the human spirit, most reveals its divinity. You might find in Shakespeare, in Dante, in Goethe to name the three grandest figures in European literature lines which assert that divinity and lofty origin as strikingly, as daringly, as those I quoted of Taliesin's "My original country is the Region of the Summer Stars"; but I have failed to find them; and I doubt whether they are to be found.
Now to every people come alternately centuries of waking, active dynamically creative life; and centuries of sleep and inactivity. Great literatures, like all other great works, are only produced by peoples in their waking or active periods; never otherwise. All great thought comes from waking peoples; all great art; all great building. Now consider that from about the thirteenth century the peoples of western continental Europe and England have been in their waking state; consequently all great literature, European and not ancient, has been produced by each of the European nations. Before the thirteenth century there was nothing of importance from any of these peoples. Of books written in this island before the thirteenth century, three make interesting reading today. They are, The Maginogion, which was written in Welsh; and two that were written in Latin, A History of the Kings of the Britons, by a Welshman named Gruffydd ab Arthur, and an Itinerary of Wales by one Geraldus Cambrensis or Gerald the Welshman. Which means, to put it shortly, that while England, France, Germany and the other countries of western Europe, have been in the waking state, Wales, and for that matter Ireland, have been sound asleep; but that between 400 A.D. or earlier and 1200 or so, the Welsh (and Irish) were to some extent awake. We may say that the period 400-1200 was night for the Europeans, and the period 1200 to the 1900's has been day for them; but that for the Celts, 400 to perhaps 1480 was twilight, and 1480 to now has been night. Now you will find this rule applying all through history wherever you may look; there are no exceptions.
by Paul Johnson
[based upon an March 13, 1998 posting to email@example.com.]
The "manifesto" published by Mr. Farthing reflects an opinion shared by a fair number of Theosophists that a "back to Blavatsky" movement is necessary to save the TS. But I find that his recommendations are often quite out of kilter with Blavatsky's own views of the Society.
In the early days of the Theosophical Society, a great effort was made to include people of widely varying religious views, and to avoid any official discrimination between belief systems. But in the Besant/Leadbeater era, increasingly anyone who didn't buy the official party line was ostracized. I've never seen even the subtle imposition of obligatory beliefs at the local level of TS activity, but it's getting more and more evident at the national and international levels. What do we mean by "obligatory?" Nothing is obligatory for TS membership. But to be treated with respect and inclusiveness by the leadership, a whole range of dogmatic beliefs are required, without which one is regarded as a "fringe Theosophist." Mr. Farthing's recommendations would, if carried out, add more pressure for doctrinal conformity among members.
People who claim that their statements are not speculation, opinion or theory, but pure fact, are a dime a dozen. Mr. Farthing asserts this on behalf of H.P.B. and her Masters, but her own assessment of her work and their knowledge was more modest. The genuine original programme of the TS was absolutely opposed to treating any pronouncements from anyone as authoritative. There is abundant documentation of this truth.
It is said that all beliefs concerning Theosophy and the T.S. should be checked against the original, and The Key to Theosophy is a good starting point. But beliefs also ought to be questioned seriously against all other knowledge prior or subsequent to H.P.B. and the Mahatma letters, if the TS is to be true to its mission. The core literature of modern Theosophy was intended to be a cornerstone for the future religions of humanity, not a rigid canon against which every other book should be evaluated for "consonance" with orthodoxy. Although I personally find the writings of Leadbeater without merit, I don't want the TS leadership to officially label anything as "theosophically defective and misleading" as proposed by Mr. Farthing. It is not the Society's business to determine any such thing, but to provide freethinking members with information on which to base their evaluations. Mr. Farthing calls for a house cleaning, with all literature not "wholly consonant" with the original teachings to no longer be promoted. But he does not explain how the Society should select authority figures who get to decide for the rest of us what is and is not wholly consonant, or what gives them the right to dictate to the membership.
Mr. Farthing further proposes that non "consonant" material be physically segregated and/or labeled in Theosophical libraries. As a librarian, I point out that the segregation and labeling of "accepted" and "suspect" literature is a profound violation of intellectual freedom. As to not selling "non-theosophical books," remember H.P.B. who advertised non-theosophical books in her magazines, and reviewed them favorably.
The mentality that decides Bailey and Steiner are "fringe" while their own favorite post-H.P.B. authors are "mainstream" is responsible for driving many people away from the Society. Baileyites and Steinerites are often dogmatic about their own literature being authoritative. The TS is called upon to be open, eclectic, and non dogmatic, in marked contrast to most religious and esoteric movements. Mr. Farthing limits his definition of "Initiate-inspired literature" to the works of Blavatsky and associates, but H.P.B. and Olcott certainly had a much vaster view of what that includes than many purporting to speak on their behalf.
Decrying efforts to "popularize" Theosophy, Mr. Farthing calls
for concentration on the original literature to the near-
exclusion of any other emphasis. But I see such efforts to keep
Theosophy "pure" as a sure recipe for shrinking the TS to a tenth
its current size and making it the "carcass stranded on a
sandbank" that H.P.B. warned about in The Key to Theosophy as the
inevitable result of dogmatism.
by G. de Purucker
[From passages in The Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, First Edition.]
[Buddhism is] the most spiritual of all religions ... There is no exoteric doctrine belonging to the great ancient world-religions which is intrinsically false. The fact is that the exoteric teaching IS the truth, but it needs a key in order to explain it; and without the key it actually can be, and usually is, misunderstood and misinterpreted, and degraded ...
Are we Buddhists? No. Not more so than we are Christians, except perhaps in this sense, that the religious philosophy of the Buddha-Sakyamuni is incomparably nearer to the Ancient Wisdom, The Esoteric Philosophy. Its main fault today is that its later teachers carried its doctrines too far along merely formal or exoteric lines; and yet with all that, and to this day, it remains the purest and holiest of the exoteric religions on earth, and its teachings even exoterically are true. They need but the esoteric key in interpretation of them. As a matter of fact, the same may be said of all the great ancient World-religions. Christianity, Brahmanism, and others, all have the same exoteric Wisdom behind the outward veil of the exoteric formal faith. (p. 190)
[There are] three grades of member of the Theosophical Movement. First, the members of the Theosophical Society, who are neither Theosophists nor Occultists necessarily, but who are those who so greatly admire our broad and universal platform, who are so much in sympathy with the ideal which Theosophy sets forth, that they have thrown in their low with us, and work with us. The second class comprises the Theosophists, that is to say, those who are more than mere members of the Theosophical Society; they are those who study the particular and certain doctrines which in our time have ben called Theosophical, and which represent the 'Eye- Doctrine,' ... the publication for the public weal of certain chosen and specified doctrines of Occultism, fit for public dissemination in our age. Lastly, the third class is ourselves, those who belong to our own hold Order, who have given themselves in a larger, in a deeper, and in a more heartful degree than the other two classes of us have done, to that sublime Wisdom. (p. 430)
We are the outmost rank or ring of that Buddhist Hierarchy of Compassion ... we may become faithful transmitters and manifestors of the divine streams from that supernal source. When we can transmit these in their native crystalline purity, when our minds become transmitters so limpid and clear, so high in their aspirations and so unadulterate in their natures that we can consciously receive and pass on these life-giving streams, the streams of understanding from the fountain of the Universal Life, then indeed we are saviors of men. (p. 536)
Occultism is the exposition of the essence of life, of the essence of being, and of the essence of living. Let us never confuse it with the so-called 'occult arts,' arts which are strictly forbidden to us as students of this School. The Brothers of the Shadow lead on their helpless victims with the occult arts, enticing them thereby, and their end is non- entity. But our Masters, our Teachers, have told us plainly: first learn discipline, first learn the Law. Then the powers which you may crave, you will crave only as spiritual powers, and only to give yourself and them to others. In the Path, our Path, the so-called 'occult arts' drop away even from the imagination, because their deluding enticements and their allurements are clearly seen. (p. 326)
As said to us so many times, the two paths lie always at our feet; at every step they diverge, one to the right and one to the left; and one single act may induce a habit, which will make a character, in time, by repetition; and that character is you or I, for it is the exercise of knowledge (or half- knowledge) and will. (p. 432)
It is for these reasons that our beloved Teacher [Katherine
Tingley] has instructed me time and again to refer to the
necessity of understanding clearly what we mean by morals, and
that there is the utmost need for their practice by each one of
us, by you and by me, every moment of our lives. (p. 432)
by Harold Merry
Humanity today is on the brink of disaster for it is unable to fathom, and deal with the present-day complexities of our society. It is incapable of determining the direction we must take and what is to be done about it. All successful functioning organisms, apart from human society share one quality; the ability to function together in harmony as a whole. This so far we seem unable to achieve.
In order to overcome our difficulties we will have to change and evolve inwardly as much as we have outwardly. If evolution is indeed to achieve higher levels of integration, the most crucial changes must take place in the realm of the human mind. Our real problem lies not in the physical constraints imposed by the external world, but in the constraints imposed by our own minds. We have succeeded in effectively using the rational characteristics of our left forebrain (our conscious mind) but we must also learn how to make effective use of our right forebrain (our intuitive mind).
Our previous evolutionary leap of self reflective consciousness not only allowed us to become aware of ourselves as conscious thinking beings, it also gave us the capacity to develop Philosophy and Science. They contributed to the growing increase of our knowledge and the enormous material progress we have made in recent times. Despite this progress we are painfully aware of our inability to tackle many of our pressing moral and social problems, which repeatedly bring about so much misery and suffering to many people on earth.
When we explore our inner selves we find that we are mainly working with the rational powers of our conscious brain because the conscious brain dominates and restricts the function of our right intuitive brain. Meditation training releases the right intuitive mind from the said domination it also opens the way for moral training aided by the four faculties of the intuitive mind. By extending the use of such training and its simplification we can raise the level of. moral decision making of increasing numbers of individuals, and elevate the level of moral conduct. This in turn will help solve pressing moral problems which have plagued us in the past.
With the development of the rational powers of our conscious mind and the invaluable knowledge derived from Philosophy and Science we were in the past disinclined to draw on the non-logical and untapped resources of our intuitive mind. We little realized that the intuitive faculties of our unconscious mind had also developed and could if called upon, provide the support and guidance which we so desperately need, and which cannot be supplied by our conscious mind alone.
At this phase in human evolution that we on earth are currently
passing through, there exists an urgent need to bring about the
aforesaid expansion in human consciousness. Without this change
our moral and social problems can only increase. The
manifestation of this new type of consciousness now shows every
likelihood of providing the foundation for a new era of moral.
and social harmony on earth. We must now focus on achieving these
aims thereby making the aforesaid objectives a reality.
by Eldon Tucker
[based upon a September 19, 1994 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
It is said that it is much easier to begin training in the Mysteries as a youth. One advantage of an early start is that there is considerable energy for growth and exploration of life in the early years, while the quota of life, of prana, is full, before becoming exhausted in the excesses of later life. A greater advantage, though, is that there is much that does not need to be unlearned. The knowledge of our western, materialistic civilization is both a blessing and a curse. It informs us; it gives us power over material things; it has a great deal of truth to it. Yet with regard to things of the spiritual side of life, it has huge blind spots, huge gaps that it won't recognize.
When we study a subject, we try to tie in what we already know with what we are studying. This is a helpful approach as long as what we know is true, and the connections that we are making with the new learning expand our knowledge. It is much harder to study a subject when we are required to give up what we think that we know! This is the case with much we may have picked up in popular thought, as well as perhaps some of our ideas finding their origin in the popular New Age literature.
Consider the spiritual consciousness. What is it? Where does it appear in our lives? Is it something real, permanent, lasting, or something delusional, a product of self-deception? Does it just come from a happy feeling, or is there something more substantive, more real and lasting to it?
Like any form of consciousness, it can be experienced as transitory, as something that comes in flashes, or lasts for a period of time, then is gone. This experience of it is the precursor, though, to its permanence. There is a real, solid, permanent nature to the spiritual-intellectual that can become a continuous experience throughout life, in much the same way as thinking and feeling and sense perception are continuous experiences of life in the world.
Although it can become a permanent faculty of consciousness, when the appropriate principles of conscious take an active role in our life, it is not guaranteed, and could be lost at some future time. Especially in the early stages of spiritual progress, the connection is tenuous, and can be broken at times.
It is possible to lost one's higher faculties. Once lost, they might leave us feeling that our previous state of awareness was unreal, as a beautiful or bad dream, but unreal. We might look at legitimate cases of self-delusion in others, and wonder if we too had not been deluded. Since we need to view things as moving forward, always for the better, we might not want to think of the situation as having lost a great treasure. But it is true, there are spiritual treasures that can be both won and lost. There are grand prizes awaiting us. And we cannot take for granted an automatic right to what we have already attained; we can lost what we have if we do not use it rightly.
Outer society tends to punish dissent. Those who go against the established order are opposed, suppressed, and sometimes expelled. This is true of all organized bodies. A church may use the threat of damnation to scare its followers into keeping in line (keeping their eyes down and their minds closed). An established body of psychologists may use the threat of mental illness or insanity to restrict our thoughts and behavior, lest we dare leave normalcy behind. Scientific bodies may use the threat of banishment, the cutting off of research funds, refusal to publish papers, and other forms of shunning to expel heretics. Political groups can use prisons, oppression, and the imposition of economic hardship to keep citizens in line.
Why should we feel in danger of banishment, in danger of arousing the opposition of the established order of things? We shouldn't, unless undertaking a certain lifestyle of active opposition to the status quo. It is possible to become holy, wise, and spiritual, and to improve our lives and the lives of those about us without taking on the outer world head-on. It really depends upon our particular goal in live. Sometimes we may feel the need to step into the public spotlight and say "this is wrong!" and take an active opposition to things in the world. Othertimes we may keep a lower profile, and quietly help people in a unrecognized, almost-unnoticed manner.
When we are in love, life is different. Everything is seen and experienced in a new, different way. In a black depression, the world darkens, and our lives are again turned around. There are many qualities of consciousness. Some are dark, negative, and destructive in nature. Others are ennobling, uplifting, and worthy of being sought after.
In order to experience a quality of consciousness, we first have to have it within ourselves. We need to have the seeds of a black depression, and an inner life that nurtures them, in order for them to sprout forth when outer circumstances push us in the right way. The outer, though, is an expression of what is within, and not the cause.
To approach the spiritual, we look within. We change ourselves and the outer circumstances will adjust themselves of their own accord, as past karmic responsibilities are worked out and we are freed to outwardly change in ways true to our new inner natures. Inner changes do not automatically come by doing the reverse, by piously adopting an outer lifestyle that is untrue to what we feel in our hearts and minds. We accomplish little when we grow our hair long, give up material possessions, and try to become wandering holy men. We still must effect changes to our inner natures, changes that never required us to leave behind our former homes and families. It is not necessary to visit Tibet, to live in a beautiful desert retreat-center, to fine-tune the purity of our physical bodies with an exacting diet, nor to faithfully meditate from 3 to 7 am for the balance of our lives! All these things are nice, and helpful in their own way, but do not represent our taking significant steps in the direction of the spiritual.
What, then, is the spiritual consciousness? How would we describe it? Granted, it cannot be conveyed by merely talking about it, but we certainly can say something. There is a feeling of being rooted in the spiritual, in a loving embrace by the totality of life. This feeling could be compared to the secure, firm grip of the parachute straps that hold, envelop, and raise us high above all, and that otherwise save us from guaranteed death. This "holding up" is done by our higher natures, on a continual basis, with or without our awareness and recognition.
The biggest change in our lives is a new, firm grasp of an inner reality, an inner change rather than any particular outer event. We appreciate and experience life differently, and we just wake up, one morning, and notice that things in life are different. This change in our lives comes quietly, gently, and it is rare for it to come with violent, traumatic, explosive outer circumstances. It is more akin to the gentle process of waking up in the morning, rather than the painful process of childbirth. We open our eyes to live in a different way, and the world is a different place.
It is possible, depending upon how we present ourselves to others, that we might be mistaken for fanatics, zealots, cultists. They might believe we need to be deprogrammed, brought back to normal, and taken out of our "delusional" state. Were that to happen, we would find our previous state as odd. Having lost something, unable to recreate it within our consciousness, we may picture it is unworthy in some way. But this is "sour grapes," and we would have lost something of incredible value.
Someone else, outside the experience, might describe it in psychological terms, and use such words as "inflation," from Jungian psychology. The state might be described as one of being possessed by an archetype, a form of psychological intoxication, a drunkenness on the numinosity of archetypal materials that never belonged in the personal consciousness. This is psychological materialism, where nothing is real unless it is interpreted in terms of the human personality, and is yet another thing to unlearn, before getting at the reality of the spiritual nature.
It is true that the personality can become deformed in various ways if we try to do things from it that are inappropriate for the personality. It is not true that we must limit ourselves to only do things that are appropriate activities for the personality. Rather, we are learning to shift our center of consciousness to the individuality, above the personality, a higher center of consciousness. The personality, looking upwards, experiences a sense of magic, of numinosity. Looking downward, the personality experiences a sense of temptation, of being drawn into corruption and self-destruction.
The personality can grow in one direction or the other. But when we seek the spiritual, we're not talking about staying in the personality, and growing it. Instead, we're talking about leaving the personality, and not having it as the seat of our consciousness anymore. It functions, it exists as an form of our self-expression, but we have become something deeper within.
When we have become rooted in the spiritual, and awakened our spiritual-intellectual natures, we don't take public opinion serious anymore. We are not dependent on external validation, nor need a guru or Theosophical Society or admiring peers to feel that we have something real. (This is not to say that we don't need Teachers, but that is an entirely different topic!) We know with certainty that there is a spiritual reality behind life, because we have a firm sense of its presence and participation in our lives.
How do we experience this presence? It is as an undertone, a background quality to everything that happens, to everything that we experience. It starts when we open our eyes in the morning, and lasts until they shut at night. There are no dark, depressed moments where we question it, because it is not a delusion, a pretense, a facade that we have built up. This presence is a real, a solid quality of our lives, not something that we "are trying to do."
Consider an angry, explosive person. Little things that happen during the day can tap into his reservoir of anger and bring him to erupt in rage. This anger is a content of his personality, a background quality that he carries with him, thought it may not find itself expressed in everything that he does. It colors his consciousness and makes the world seem to him to be a certain kind of place.
The spiritual is likewise a possible content of consciousness. It can be alive and active, a quality that readily rises to express itself in the actions of our day-to-day lives.
Now consider a devotional person, someone with considerable Bhakti energy. In his foreground consciousness there may come periods of intense feeling with incredible energy. But these waves of devotion are expensive; they drain his life energies, and he finds himself exhausted. He is left tired; the feelings quiet down and go away; their effects can even disappear from the activities of daily life until the next time for devotions.
This energy of love that he carries with himself can remain, slightly-submerged, but still coloring his life. We may be able to tell, to feel his devotional energy when we meet him. As he carries this quality with him, it is continually experienced as "background consciousness," as compared to the "foreground consciousness" of what he is doing at this particular moment in time.
The background consciousness is the higher side, and consists of the active talents, capabilities, types of awareness that we have acquired and built up in this lifetime. This is the results of our emanation of innate abilities from previous lives, from our karmic treasury. We go through life with this as a form of experience, of awareness, of enjoyment of life, in addition to that experience of the ephemeral, moment-to-moment activities of the foreground consciousness.
The foreground consciousness is the more ephemeral. It relates to the mayavic changes of physical life, the extremely tiny portion of ourselves that finds expression in the very lowest realm, the physical. The background consciousness is a deeper part of ourselves, that part of our natures that includes the totality of ourselves in this lifetime. The background consciousness is the "unmanifest" portion of the personality, that part of it that watches in the silence and out of which our activities spontaneously arise.
When our spiritual-intellectual natures are awakened, there is a presence that hovers about us, deep in the silence, acting almost as a "background deity." There is a sense of anticipation, excitement, unfulfilled promise to it. (Picture a child's feeling the night before Christmas!) This feeling comes from our being in touch with, from our having awakened a type of consciousness in ourselves that goes beyond what is possible to express. We have awakened in ourselves something too grand to come out in Fifth Race Humanity, on Globe D Earth, at this time in our evolution. Outer circumstances do not permit its expression in the moment-to-moment experience of life. It cannot yet reach physical plane expression. But it can still be experienced in the background consciousness; it still can be richly enjoyed in the silence.
There is a sense of anticipation to this spiritual faculty. We will enjoy it in its own place, on its own terms, in the after-death experiences. There are some experiences that are simply too high, too grand simply meant to be waited for, to be experienced in their own realms.
The spiritual nature comes out in life as a living presence in life. We know and feel it. It surrounds us. It enfills us. It makes the world an entirely different place for us. We do not need to periodically long for it, to send out waves of desire, of Bhakti, of aspiration to attain it. It is here. It is part of us. We have it as a rock-solid part of our experience of life. Our higher principles are awake and active, and provide us with an enriched personal life.
When the highest in our constitution is active, it does not come out in passion, in intensity of thought, feeling, or action, but rather is felt for what it is, in its own right. It is appreciated as an additional quality behind all the rest, a quality that adds its own unique contribution to our total experience.
It is not the clearest of psychical sight, the sweetest of
feelings, the holiest of aspiration or desires, nor the highest
of reason and intellectual thought. It is just different, but
important and enriching in its own right. What is it? It's
there, part of our natures. Embrace it and just know.
by L. Gordon Plummer
[From a tape recording from the 1970's of a private talk on Theosophy.]Question:
I would say first of all to the first part of the question "are they active today?" yes, because they are always active. There is not a thought in my mind that they would become inactive. They have dedicated themselves so far to service of mankind that idleness would be unthinkable. But "are they active in the bodies that they inhabited in H.P.B.'s time" is a totally different question. And whereas I have no more factual information on this matter than you or anyone else, my own thinking would lead me to believe that they long ago discarded the bodies they had at the time when H.P.B. spoke of them and when their portraits were painted under her guidance. More than likely, they have assumed new bodies.
Someone may wonder about particular modern-day groups. I think the only thing you can do is to observe and see for yourself: What is the nature of their work? Are they primarily after money? Are they charging for their teachings? Are they offering a course of "Initiation" for a price? If they are, I would not give a second thought to the idea of the Masters working through them.
Now it is perfectly true, of course, that the Theosophical Society has to charge for the books it sells. It means an outlay of materials. It means time. You are paying for the time, you are paying for the materials, you are not paying for the Teachings. They have to pay rent for a hall, so they have to take collections. This is not paying for the Teachings. But if I were to go out and say, "I will give you certain secrets of Initiation for a price," I would immediately stamp myself as a person who knows nothing about it.
I am not saying that the Theosophical Society today has any monopoly on the Masters. Nobody has a monopoly on them. Wherever there is the possibility for them to work, they will work.
It takes a colossal nerve, I think, to start something pretending backing by the Masters and take people in. And of course it shows two things. It shows the gullibility of people, and it also shows that there are many serious people that believe, at least at first, that they are finding the Truth.Question:
They had to use the best available. You are right.Question:
Yes. Am I right in thinking that Sinnett sort of turned against it toward the end?Question:
He began going to a medium, he felt he could communicate with the Master through the medium.
And then when he started saying that H.P.B. was not getting messages anymore, that is when I think he took the left-hand path, because he began denying her genuineness and would not stand by her.
But I think that before that time, when he was in India, I remember a letter warning him that the atmosphere was so thick with alcohol these people he was entertaining. And I think that even he would drink. I will go back and check that, but I am pretty sure.
And so someone said "so why would they choose someone who drank," you know? And it seemed to me that the important thing was that it was not so much his personal habits in the matter of their choice, but his potential use.
Yes, but it would not be possible, would it Gordon, for the Masters to work with anyone that karmically did not deserve it?
That of course, is true. But, I doubt that they ever arranged a tulku with him as they did with H.P.B.Question:
Yes, that is what I mean. He was a beginner, but K.H. did not have much success in getting him to be taken for anything else, so as I recall it Morya expressed doubts not over K.H.'s judgement, because he was allowed to give anybody a chance over Sinnett's real outcome. Maybe it is because he had the insight to see the future what was going to happen?
from Theosophy Magazine [Volume 26, Page 146 et seq.]
In the year 527, when the Emperor Justinian closed the Neoplatonic School in Athens and banished the last seven great Neoplatonists, the teachings of Plato and the Neoplatonists disappeared from Christian Europe for almost a thousand years. In the fifteenth century a revival of Neoplatonism arose through the efforts of Nicolas de Cusa, a Catholic Cardinal of German birth. Directly opposing the personal God of the Church, Cusa defined Deity as "the Absolute Maximum and also the absolute minimum, who comprehends all that is or can be." This laid him open to the charge of pantheism, which he did not deny. He also declared that Deity can be apprehended only through intuition, an exalted state of consciousness in which all limitations disappear. Cusa's efforts to revive Neoplatonism were continued in Germany by Reuchlin, Trithemius and Cornelius Agrippa, and in France by Bovillus. The chief stronghold of the Neoplatonic revival, however, was the city of Florence, where Theosophical principles reappeared under the protection of the powerful house of Medici.
In 1438 Cosmo de Medici made the acquaintance of Gemisthus Pletho, an ardent Platonist, who inspired him with the idea of founding a Platonic Academy in Florence. With this end in view, Cosmo selected Marsilio Ficino, the son of his chief physician, and provided for his education in Greek philosophy. Ficino's natural aptitude was so great that he was able to complete his first work on the Platonic Institutions when he was only twenty-three years old. At the age of thirty, after translating the Theogony of Hesiod, the Hymns of Proclus, Orpheus and Homer, and all of the works of Hermes Trismegistus that could be found, Ficino began his translations of Plato. When that was finished, he turned to the Neoplatonic writers, and left behind him excellent translations of Plotinus, Iamblicus, Proclus, and Synesius as his contribution to the work of the Theosophical Movement.
When Cosmo de Medici's grandson Lorenzo was eight years old, Ficino became his tutor, and embued him with a deep reverence for the Greeks. After Lorenzo became the head of the house of Medici he brought his grandfather's plans to completion. He founded a great University in Pisa, established public libraries for his people, and made many valuable additions to the Lorentian Library which by this time contained a collection of ancient manuscripts second to none in Europe. He raised the Platonic Academy to a high standard of excellence and founded an Academy in the gardens of San Marco where the finest examples of ancient art were displayed for the benefit of students. Here Lorenzo spent many happy afternoons, watching the work of Botticelli and Michaelangelo, and listening to the words of Leonardo da Vinci, whose ideas about flying machines interested him as much as his discussions on art.
On the hills of Fiesole, just outside of Florence, Lorenzo had a beautiful villa which was surrounded by a colony of writers and scholars. One day a visitor arrived, a handsome young man of twenty-one who was already a prominent figure in the world of thought. He was Giovanni Pico, a younger son of the Prince of Mirandola. Although, to quote his nephew, Pico was "still a child and beardless," he had already acquired proficiency in twenty-two languages, had been initiated into the Chaldean, Hebrew, and Arabian Mysteries, and had come under the notice of the "Brothers of the Snowy Range" in far-off Tibet. On the day of his arrival in Fiesole, the whole colony gathered around him to hear why he had left Rome so precipitously. He told them that he had become thoroughly disgusted with the ignorance displayed by the heads of the Church. He had published a series of 900 questions addressed to the Church and had invited scholars from all over Europe to be present at the debate. The intellectual leaders of the Church, after carefully examining these questions, decided that thirteen of them contained heretical statements. These were sent to the Pope, who immediately issued a bull against the young nobleman. Pico left for the more congenial atmosphere of Florence.
Lorenzo and Ficino decided that Pico would be a valuable addition to their Academy. Through the united efforts of these three the revival of Neoplatonism made rapid headway. Mirandola, who was a devoted student of Plotinus, persuaded Ficino to translate The Enneads, the influence of which appears in Mirandola's own description of God:
God is not Being; rather is He the Cause of Being. As the one primal Fountain of Being. He is properly described as the One. God is all things, the abstract Universal Unity of all things in their perfection. To even think or speak of God is profanity.
De Auro, Sir Thomas More's Translation
Pico della Mirandola died in his thirty-first year, and Marsilio Ficino followed him six years later. After the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent the Platonic Academy went out of existence. In its place arose a mystical Fraternity, the Fratres Lucis, or Brothers of Light, which was founded in Florence in 1498. In spite of the persecution of the Inquisition, this Order was still alive in the eighteenth century, numbering among its members such men as Paschalis, Cagliostro, Swedenborg and St. Germain.
One afternoon in the latter part of the fifteenth century the monk Savonarola sat in his gloomy cell in the monastery of San Marco, grieving over the corruption of the world. He thought of the unspeakable moral crimes of Pope Alexandria VI and his son Caesar Borgia and shuddered. He thought of the "pagan heresies" which Lorenzo had introduced to Florence. He thought of the godless painters who tempted holy monks with their vivid portrayals of human flesh. Savonarola arose from his meditation and swore to rid Florence of these abominations. His fervidly ascetic genius soon gained him a large following, and when the French invaders departed from the city he attempted to turn the newly formed republic into a Christian commonwealth. But when Savonarola attacked the corruption of the Holy City, sparing not even the pope himself, he was cited as a heretic. Indignantly refusing the bribe of a cardinal's hat to change his style of preaching, he continued his denunciations, which led to his excommunication and execution at the stake in 1498. This was merely the prelude to another conflagration which was started by Torquemada, the pitiless Inquisitor-General and confessor to Queen Isabella of Spain. The Spanish bonfire was fed with the bodies of 10,000 Jews, with all the Hebrew Bibles that could be found, and with 6,000 volumes of Oriental literature. Thus, by the end of the fifteenth century, Italy and Spain were once more thoroughly "Christian."
While these events were taking place in Italy and Spain, another fire of revolt omouldered in Germany. Groups of Theosophists were now scattered throughout the country, studying and assisting one another in their common struggle for esoteric knowledge. Germany was destined to be the scene of a great moral struggle during the sixteenth century, and the opposing forces were assembling. On the side of freedom were numerous agents of the Theosophical Movement, some of whom must have worked with knowledge of the great Plan, while others served an ideal arising from an unknown source in their hearts.
In 1414 a young monk named Basil Valentinus was acting as the Prior of the Benedictine Monastery in Erfurt. According to his own story, Basil determined to devote himself to the occult sciences at an early age. "I resolved to make wings for myself," he wrote, "so that I might ascend on high." His first flights into the ether must have been unsuccessful, as he relates the "my feathers were consumed and I fell headlong into the sea." But just at the moment when all hope had disappeared,
one hastened to my assistance who commanded the waters to be still; and instantly a high mountain appeared upon which I ascended, that I might examine whether there could be any friendship between inferiors and superiors, and whether indeed these Superiors had produced Themselves upon earth.
Now thoroughly convinced that Masters did exist, Basil determined that
whatever the ancient Masters had so many ages ago committed to writing and delivered to Their disciples was as true as truth itself.
The Stone of File
The first truth he discovered was that man's knowledge must commence within himself.
Only those who have obtained this passport can attain to the Magistery of Life; since they only can enter into the narrow gate (of initiation) as in the Mysteries we have just described.
Chariot of Antimony
The work of Basil Valentinus was continued by Trithemius, Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery of Spanheim, who was an Adept in the Secret Sciences and is said to have been initiated into the misteries of the Kabala by a pupil of Pico della Mirandola. He taught the seven stages of evolution, mentioned several secret cycles and made some important prophecies. His definition of Magic was purely Theosophical:
The art of Magic consists in the ability to perceive the essence of things in the light of Nature, and by using the soul-powers to produce things from the unseen Universe. In such operations the Microcosm and Macrocosm must be brought together and made to act harmoniously.
written in 1506
His pupils inquired what he meant by Nature. "Nature," Trithemius replied, "is a Unity, creating and forming everything. Such processes take place according to law. You will learn this Law if you first learn to know yourselves."
The fame of Trithemius was perpetuated by his two distinguished pupils, Paracelsus and Cornelius Agrippa. Agrippa was a statesman and linguist, physician and chemist, philosopher, Kabalist and Neoplatonist. He passed through life alternately patronized and persecuted, courted by the nobility and hunted down as a heretic by the Church. Although knighted by Margaret, Regent of the Netherlands, and honored by the Queen of France, he spent much of his life in dire poverty. Agrippa formed a secret association for the study of the occult sciences and wrote an esoteric interpretation of the New Testament. He taught the three-fold nature of the Universe, the identity of the Macrocosm and the Microcosm, and traced out the lines of correspondence between them. Space, he said, is threaded with invisible lines of magnetic force which unite men's principles with the occult forces of Nature. Hence:
The human being possesses, from the fact of its being of the same essence as all creation, a wonderful power. Truth can be made ever present to the eye of the soul. Time and space vanish before the eagle eye of the immortal soul. Her power is boundless.
De Occulto Philosophia
All of these ideas, so contrary to the teachings of the Church, were gradually preparing the minds of the people for the coming battle. In the middle of the fifteenth century John Reuchlin appeared, the Imperial Councillor of Emperor Frederick III. In spite of his diplomatic duties, Reuchlin found time to study Neoplatonism, to perfect himself in several Oriental languages, and to write an interpretation of the Kabala in which he described the sevenfold constitution of the universe in detail. When he denounced the burning of the Hebrew Bibles he was expelled from Germany and his works were burned. But later, when Melacthon, Erasmus and Martin Luther came to him for instruction, Reuchlin lit the torch which set fire to the Christian world and became in fact the "Father of the Reformation."
The immediate cause of the Reformation was the revolt in Germany against the enforced sale of indulgences, which promised the shortening of the time spent in purgatory upon the payment of a certain sum to a priest. In the year 1517 Pope Leo X, desiring to rebuild St. Peter's Cathedral, ordered a special sale of indulgences in Germany in order to collect the needed money. When the Augustinian monk Martin Luther heard the news his soul rose in rebellion. "Why," he indignantly demanded, "if the Pope releases souls from purgatory for money, does he not do it for charity? Since the Pope is as rich as Croesus, why does he not rebuild St. Peter's with his own money, instead of extorting it from poor men?" Walking boldly to the Church of Wittenberg, Luther nailed his ninety-seven Theses to the door. The people gasped at his audacity. Some trembled with fear, others rallied to Luther's support. Erasmus of Rotterdam, then considered to be the most brilliant man in Europe, refused to take sides in the controversy. Although he had already openly declared that "the monarchy of the Roman high priest was the pest of Christendom," he did not believe that a direct and aggressive attack upon the Church would accomplish the desired result. Erasmus had already voiced his own protest against the sale of indulgences, had already declared that there was no difference between Jesus' teachings and those of the pagan creeds, and had already tried to unite the world in a league of brotherhood. What, then, could this raw, uncouth monk hope to accomplish? Erasmus expressed his admiration of Luther's courage, but disapproved of his extreme methods of reform.
Luther raged when Erasmus' views were brought to him. Origen, Synesius, and Clement of Alexandria had all used moderation, and were simply excommunicated from the Church as a result. And the Albigenses, Waldenses, and Knights Templar they had used moderation and were burned at the stake. Luther felt that something more drastic than moderation was needed in this crisis. He wrote:
We punish thieves with the gallows, bandits with the sword, heretics with fire. Why should not we, with far greater propriety, attack with every kind of weapon these very masters of perdition, the Cardinals and Popes?
The reply to this outburst was a papal bull condemning Martin Luther as a heretic. As soon as the paper arrived, Luther called all his friends together, made a bonfire outside the city walls and cast into it the document itself, a copy of the Church Canon and a volume of scholastic theology which he particularly disliked.
Up to that time the Church had not taken Martin Luther seriously. She thought of him only as a vulgar, quarrelsome monk who could be quickly silenced by the Inquisition. But one morning Pope Leo received a most disturbing communication from his German representative:
These mad dogs are now well-equipped with knowledge and power. They boast that they are no longer ignorant brutes like their predecessors. Nine-tenths of the Germans are shouting "Luther!" and the other tenth goes as far at least as "Death to the Roman Curia!"
The pontiff was badly upset by this news. The matter was not as trivial as he had thought. This stupid monk must be given a lesson which he would not forget. The Edict of Worms was published, in which Luther was condemned as an outlaw and every one warned against giving him food or shelter. It also decreed that "no one shall dare to buy, sell, read or cause to be read any books of the aforesaid Martin Luther, since they are foul, noxious, and written by a notorious and stiff-necked heretic."
As Luther neared Eisenach on his way home from Worms, he was kidnapped by his friends and taken to the Castle of Wartburg, where he spent his time making a German translation of the New Testament. During his retirement, his friends and students tore down the images of the Saints in the Churches and openly opposed the celebration of the Mass. Many celibate monks and nuns, remembering Luther's story of the 6,000 infant skulls which had been found under a convent in Rome, left their cloisters and went out into the world. 'When Luther married an ex-nun, they followed his example and started their household lives. Finally the whole of Germany was split up into two opposing factions, southern Germany remaining loyal to the Pope, northern Germany becoming Protestant. In 1555 the Peace of Augsburg was ratified, after which time every ruling Prince was given the opportunity to choose his own brand of Christianity.
It cannot be denied that the Reformation led to conflicts as bloody as the "Holy Wars" of the Catholic Church. Luther was extremely intolerant of anyone who disagreed with his own interpretation of the scripture; Calvin did not scruple to betray Servetus to the Inquisition, which burned him as a heretic. Even the mild Melancthon regarded the latter event with "gratitude." Why, then, should the Reformation be described as part of the Theosophical Movement?
Whatever may be said of Martin Luther, of his colleagues and
successors in reform, the fact remains that these men were
animated by the fervor of sincerity, by a hatred of corruption
and a longing for freedom from the selfish rule and brazen
hypocrisy of Rome. Whatever were Luther's faults, he thought for himself, elected his own beliefs. This was an example to the
world. What he had done, other men could do and did. Since
his day religious thought has grown increasingly free, and in the
present, no man need answer to an external authority for his
beliefs unless he so choose.