Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it "creative observation." Creative viewing.
-- William Burroughs, THE CREATIVE OBSERVER
However, no two people see the external world in exactly the same way. To every separate person a thing is what he thinks it is -- in other words, not a thing, but a think.
-- Penelope Fitzgerald, THE GATE OF ANGELS
By John Paul Rolston
[Reprinted with permission from ERGATES, Autumn 1996.]
Of necessity time rolls on and things change. All of us feel threatened or dismayed at times when we learn that the bedrock upon which we were standing moves beneath our feet. Change is inevitable in the Theosophical Movement, as it is in all things; but the kind of changes we sanction are of the utmost importance.
There are those who would like ULT to hold strictly to The Way Things Have Been-only thus can the Teachings be preserved, they think. This is not only unwise, but fatal. To be truly orthodox is not to maintain the original form or method, but to hold to the original lines laid down. In this case, the lines were laid down for us one hundred years ago by the Masters and Their messengers. We must follow along those lines as things unfold, but we must not remain chained to the singular points on the line at which "our" events occurred, namely the advent of HPB, WQJ and Robert Crosbie. We must move forward: static organisms die.
Even during the lifetime of HPB events in the world and the turning of the cycle necessitated changes, including changes to the constitution of the T.S. and the original Three Objects. For us today to follow the specific plans, methods, and forms of the old T.S., HPB, WQJ or Robert Crosbie, would be foolish. Those were the activities of another time, another cycle. Rather, we must try to ascertain the meaning behind such plans, methods and forms, and adapt them to our time and needs. Surely their methods are of tremendous interest to us, for they are a blueprint of living the life and serving the Cause. At the same time, while principles remain the same, application does not. Short of an unambiguous letter from a Master, we are left to our own reason and our own understanding of the teachings, collectively as an Association.
One may point to the fact that HPB did not appear on the radio or television; so we too could shun the use of media such as television, computers, the Internet, video-taped productions etc. But everyone knows how short-sighted this would be. HPB lived in a different time when certain technologies weren't available. We have the ability to go forward and use new methods.
This idea isn't as obvious or widespread as one might think. Let us examine the books printed and sold by the ULT lodges. We see that we have developed a canon which closed with the death of Mr. Crosbie. No new authors have been printed (under ULT auspices) in 50 years, despite fine recent works by our best students, e.g. THE PHOENIX FIRE MYSTERY. It is among the most important books in the United States today, quoted by scholars and used in classrooms worldwide. Yet while we sell it, no ULT lodge would agree to print it, and the authors had to turn elsewhere-squandering profits and recognition that would have served ULT well. Likewise with the biography HPB by Sylvia Cranston.
The reasoning behind this situation is clear: to publish new books by authors besides the Founders would be to draw attention away from the Source Teachings, dilute the energy of the Movement, and risk misrepresentation of the philosophy. Who better can teach, we think, than our Teachers? The danger of distraction is very real and not to be played down. And yet, to remain frozen seems equally foolish, particularly as the English language evolves and the Source teachings become harder to understand by new generations. Already many newcomers (those without a good metaphysical background) find our most basic books difficult to grasp.
Some long-time Theosophists may scoff at this notion, and insist that THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY, for example, is written in plain, clear English. These Associates may not have had the recent experience of working with the reading public. One newcomer to Theosophy in Oregon, an intelligent fellow holding a Ph.D., complained that the OCEAN was written in archaic language and its meaning was opaque to him. Several educated visitors have said the same in San Francisco. For readers who doubt, let us look at the first few pages of THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY with the eyes of a newcomer to the lodge.
The third sentence of the OCEAN, page one, runs:
Although it contains by derivation the name God and thus may seem at first sight to embrace religion alone, it does not neglect science x.
For those who do not read Greek-and most people do not, nowadays- this sentence produces a blank. They do not know that theos means god, nor that sophia means wisdom.
On page two we find a series of grammatically complex sentences, beginning with this one:
The religion of the day is but a series of dogmas man-made and with no scientific foundation for promulgated ethics; while our science as yet ignores the unseen, and failing to admit the existence of a complete set of inner faculties or perception in man, it is cut off from the immense and real field of experience which lies within the visible and tangible worlds.
This sentence, besides being long and complex, contains a host of perplexities for the new student.
Which "religion of the day" is being described? Surely not Buddhism, growing quickly in the West. But what are "promulgated ethics" and what "scientific foundation" is meant? What is "our" science? Would this include homeopathy and acupuncture? Having introduced dozens of students to THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY over the course of many years, this writer assures the readers of Ergates that these questions are all too real for the beginner, and require copious explanations from a qualified guide: "In the 19th century x."
This is not to criticize Mr. Judge or the value of THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY as a brilliant compendium of the teachings in a remarkably short space; still, it is sad but true that most high-school educated people are not up to the challenge of reading it with any clear understanding of what is being communicated. In short, new introductory books are desperately needed, perhaps composed of extracts of the Founders' easier writings accompanied by explanatory text, while the OCEAN perhaps could be used as a mid-level textbook for those with a basic grasp of the teachings-for those who have developed the thirst for knowledge enough to wade through 19th century English.
Certainly, many students who have read this far will have already picked up their pens to write a scathing rebuttal to Ergates re: the above (heretical?) analysis of the accessibility of the OCEAN. But do not misunderstand: there is no doubt that the original books are the Source teachings, and we cannot allow ourselves to think that they should quietly slip into the background.
Quite the opposite, the Movement draws its life and vitality from its Founders. Newcomers to a lodge or study group should be made immediately aware of the Founders, their works, and the basic principles of Theosophy.
At the same time, propagation of works by students, if of value to the education of others, seems not only permissible but actually necessary.
While each must make one's own use of the resources our Teachers left, it is extremely helpful that the teachings come to each inquirer in his or her own language and idiom. When we cease interpreting and applying the sources anew for each ever-changing cycle, they become dead, rote, and of purely ritual value. A true student of Theosophy knows the sources, but is able to restate the teachings smoothly and accurately in his or her own words. Why should not the public receive the benefit of this expertise in new printed (or electronic) forms?
Besides the literature which we first hand to newcomers, other aspects of ULT bear scrutiny and perhaps change. What is our platform work like? Do we use the best pedagogical methods to educate our students? Last century, before television and even radio, the lecture was a popular means of entertainment and education. Today, many people feel turned off by hearing a long lecture. Psychologically, it puts the listener in a passive position, "under quarantine" as it were until the question and answer period. Yet much evidence suggests that people learn best when they are active participants, able to be part of the flow of dialogue and contribute to the give and take of proceedings. For this reason some lodges are experimenting with new formats-using a panel of people on the platform where different perspectives can be heard simultaneously; or even giving up the platform altogether and seating the group in a circle or square.
The methods of outreach in ULT could stand examination as well. In this age of technology, ULT is just beginning to try out effective new means of communication. The New York lodge has staged successful ongoing broadcasts on public television, and recorded these panel discussions on video-tape: the tapes are available to any lodge, but many centers do not seem to own the necessary audio-visual equipment. A student in the Kent, Washington group has exerted tremendous effort to put up a "page" on the World Wide Web (an aspect of the Internet), with permission to include Theosophy magazine. This has the potential to reach literally millions of inquirers. Yet most associates do not seem to know how to access the Internet (meaning they are unable to direct others to get there either). Only one or two lodges have a computer system on site, capable of monitoring and directing Theosophical discussion.
It is a bold new world compared to last century, when the teachings were re-presented once more. Things are different in our society in large part because of the efforts of the Teachers and their companions around the globe for over a century. Christian dogmas are fading; the materialistic science criticized in The Secret Doctrine has evolved into newer and slipperier shapes; Eastern religions make deep inroads in the West.
And so it is time to take stock of our successes and failures, as well as the needs of the world. We must not try to hold to the methods of yesteryear, but as far as is possible, determine the movements and work of the Masters and the needs of the cycle TODAY, and strive to help them onward.
We are a living body, and must adapt to the world in which we ourselves have wrought change. What are TODAY's societal needs, what are its problems, blind spots, errors, prejudices? Where and how will we be most effective?
As ULT, we need not confine ourselves to the role of preservers only, passively awaiting those fortunate souls who pass through the golden portals of our lodges. We can be more organized, more focused, more pro-active in meeting the needs we perceive. Should we add to our list of publications? Should we make a map of each nation, target its cities, and set up weekend "seminars" in hotels or schools? Or confine ourselves to mass communication?
Should we increase conferencing and joint projects with other groups, within and without the "Theosophical" movement? How about an annual convention?
How can we best communicate our teachings, within our price range? How can we best preserve our teachings for the future? Etc. etc.
ULT has been extremely successful in much of what it has done. Despite some inflexibility, spiritual pride, and even isolationism, we have kept the original teachings in print and in circulation, by publishing, lecturing, teaching, and studying. Our Associates have and continue to produce (privately) new works illuminating our history, our three objects, our philosophical teachings, and their relevance to modern problems. And we have established centers around the world as nuclei of brotherhood, study, and public inquiry. It is time now, at the end of the current cycle, to evaluate ourselves as critically and fairly as possible and see how we intend to carry out our mission-to the very large and diverse global village of the 21st century.
By Eldon B. Tucker
[From an October 7, 1993 posting to email@example.com.]
Psychic powers are acquired by the personality. They represent extensions to the experiences of material existence. The senses are enhanced on this or is some cases another plane. On any plane where you have fully manifested your consciousness, you are a fully-embodied seven principle being. I would associate the senses, the sensory input with the Linga Sharira, fairly low on the scale of consciousness.
Being able to see physical things at a distance, being able to look into the astral light at the formative energies behind material objects, being able to perhaps get some confused sensory input from yet another globe or plane--all these are experiences that we first acuqired while in the mineral kingdom. Our seat of conscious if far higher, centered in kama-manas and our goal is to raise it to buddhi-manas.
Extensions of the senses do not make one wiser. A dog is not wiser than a man just because the dog has an acute sense of smell. If the dog could see into the astral light, it would still not have manas, and having more to preoccupy it, might be distracted from its evolutionary goal in life, the acquisition of the capability of thought.
If you could run faster, lift heavier weights, hear better, see sharper, smell as more acutely, would you be better off? I would say no. I would say that it is not appropriate to awaken senses on other planes unless you have the qualities of consciousness appropriate to those planes. When those qualities have been developed, an appropriate vehicle of consciousness will have been developed for that globe and you will just naturally find yourself reborn there.
Faculties of the personality, including the senses, both ordinary and psychic (ahead of one's time), are appropriate to the personality you have here on globe D, our earth. Enhancing this personality does not develop the personalities appropriate to the other globes, and only strengthens the ties to physical existence here, the karmic bonds or nidanas that hold you back rather than hasten your evolution. What good it is to be able to walk on water or see what's going on at this moment thousands of miles away? The personal desire for powers can be corrupting and is a hinderance to overcome.
Say you could bridge the gap to another plane and see what is happening there. It would not be understandable. You would be looking at it through the personality evolved for the manifestation of consciousness on this globe, which is simply not equipped to interpret and deal with experiences there. (When I say another plane, I mean another REAL, substantive world, another sphere of causes, and not just the looking into the astral light surrounding our globe D earth, a passive sphere of effects in which our dreams and "astral projections" occur.)
I do not think that the idea of the "psychic scientist" is a good one. Anything that give more power to the personality, that centers one's consciousness in the activity of the personal ego, is to be avoided. Human knowledge will not be advanced by the cultivation of psychic capabilities. Common knowledge of how to cultivate paranormal powers would lead to widespread sorcery and a hastening of the end of our modern civilization.
(This is speaking, of course, from the standpoint of a spiritual aspirant, speaking as someone whose primary concern is the Path. From the standpoint of a secular scientist, the paranormal is as valid an area of research as any other, and certainly contains many untapped secrets!)
The senses we have are what is appropriate for our current evolution. What we have at our disposal to live a life in the human kingdom through our personal existences is NOT a chance occurrence, and altering the situation does not advance humanity. The evolution is overseen by our parents, the Dhyani-Chohans, and programmed the way it is based upon what is appropriate at this time.
To hasten our spiritual evolution, to advance beyond the current state of things, is not related to any particular alteration of the personality, because it is born into a regulated existence, an existence whose parameters are controlled and laid out according to the general plan of human evolution. Any accelerated advancement comes by stepping aside and cultivating with the faculties of consciousness appropriate to future periods of existence, consciousness that cannot be directly given expression in and through the personality. It is something different that merely upgrading, enhancing, extending the powers of personality.
Our ultimate goal is to develop the buddhi-manasic consciousness, something that is not an extension or extrapolation of any other principle of consciousness that we currently have. It is something that is different, yet functions at the same time, as other aspects of consciousness, and it is hard to even get the true flavor of what it's all about! The Great Initiations all represent stages of being infilled with it, coming from one's Inner God. There are a number of mysteries to it that are only hinted at in our theosophical books! Life has all sorts of wonders awaiting us!
By G. de Purucker
[From CORRELATIONS OF COSMIC AND HUMAN CONSTITUTIONS, pages 92-93 and footnote.]
I must ... with all the emphasis at my command call the attention of students of the School to the fact that any attempt by any student, who may be wasting his time in reading the exoteric Tantrika or Hatha-Yoga works of India, to apply what he has read in these exoteric works to his own body, whether by breathing exercises or otherwise, that any attempt thereby to evoke secret powers or to stimulate the body in certain and usually illicit directions, is fraught with the very gravest danger.
Such danger lies not only in the very real risk of the loss of physical health or of bodily power, but likewise involves possible severe injury to mental stability; for it is not only quite possible but even probable that such unwise dabbler in Tantrika practices, or even in those of Hatha-Yoga, will, instead of increasing his health and physical powers, in all likelihood find himself in the grip of some well-known or perhaps mysterious ailment or disease of the body, and, even worse, with possible loss of mind -- or plain insanity.
Pulmonary tuberculosis is one of the most common resultants of such dabbling, and one of the least dangerous, for there are other physical diseases far worse, such as cancer, etc., which could readily follow upon a disturbance of the equilibrium of the Pranas in the body through an attempt to evoke or to stimulate into abnormal activity one or another of the chakras upon which the misguided and unfortunate student has fastened his attention.
The effort of our students should not be to fasten attention upon the body and its organs, upon its attributes and functions, upon its powers and capacities, but to divert their attention precisely away from these things into the higher nature, where by aspiration and spiritual yearning they may awaken into far greater strength and power than now they know lofty spiritual-intellectual and higher psychical capacities which, alas, in most men lie latent from birth until death -- partly through ignorance of their existence, and partly through the inherent laziness which most men in this connection have no desire to conquer or overcome.
Consequently any observations that I may hereafter make are not by way of encouraging a study of the body and its organs, etc., etc., but by way of attempting to elevate Occidental notions of what the body is so that students in the School may learn to respect and even in a way to revere the wonderful psycho-physical mechanism and apparatus which the bodies that they have are, and thus to learn to look upon our physical bodies as instruments of the Spiritual Monad within, sounding-boards, as it were, upon which the god within us may play.
The rule which all students of the School should strive to follow is, by wholly normal and well-known methods, to keep their bodies in good health, and sweet and clean, so that they may be proper vehicles in which to live grandly and to think and function nobly. MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO -- to use the old Latin proverb -- is the rule which all should essay to follow so far as the body is concerned: "A healthy mind in a healthy body."
[The remaining text is from a footnote.]
There is a complete science regarding the chakras, but it is not a science which it would be helpful for you to study now. It is mostly studied by the Black Magicians or by those who unconsciously aspire to become Black Magicians, because what they want is to gain 'powers.'
This teaching is not encouraged in our Order unless it be under the direct supervision of a Master; and even the chelas are not allowed to cultivate the powers of the chakras by concentrating upon them.
They find out by following the chela-life how to use the powers naturally; and I have known chelas who did not even know the names of the chakras. They have heard vaguely that these nerve-centers are in the body, but they are not interested. They simply use the powers which flow through these chakras, because they have become evolved men; precisely as we today use our brains and our wills, and most men do not know what part of the brain it is which is the organ of the highest part; and most men do not know what part of the body it is through which the spiritual influence flows, and yet we use it.
This is Raja-Yoga, Jnana-Yoga, kingly union, wisdom-union; but the Hatha-Yoga tells its unfortunate students that if you want to gain physical powers you must center your attention on the chakra at the base of the spinal column.
If you want to gain powers over your fellow-men you must concentrate your attention on a chakra which is at the solar plexus, combined with another one which is at the back of the neck. This almost always leads to Black Magic. Touch it not. There is every danger of your becoming insane or diseased.
The powers that you need you will gain by living the life, the chela-life. The powers that these unfortunate Hatha-Yoga seekers long for, and occasionally gain in small degree, almost invariably work moral mischief with their natures, and psychical and physical evil to their constitutions, because they have gained these powers before they are able to control themselves. Follow the Jnana-Yoga-Marga, the Raja-Yoga-Marga, the path of Jnana-Yoga, wisdom-yoga, and Raja-Yoga, kingly union, that is to say the path of a man who is a king in his own rights, by the spiritual divinity within him.
By Jerry Hejka-Ekins
[From an October 13, 1993 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
I would like to add a thought or two based on my personal experiences in the matter of psychism. It seems that all my life, I've heard tales concerning psychic phenomena of all types. Psychics are in every generation in my own family, and stories going back to my great grandmother in the early and mid 1800's, have been handed down, and I've seen more than my share of phenomena. Based upon mine and the experiences of others, I have come to the conclusion that psychic abilities have more to do with heredity and have about as much to do with spiritual development as the color of one's hair. Therefore, I agree with Eldon; psychic ability is NOT a sign of spiritual development. As is sometimes pointed out, this E.S.P. seems to be of two types; one is based in the emotional/mental nature, while the other seems to be a function of one's spiritual nature. The first, is what I call "lower psychism," and if anything, is more of a hinderance to spiritual development, rather than a sign of it. The other appears to be a function of our spiritual nature, and is also accessible to everyone, but doesn't receive as much attention. I call this mode of perception "spiritual vision."
The lower psychism, based upon the emotional/mental nature seems to be very common. About every third person I meet seems to have this psychic nature to a greater or lessor degree. For some reason, I'm immediately aware of who those people are upon meeting them--but that is partly because I have the dubious honor of being among this group. These people are all able to at least sense if not experience other people's feelings. Some of them can sense the "psychic atmosphere" of an empty room where something of an emotional nature may have recently happened. A lessor number of them will also pickup other's thoughts (telepathy), but I never met anyone who could do this at will and with any accuracy--it was either involuntary and/or only partially accurate.
On the psychic vision (clairvoyant) level, I found that most people can see "energy fields" around people and objects. I use to teach Theosophy classes in Los Angeles where one segment was always devoted to psychism. In teaching these classes, I discovered that with very little training, almost everyone learned to see these fields in greater or lessor detail. I've tentatively concluded that they are really on the lower threshold of physical vision, accessible to almost everyone, but unconsciously blocked out because they really don't convey much (for most people) meaningful information. This kind of perception seems to be consistent with C.W. Leadbeater's description of "etheric vision," but it is not what Blavatsky means by the "etheric" or of the Linga Sirira. The latter, according to Blavatsky's descriptions, does not radiate from the body. My guess is that CWL's "etheric body" is really the very lowest levels of Blavatsky's "auric egg," which does radiate from the body and its lowest levels does border upon the physical.
Perception of colors around people, seems to be much rarer. Those whom I have met with this ability, usually see only the nimbus (an aura of color around the head), but only occasionally and involuntary. A few people I have met are able to see the entire "aura," and some are able to do so at all times. But these people don't pay any attention to it, for the same reason that people cut out "etheric vision" from their consciousness. My own experiences with seeing colors are very occasional and involuntary, so there is little I can say on this from personal experience. But I have conducted interviews with numerous people who have this ability at all times, and have discovered an inconsistency as to their perceptions of the significance of the colors. One person (a theosophist) I interviewed, was very familiar with CWL's correlations of colors (MAN VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE), and said that they were not at all consistent with her experiences.
Another thing I learned, is that the reputation psychics has very little to do with their accuracy. Around 1964, I was at a theosophical gathering at Krotona, where everyone was milling around in a large reception room in the main building. At a certain moment, while among those people, I was thinking about the Liberal Catholic Church, and about someone who was trying to get me to join it. Almost immediately, an elderly woman came across the room and told me that I would someday be a Bishop in the Liberal Catholic Church. After a short discussion, she then moved back across the room to continue her conversation with someone else. As soon as she left, another elderly man came up to me and asked what the lady said to me. I told him, and he replied that I should take her words seriously, because she was Phoebe Bendit, "one of the three greatest psychics of the Theosophical Society." C.W. Leadbeater and Dora Kunz, according to him, were the other two. Those who personally know me, can testify that my becoming a Bishop in the Liberal Catholic Church is very unlikely. The above incident seemed to me to be more of an impressive demonstration of telepathy, rather than any prediction of my future.
About twelve years later, after Phoebe Bendit had passed away, her psychiatrist husband, Laurance moved to Ojai, and for a short time, we resumed our friendship that had begun in the early sixties. For the first time, I related my experience regarding his late wife to him, and we fell into a rather lengthy conversation concerning his fifty years worth of experiences with Phoebe, and other psychics he had known. He made one very important point that stands out in my mind: clairvoyants, in his experience, are typically unable to distinguish where their observations end and their imaginations begin. He was convinced that this was a problem with all of them he had known, including his wife and C.W. Leadbeater.
Around the late sixties, Dame Sybil Leek, came to Los Angeles on a speaking tour. On a whim, I bought a ticket and went to hear her speak about Witchcraft. During the question and answer period, a woman began to describe the training she went through to develop "psychic powers," and said she was able to see events before they happened. As she described her experiences her voice started to falter and she began to break into sobs. She said that she was unable to turn this ability off, and began to beg the speaker to help her do so. Sybil Leek, replied: "My dear, you have a great gift." Most of the audience appeared to be distressed at this woman's plight, and understood the woman's plight here. Unfortunately, there were others, like the speaker, who seemed to miss the point.
I have a few personal experiences of what I call a "lower" psychic nature that I would like to share because they seem to be unique. I would like to know if anyone had experienced anything similar. One that stands out at the moment was from childhood. I remember being able to look at the wall nearest my bed, and its solidity would melt away into a vortex of motion. The wall at first would look like it was completely covered with ants moving at an amazing speed, then disappear, leaving in its place a portal of some sort. Behind, or rather "within" the wall, was a man and a woman. In all respects they appeared to be perfectly normal adult people. We would have conversations, the substance of which I can no longer remember, except that they spoke as adults and I recall complaining about the people around me. I remember feeling "turned off" when people would be speaking in one way, yet feeling differently. I think the inconsistency of people's feelings and actions was my major complaint. I don't know how I knew this, but I did. This experience also taught me not to underestimate the mind and perceptions of a child. If my experience has any general application, small children are far more perceptive then most people know.
Whatever my friendly apparitions said to me, there words were very consoling and important to me at the time. We all knew each other quite well, and I felt a bond of friendship to them that was far older than my years. I knew that they were very old and dear friends, though I had no memories of them before or outside of our visits "through the wall." One day, they told me that they had "to go," and that this would be our last visit. I remember my deep disappointment upon hearing this. We had a short goodby and the portal closed. A day or so later, I looked into the same wall, and it opened as before, but no one was there. I never repeated this until, some years later, after recalling the incident. I tried again, and the wall opened as usual, but it was with effort. I felt that my ability to open this portal was going away for lack of use. The wall opened, but nothing was there. Over the years, I had largely forgotten the incidents. Occasionally I would recall them, but I never attempted to open another portal.
When I was in my late teens, I was working a night job, stuffing newspapers, and happened to glance at the cement floor, which began to open in the same way as in my childhood. The opening was like a round portal as before, but I didn't notice anything on the other side of it. A few days later, I described the incident to a woman with whom I was studying Theosophy. She was very psychic, but we rarely discussed our experiences. I knew that she was interested in discouraging me from getting too interested in them. My aunt, who also had many experiences, also had the same attitude. My Theosophy teacher suggested that the movement that I described to be like "a swarm of ants moving at an amazing speed" might have been the molecular motion of the floor, and that I was somehow perceiving it.
I have collected stories from several people who, in stress, have experienced people appearing in their rooms--but not in walls. My own experience seems to be unique in two ways: First, they were childhood experiences of visitations rather than adult. These visions were not the common childhood experience of having "imaginary friends." That is a different kind of experience where the friends are more "inside" one, if that makes any sense. This experience seems to be closer to the appearances that some adults have at times of extreme crises. Though I don't recall going through a "crises." Second: the apparitions were "within" the wall, rather than being appearances in the same room. It was more like being in one room, sitting at a doorway, and talking to someone in an adjoining room. Perhaps someone else has had experiences like this.
Another issue I would like to discuss has to do with the emotional content of psychic transference. I remember that from earliest childhood into young adulthood, other people's feelings were always a source of confusion to me because I had difficulty distinguishing them from my own. This was never really resolved until I was in my early thirties. I remember sitting on a bench in Griffith park while my daughter was riding a pony. A young man and woman walked by, and a wave of depression came over me. I immediately became aware of my own mood swing and tried to "step away" so to say, to analyze why my mood had changed. I then realized that the man who was walking by an instant before was deeply depressed. I also knew that his woman companion was not really aware of the depth of his depression, and she was not depressed at all. It was only after that singular experience that I finally learned to make the separation between my own feeling and others. I shared this incident with my wife, who is a trained therapist. She coined the term "low ego boundaries" for this condition. That is, my own sense of self was at a level where there was no real difference between my own feelings and others, as far as my own perceptions went. It seemed to fit.
Regarding what I call "spiritual vision," I think there is a lot of confusion concerning this. About seven years ago, a theosophist who was a new member of the Krotona "inner group" approached me with a "message from those in the know" (ie the E.S.), and began to inform me as to what theosophical subjects I may or may not be permitted to discuss with other members and with the public. The E.S. members at Krotona and Wheaton were distressed at the time because we were doing historical presentations on Theosophy for the public. We had presented our show in Toronto as well as to a West Coast conference meeting that was packed with old time E.S. members. I grew angry at my messenger's impertinence of thinking he or the E.S. could dictate to me that we were not permitted to discuss theosophical history. So I started to tell him off. He calmly turned away from me, without giving me the satisfaction of blasting him, only to say as he began walking away: "you need to learn to think in your Buddhic body." I became even more infuriated at his continuing impertinence. Only after looking back on this incident that it became funny. At the time, I saw no humor in it at all. I'm telling this story not to disparage the E.S. I wrote a letter of complaint to one of those "in the know" and received a reply that "their messenger" had acted on his own, and was not "sent" by them. Whether my messenger was sent, or came on his own, his notions concerning Buddhic consciousness gives a perfect example as to how the theosophical teachings have been so badly distorted into mis-teachings that the original teachings concerning consciousness and psychism have been thrown into confusion.
Buddhic consciousness in the original teachings, is a level of relative omniscience--it is the state of consciousness of the Buddha. My messenger was implying that because of his association with the E.S., he was in possession of this consciousness, therefore my lowly protests were of no consequence to him. According to the teachings of Blavatsky, and of the Mahatma Letters, the whole of the human race is in the fourth planetary round. That is, we are still perfecting the Kamic principle. In other words, our emotional nature is still in evolution, has not been perfected, and is the primary overall focus at this time of our development. However, we are also in the fifth root race. This allows us a secondary focus on the manasic, yet even at this state, we still operate primarily out of our feelings. We can't escape them--the primary level of our consciousness is kama, though we "think" through the manasic subprinciple of kama. According to these core teachings, this is true of everyone, with very few exceptions. Those exceptions are called "fifth rounders" according to cosmological notes found in the back of the Blavatsky-Sinnett letters. According to these Mahatmic teachings, when humanity reaches the fifth round--millions of years from now, our consciousness will be centered in manas, but it won't be until the sixth round that we will be operating out of buddhi. So the claim my impertinent friend implied about himself, if he really understood what he was talking about (I don't think he did), meant that he was tens of millions of years in advance of the rest of us poor humanity. He is even in advance of the Mahatmas, and has the consciousness of a Buddha. Even K.H. is a spiritual inferior, to my messenger, since HK confessed in a letter to A.P. Sinnett that he was "annoyed" with A.O. Hume.
According to these Theosophical teachings, we are barely in the human state of evolution. Our physical forms are human enough, but our level of consciousness is still more akin to the animal. Yet, we all still get glimpses of spiritual vision. Those flashes of intuition, and the simple knowing that has nothing to do with feelings or logic, may be from those higher realms of consciousness that we are still moving toward. This kind of awareness is not accompanied with beautiful feelings, or exquisite colors, but is simply an extraordinary level of understanding that is of a loftier and truer quality than anything that could ever be achieved through psychism or clairvoyance. A book that most beautifully expresses the differences between the psychic and spiritual consciousness is the VOICE OF THE SILENCE, where the base psychic powers are called the lower iddhis. But to gain true spiritual vision:
Before the soul can see, the Harmony within must be attained, and fleshly eyes be rendered blind to all illusion.
Before the Soul can hear, the image (man) has to become as deaf to roarings as to whispers, to cries of bellowing elephants as to the silvery buzzing of the golden fire-fly. Before the soul can comprehend and may remember, she must unto the Silent Speaker be united, just as the form to which the clay is modelled is first united with the potter's mind.
For then the soul will hear, and will remember.
And then to the inner ear will speak--
-- THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE
By Eldon B. Tucker
There was an article in the April 29 issue of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, "Unraveling a Cruel Mystery of the Mind", that discussed a new breakthrough in the study of schizophrenia. The article continued some interesting information, and makes me wonder about how that form of mental illness might be described in theosophical terms.
[Some of the information in this article was originally presented in another theosophical forum in May, and met with a mixed reaction. Some people discussed their personal experiences with the illness, with knowing and having to care for family members. Others reacted with outrage, considering a presentation of these materials to be an attack on them personally, because they are actively into an exploration of the psychic, some hearing voices which they attribute to beings on other planes.]
There is a box that defines schizophrenia:
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is not, as was once widely believed, a case of multiple-personality disorder. A rundown on the condition:
- Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness characterized by inappropriate emotions, hallucinations, and a disordered thought process.
- Some medical journals call it "the worst disease affecting mankind."
- Disease strikes in late teens or early 20s.
- It affects about 2.5 million Americans, or about 1% of the population.
- A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that brain abnormalities, rather than social conditions are the cause.
- In the last six years, a host of new antipsychotic drugs has shown great promise in helping schizophrenics make steady recoveries.
The major characteristics are inappropriate emotions, hallucinations, and a disordered thought process. All three would come from a perception of the subjective "spheres of effects" that surround our objective, physical earth.
When someone sees into the astral light, and what they see is a reflection of the content of their own psyche, we have an hallucination. But is it "real". Yes, but it is subjective to the individual seeing it, and it is not physical in nature nor objective in the sense that it exists in its own right and can remain unaltered by how we might like it to be.
This "sight" is no more real than the experiences that we stage for ourselves in the devachan. Those devachanic experiences are self-made, and represent the working out the content of our consciousness. They don't represent interaction with other beings. The same is true of these "hallucinations" or glimpses of the astral light.
The inappropriate emotions would come from a failure to clearly relate to this physical world, being "out-of-focus" as it were, being focused somewhat on the non-physical realms. The person would be responding to internal, subjective events, and not clearly distinguishing the people and events before them in the physical world from these subjective experiences.
The disordered thought process would be due, perhaps, to the constant intrusion of thoughts and images into the mind.
We might wonder, what is the advantage to us, as students of Theosophy, to understanding the workings of mental illness? One is in learning better about human nature. We can observe how people grow and change for the better. We can obtain a better perspective on our inner natures, learning to better say "I am not my personality" when seeing disorders of the personality and how they are healed. It's easy to take life for granted when we are healthy, but with the onset of illness, we are reminded of the frailty of our mortal selves, and the preciousness of life. This point hits home hardest when seeing how even our mental health and our ability to understand and cope with life can be lost to us.
As aspirants to the Path, individuals seeking to initiate the process of self-genesis and hasten our personal evolution, for the purpose of serving humanity, we can learn from mental illness. We can apply a knowledge of mental illness and how it is healed to our own situation in life. We can look at how sick minds and hearts are healed, and get analogies, hints, metaphors that may apply to the steps taken in Initiation, in flowering to the spiritual. There may be keys to unlock great mysteries of life hidden in madness and how it is healed.
As to the new findings mentioned in the article:
What Hollister Found
Meggin Hollister's research gives the first indication of a link between a mother's immune system and schizophrenia.
What she discovered:
- The problem starts with a blood-type difference between mother and fetus -- for example, if fetus has positive blood type while mother has negative type.
- Through a tearing of the placenta or another mechanism, fetal blood comes into contact with the mother's blood.
- Mother's immune system launches response, producing harmful antibody capable of crossing placenta and reaching fetus.
- Antibodies affect fetal brain development, possibly leading to schizophrenia.
I would expect that the sort of brain change that is represented in schizophrenia is, as said, a breakdown in the normal brain formation, leading to an abnormal experience of life. It is not the sort of brain change that spontaneously arises as a "mutation" or evolutionary step forward.
My thinking is that the future faculties and powers that await our race are not along the lines of seeing subjective psychological content as through it were "real". They are not leading towards a greater emphasis on the subjective spheres of effects, the backstage to life, populated by spooks and elementals. They lead, rather, I think, towards greater powers of understanding and comprehension, and towards powers over manifest nature, over nature as found on this and other spheres of causes.
Evolution lies in growing POWERS OF MIND, not powers of sense perception. The ability to learn and understand mathematics, for instance, is a much "higher faculty" or "inner power" than the ability to see what color a rock is on the nth subplane of the astral. The senses we have provide us with an appropriate container for working on that evolution, and rebelling against them is like an impatient child, bored with learning, yearning to escape the confines of the classroom, wanting to run out and play at the upcoming recess.
It is a special blessing to be born into this world, with the objectivity and ability to acquire sentience that we have. If we take advantage of this opportunity, we can make great strides towards enlightenment and towards the "saving" of others. The choice, though, is ours to make as individuals. Some opt out, choosing the path of the Pratyeka Buddha, seeking solitary bliss. Others stick it out, supporting the never-ending process of bringing light, love, and upliftment into the world.
By William Q. Judge
[Reprinted from ECHOES OF THE ORIENT, I, 45-47.]
There is such a thing as being intoxicated in the course of an unwise pursuit of what we erroneously imagine is spirituality. In the Christian Bible it is very wisely directed to "prove all" and to hold only to that which is good; this advice is just as important to the student of occultism who thinks that he has separated himself from those "inferior" people engaged either in following a dogma or in tipping tables for messages from deceased relatives -- or enemies -- as it is to spiritists who believe in the "summerland" and "returning spirits."
The placid surface of the sea of spirit is the only mirror in which can be caught undisturbed the reflections of spiritual things. When a student starts upon the path and begins to see spots of light flash out now and then, or balls of golden fire roll past him, it does not mean that he is beginning to see the real Self -- pure spirit. A moment of deepest peace or wonderful revealings given to the student, is NOT the awful moment when one is about to see his spiritual guide, much less his own soul. Nor are psychical splashes of blue flame, nor visions of things that afterwards come to pass, nor sights of small sections of the astral light with its wonderful photographs of past or future, nor the sudden ringing of distant fairy-like bells, any proof that you are cultivating spirituality. These things, and still more curious things, will occur when you have passed a little distance on the way, but they are only the mere outposts of a new land which is itself wholly material, and only one removed from the plane of gross physical consciousness.
The liability to be carried off and intoxicated by these phenomena is to be guarded against. We should watch, note and discriminate in all these cases; place them down for future reference, to be related to some law, or for comparison with other circumstances of a like sort. The power that Nature has of deluding us is endless, and if we stop at these matters she will let us go no further. It is not that any person or power in nature has declared that if we do so and so we must stop, but when one is carried off by what Boehme calls "God's wonders," the result is an intoxication that produces confusion of the intellect. Were one, for instance, to regard every picture seen in the astral light as a spiritual experience, he might truly after a while brook no contradiction upon the subject, but that would be merely because he was drunk with this kind of wine. While he proceeded with his indulgence and neglected his true progress, which is always dependent upon his purity of motive and conquest of his known or ascertainable defects, nature went on accumulating the store of illusory appearances with which he satiated himself.
It is certain that any student who devotes himself to these astral happenings will see them increase. But were our whole life devoted to and rewarded by an enormous succession of phenomena, it is also equally certain that the casting off of the body would be the end of all that sort of experience, without our having added really anything to our stock of true knowledge.
The astral plane, which is the same as that of our psychic senses, is as full of strange sights and sounds as an untrodden South American forest, and has to be well understood before the student can stay there long without danger. While we can overcome the dangers of a forest by the use of human inventions, whose entire object is the physical destruction of the noxious things encountered there, we have no such aids when treading the astral labyrinth. We may be physically brave and say that no fear can enter into us, but no untrained or merely curious seeker is able to say just what effect will result to his outer senses from the attack or influence encountered by the psychical senses.
And the person who revolves selfishly around himself as a center is in greater danger of delusion than any one else, for he has not the assistance that comes from being united in thought with all other sincere seekers. One may stand in a dark house where none of the objects can be distinguished and quite plainly see all that is illuminated outside; in the same way we can see from out of the blackness of our own house -- our hearts -- the objects now and then illuminated outside by the astral lights; but we gain nothing. We must first dispel the INNER darkness before trying to see into the darkness without; we must KNOW OURSELVES before knowing things extraneous to ourselves.
This is not the road that seem easiest to students. Most of them find it far pleasanter and as they think faster, work, to look on all these outside allurements, and to cultivate all psychic senses, to the exclusion of real spiritual work.
The true road is plain and easy to find, it is so easy that very many would-be students miss it because they cannot believe it to be so simple.
"The way lies through the heart"; Ask there and wander not; Knock loud, nor hesitate Because at first the sounds Reverberating, seem to mock thee. Nor, when the door swings wide, Revealing shadows black as night, Must thou recoil. Within, the Master's messengers Have waited patiently: That Master is Thyself!
By Theosophical Students
[reprinted from Autumn, 1996 ERGATES with permission.]
Millions of people in the world now have computers that can access the Internet, and among all the many and varied subjects that are available there, it is high time that Theosophy pure and simple made an appearance!
ULT associates from different lodges have crafted two different pages for the World Wide Web in an attempt to spread broadcast the teachings of Theosophy on the Internet. These are the first exciting efforts in what will hopefully be an ongoing, expanding labor as more and more students around the globe gain access to the Internet.
All on-line computer users are invited to browse the new Los Angeles ULT web site at http://www.theosophycompany.org.
For those who are new to the World Wide Web, a little background information may be useful. The World Wide Web is a multimedia part of the Internet, meaning that when one signs on using the computer, text accompanied by sound and pictures appears. One needs a computer, a modem (something like a phone for your computer), an Internet service provider (with companies like America Online or Prodigy) and software that allows one to connect (Netscape is one well-known program).
The Los Angeles ULT web page has a menu page and several "links" or connections to further information. While one may read a book front to back, pages on the World Wide Web can be viewed in any order by following the links; just by pointing at the desired location-poof, you are there.
Its web page has links to:
This web page was designed by a ULT associate who is a beginner in computer programming (actually, she just took a class over the last year, bought a book, and educated herself as quickly as possible) so the Web page has no fancy gimmicks, colors, scripts, etc. although there are some photos and images, including a big picture of H.P. Blavatsky.
The next step is to list the web page with various on-line directories (called "search engines") so that people searching for topics in religion and philosophy can find us, and so we can assess the response. This should be accomplished by the time this issue of ERGATES goes to press.
Another Web page called "Blavatsky Net" may be found at: http://www.blavatsky.org. It is dedicated to continuing research and verification of Theosophy.
Blavatsky Net aims to become a "repository of evidence" that is supportive of, and vindicates the writings of, H.P. Blavatsky. A start has been made towards this objective.
A second objective is to make the actual words of HPB more accessible to the public. Toward this end, the various materials that vindicate her have numerous quotations from her works, mostly from THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Also all of her articles in the three volume set published by Theosophy Company plus all the articles in A MODERN PANARION (some 2000 book bound pages) have now been scanned into the computer by Blavatsky Net. They are in the process of being spell-checked, proofread and readied for web page format before being placed on-line, available for anyone in the world to download and read.
The homepage of Blavatsky Net is divided into four sections. The first section is "for visitors new to Theosophy." It has several offerings, including "Why Study Theosophy?" "The Source of Theosophy," and the article by Mr. Judge, "Theosophy Generally Stated" which was delivered at the Parliament of World Religions, 1893.
A second section is devoted to evidence for Theosophy. Offerings on this page include "Evidence supportive of Theosophy" (substantial research), "Pebbles" (light confirmations of Theosophy) and "Prophecies Fulfilled."
The third section is called "Resources" and at this writing has an alphabetical list of the 237 articles of HPB described above. When the articles are ready they will be available in full in this section.
A fourth and final section contains miscellaneous items including an announcement mailing list to which a visitor can subscribe to receive announcements of updates to the page.
This web page is able to register the number of visitors which have checked out the site, established August 16, 1996. By October 14, 1996 more that 500 visits had been registered.
By Daniel H. Caldwell
In a discussion on the theosophical view regarding psychism, a student might suggest that HPB developed and used a considerable arsenal of psychic abilities. So why are Theosophists concerned about the psychical?
There IS a difference between her situation and ours. The Mahatmas TRAINED HPB and the following quotes from their letters also indicate her special position in relation to the Mahatmas:
... imperfect as may be our visible agent -- and often most unsatisfactory and imperfect she is -- yet she is the best available at present ....
-- MAHATMA LETTERS, Letter 2
This state of hers is intimately connected with her occult training in Tibet, and due to her being sent out alone into the world to gradually prepare the way for others. After nearly a century of fruitless search, our chiefs had to avail themselves of the only opportunity to send out a European BODY ....
-- MAHATMA LETTERS, Letter 26
[HPB is] a woman of most exceptional and wonderful endowments. Combined with them she had strong personal defects, but just as she was, there was no second to her living fit for this work. We sent her to America ....
-- MAHATMA LETTERS, Letter 45
And as to HPB's occult training:
She can and did produce phenomena, owing to her natural powers combined with several long years of regular training, and her phenomena are sometimes better, more wonderful and far more perfect than those of some high, initiated chelas ....
-- MAHATMA LETTERS, Letter 54
But as to the regular run of psychics and seers in HPB's time, Koot Hoomi pens the following:
Vainly do your modern seers and their prophetesses, creep into every cleft and crevice without outlet or continuity they chance to see; and still more vainly, when once within do they lift up their voices and loudly cry: 'Eureka! We have gotten a revelation from the Lord!' -- for verily have they nothing of the kind. They have disturbed but bats, less blind their intruders; who, feeling them flying about, mistake them as often for angels -- as they too have wings! Doubt not ...it is but from the very top of those 'adamantine rocks' of ours, not at their foot, that one is ever enabled to perceive the WHOLE Truth, by embracing the whole limitless horizon ....
-- MAHATMA LETTERS, Letter 48
And there is much in this letter on psychism.
Here is what Koot Hoomi says in a letter to Laura Holloway who herself was a clairvoyant, psychic and sensitive. This passage has never been published before:
... since you have scarcely learned the elements of self-control, in psychism, you must suffer bad consequences. You draw to yourself the nearest and strongest influences -- often evil -- and absorb them, and are psychically stifled or narcotised by them. The airs become peopled with resuscitated phantoms. They give you false tokens, misleading revelations, deceptive images. Your vivid creative fancy evokes illusive Gurus and chelas, and puts into their mouths words coined the instant before in the mint of your mind, unknown to yourself. The false appears as real, as the true, and you have no EXACT METHOD of detection, since you are yet prone to force your communications to agree with your pre- conceptions.
-- Letter dated July, 1884.
And Morya also writes on psychism:
There is one general law of vision (physical and mental or spiritual) but there is a qualifying special law proving that all vision must be determined by the quality or grade of man's spirit and soul, and also by the ability to translate diverse qualities of waves of astral light into consciousness. There is but one general law of life, but innumerable laws qualify and determine the myriads of forms perceived and of sounds heard. There are those who are willingly and others who are UNWILLINGLY -- blind. Mediums belong to the former, sensitives to the latter. Unless regularly initiated and trained -- concerning the spiritual insight of things and the supposed revelations made unto man in all ages from Socrates down to Swedenborg .... -- no self-tutored seer or clairaudient ever saw or heard QUITE correctly.
-- MAHATMA LETTERS, Letter 40
And KH writes:
The world of force is the world of Occultism and the only one whither the highest initiate goes to probe the secrets of being. Hence no-one but such an initiate can know anything of these secrets. Guided by his Guru the chela first discovers this world, then its laws ....
-- MAHATMA LETTERS, Letter 22
[Note that letters from the Mahatmas are referenced from the first, second, and third editions of THE MAHATMA LETTERS.]
By Charles Cosimano
The Sages know nothing about the scientific method. Experiments have to be repeatable, not the subjective ravings of psychical lunatics. It is their sort of nonsense that keeps us from making serious headway in getting funding for real research into this area.
I find it difficult to keep an open mind on things that bring my area of psionic research into disrepute. I've seen writings that reveal the workings of mind that are fundamentally disfunctional, probably schizophrenic judging by the symptoms, but clearly ill.
The problem I have with some psychical investigators is twofold.
First, I am turned off by the tone of their approach to things, but that is a personal matter of taste and I would never be so foolish as to expect anyone else to agree with me on it.
The second is far more serious. One of the things we have learned about how the brain functions is that the electrical activity inside it takes visual forms. So a piece of music, for example, will cause the optic nervous system, not merely the optic nerves but that part of the brain that sees, to have a visual experience. This is easily provable by the fact that if one is meditating and is disturbed by a sudden noise one sees all kinds of colors for an instant.
In any event, these forms have been mapped to the point were computers can be programmed to duplicate emotions by the visual forms they produce. Some have apparently seen these forms and then externalized the vision. In other words they saw them outside of themselves rather than merely as an internal light show.
Now this skill can be learned. It is, in fact, the visualization training that is so important in magick. When it is involuntary, however, as was clearly the case with some investigators I've read, it is a symptom of mental illness and in fact is part of the diagnoses of schizophrenia.
We have a problem because of the totally subjective nature of some writers' visions. As far as their other clairvoyant work, some of it may be valuable as anecdotal evidence, but the problem of repeatability still bedevils us and will for some time. That is why academic type parapsychologists have gone to the statistical gobbledygook that makes their work unreadable.
Now, to be fair, some of the psychically-based books were written by a generation that was notoriously uncritical in its thinking. There was such a strong desire to believe in something, anything, that the most preposterous claims were often taken on face value, especially in the Theosophical Society, sadly to say. And at the time the peculiar workings of the brain were not understood as they are today and we still are only scratching the surface.
Some writers had the problem that they may have become so idolized that they believed their own press, as it were, and lost the ability to question the reality of their visions. It may be that the only way to deal with such people is to examine each action as an individual phenomenon and divorce it from any whole in order to find out what was true and what was nonsense. But hero-worship does no good in any form of inquiry. It only gets in the way and we can observe some fundamentally questionable attitudes.
Clearly such comments as references personal visits from the master Polidentus does not cause any confidence in this sort of literature.
There is a type of divine madness that brings breakthroughs. Then there is the type that creates an overweening spiritual pride that makes the sufferer think that the guardian angel of a continent would be happy that the person deigned to notice him. That was the type of looniness that psychical investigators may fall prey to.
Let's move forward with real scientific research into the psychical, and leave this looniness behind!
By David Lane
[The following article originally appeared on the Internet in April. It has been reformatted and the language slightly smoothed out, then reviewed by the author for approval.]
[The issue touched upon is as important in theosophical circles as it is in ECK, which includes the basic question: How real are subjective psychic experiences?]
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Bill Couch, and Eckankar Masters are appearing at the Astral Starlite Tonite!
What immediately strikes one about purported inner visions is the amazing plasiticity of the encounters. Literally anyone can see anybody at anytime! From Masters, to Babaji (of Yogananda fame) to Jesus (that allegedly real person who died some 2000 years ago).
Now this reminds me of one my all-time favorite characters, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who made a delightful appearance in the first Ghostbusters film.
What happens if one sees him on the inner regions? Are we then to suggest that he "really" exists? Or, are we to say that the imagine-nation (one of the few places apparently with no boundaries, especially rational zones) allows for innumerable characters to live and breathe which have no empirical or super-empirical referent?
I think this is central to our ongoing discussions about Masters and their historicity. Are they world citizens or merely part of the voting population on Tuza? Why is this important? Because it seems that we are confusing two types of images:
(1) There are image-produced characters which are an admixture of what we read, see, smell, and believe. "Hey, I just saw a pink unicorn playing with pee wee herman upon a pyramid in Elvis' deli at Plato's cave next to silly putty's newspaper stand!"
(2) There are images which are more or less reflections of what appears relatively stable and permanent in the here and now.
For instance, we can argue about the "love" of Jesus and debate endlessly about it, and never come up with a "best" answer. Why? Because we are stuck to speculation that has no fundamental or empirical referent.
However, if we argued about how to start a car, our debate would more or less resolve itself by pointing to the key and pointing to how to turn it. Now I realize that my postmodern friends are going to tell me that that stuff is "relative" or "decontextualized" too.
But, quite frankly, when triple A shows up and you need a jump start, post-modern "textual" readings just collapse. -- Or else you end up staying at Ralphs all night long!
When we debate these inner visions, we are essentially talking non-sense. And, as such, anyone's vision is about as good as another's! Which is it? Stay Puft? Virgin Mary? The Master K.H.? They're all nonsense, unless, of course, there are some outer and inner criterion upon which we can have common agreement.
This note is not meant to be an answer, but merely a starting point. The question, then: How can we differentiate an inner vision of a Marshmallow man from a religious vision of our chosen guru? Is there a difference? If so, why? If not, why not?
Here's the catch: The parameters by which we answer this question, I would suggest, should be at least pointing in the direction of how we start cars every morning.
In other words, it should have some point at which we do it right, do it wrong, or just don't do it at all. Unless we do that, then of course we can simply lubricate all the more and never ever differentiate! Which is okay, until the vision you have rapes or molests or kills you!
So here's the question in a simplified form: How does one know that an inner vision is "real"? Or at least more real or more useful than one of Bill Couch dressed up as a dessert. (Bill Couch was the stunt man who played the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.)
By Charles Cosamino
[Written March 12.]
This is going to come as shocker to some people, but only last week, a young man, full of great promise and determination but with little in the way of actual sense, pushed occult experimentation to the point where he committed suicide. He had managed to combine premature kundalini, self-possession and the Exu into one unhealthy occult cocktail.
I was unable to help him and his other confidant, another occult inventor, tried as well, to no avail.
Coming at the same time as a seriously painful illness, this news was a jolt to my system that is going to take some work recovering from and maybe even some re-evaluating of my own ideas, for in spite of a deliberately reckless philosphy of life, I tend to take a very cautious actual approach to things.
I'm probably going to have to do some book re-writing and be more reflective of that.
By Jerry Hejka-Ekins
[from an October 20, 1993 posting to email@example.com.]
Regarding the question concerning people gaining "real medical or psychological relief" from past life regressions, I would like to express my thoughts. From all reports that I have heard about, and past life therapists I have talked to, there appears to be genuine value in past life therapy in relieving psychological anxiety and physical problems. Somehow, the experiences that the person has under hypnosis, whether they be metaphorical or actual memories, serves to get people past old issues and on to a newer and better life. On the other hand, the question as two whether the client has actually experienced a memory of their past life is neither proven or disproven in this situation. Other explanations are already available. For instance the patients may be drawing the material from their own unconscious, which has made the material unrecognizable through the psychological processes of condensation and displacement as we do in dreams--or through the mechanism of decomposition, used in mythology. Condensation is the process of taking a lot of meaningful but unpleasant or traumatic experiences and condensing them into one unrecognizable experience or symbol. For example: lets say that at different times over the past five years, you: 1. read a disturbing article in the newspaper about a mass murder; 2. had a disagreement with your boss; 3. inadvertently knocked over a pile of books at work. Later you might dream of a porcelain doll of a king that you brush against and it falls and breaks. The doll may represent your boss, who may have a brittle personality; brushing up against it and knocking it over may represent your knocking over the books; the doll breaking may represent the loss of lives through the massacre you read about in the newspaper. Though the three events were unrelated by time or causality, they were still condensed into a single unique experience, unlike anything in memory, though the dream may carry the feeling of familiarity, and may now symbolize a new situation that has fragments of the characteristics of the unrelated real life experiences.
Displacement is a mechanism where something less pleasant is replaced by something more pleasant or acceptable. Most people, in a public place have inherited the Victorian custom of asking where the "restroom," or the "bathroom" is, when what they really want is the "toilet." But the toilet is too specifically suggestive in this culture. In France, where there is less shyness about these things, if you were to ask for the "bathroom (le salle de bain), people would assume that you want to take a bath. But the English culture is more shy about these things. So our language allows us to displace the toilet for the bath or the swooning couches that used to be located in them. In dreams, we may have a character acting out characteristics of ourselves that we prefer not to admit that we have. Decomposition occurs in mythology and works of fiction. Several people with different personalities may represent one person in life whose more complicated personality is divided up among the several new characters. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Claudius, the Ghost, and Polonius all represent father figures for the protagonist. Therefore, it is possible that the patient is unconsciously using these mechanisms to create a past life that would have the cathartic effect of relieving a lot of turmoil. Or to say it another way, they unwittingly created a myth to give relief and meaning to a lot of unresolved problems.
You may recognize these terms as originating from Freud. Some people would reject them just because of the association of his name. Too bad. Though many of Freud's ideas have fallen into doubt, he also had many brilliant ones. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.
By Donald J. DeGracia
[This material first appeared in postings to theos-buds on June 5, 1996.]
I scientifically study the OBE/Astral projection/Lucid dream experience. I'd like to try to cool this unnecessary bickering back and forth between occultists and scientists.
In a nutshell, some theosophical students have a bad attitude for ignoring the evidence that scientists present. Scientists refer to well established facts, and it is only by being uninformed that one is not aware of them.
Granted, some scientists have a bad attitude. Sarcasm and constant reference to "trivial explanations" for OOBES as a form of dreaming seem to me to indicate that they are quite unimaginative and do not appear to appreciate some of the subtleties involved. Their sarcasm and cockiness are also in bad taste and do little by way of inducing intelligent conversation.
Nonetheless, within the scope of present knowledge scientists have the facts on their side. The slant I have since taken is that the scientific and occult views can be reconciled only when scientists become deeper in their thinking and, for example, realize that dreams are by no means trivial experiences but imply vast subtlties about the nature of the brain.
On the other hand, occultists must learn to be better informed as to the status of current knowlege. Many occult ideas were formulated in the late 1800s and many have since been simply shown to be false.
Our scientific understanding has mushroomed massivly since the days of Blavatsky or Leadbeater and no amount of attachment to outdated ideas can change the growth in knowledge that has occured in the past 100 years.
So, if both sides could only make the effort to meet in the middle, perhaps we could get beyond this pettiness.
Am I simply echoing the majority opinion? At a superficial level this is indeed true. As the reader probes deeper into my understanding though, I don't know if such a statement can apply.
We could say that the "facts" of science of today may change at any time. Don't they go in and out of fashion almost as frequently as hemlines?
This statement is observant and accurate to a degree, however, it is incomplete. Science has a cumulative nature about it. Most mathematicians today continue to quote Euclid because many of Euclid's ideas forn the corner stone of math. Non-Euclidean geometry (which Einstein used to forumlate Relativity theory) is not a refutation of Euclid -- it is an extension of Euclid and would not exist without Euclid's contributions.
This is generally true of all science. I am a chemist. I do not quote 18th century chemist like Lavosier or Dalton, but everything I do in my lab implies what these people discovered two centuries ago. What I do in my lab would be impossible without their contributions.
So, the nuts and bolts of science are not really fashion at all, nor are they arbitrary. They are techniques and viewpoints that serve as foundations to build upon.
There is a tendancy among scientists to have an a priori rejection of all extraphysical phenonema. Part of this attitude amongst scientists reflects the historical roots of science: science grew as a counter-cultural movement to the unthinking dogma of the Medieval Church. And, like a brash teenager trying to proove his own, science rejected its connection to spirutal truths.
This is not universal among scientists, though, and not even the general rule. Many great scientists, including Newton, Einstein, and many others were imminently spiritual men, and saw science in a spritual light.
Another part of this attitude has to do with finding the least complicated explanation. Science is driven by Ocam's razor, which is to find the simplest explanation for a phenomena. When this fails, more complicated explanations are then invoked. Necessity drives this process, not fancy or speculation. The history of science is replete with such examples.
Thus, to attribute OOBEs as phenomena created by the brain is the simplest explanation, and also the most obvious. It is a starting point, and a good one that has worked well for the past several decades in which this paradigm has been used. Again however, a scientist simply has a bad attitude when treating these issues are all black and white.
Even Manly Hall himself has said that we should not try to invoke super-physical explanations when a physical explanation will suffice. This of course is different from rejecting spirituality in any sense, which is a mistake many scientists make. Scientists who flat out reject spirituality simply expose their ignorance and lack of depth and subtlety.
Someone might say that while the brain is an immensely interesting thing, it is not the most interesting. To occultists, not mere mystics, the mind might be considered paramount.
This is what is taught, but it is an unfortunate viewpoint. It is making a dichotomy where, in fact, there is none. It is also unfortunate that occultists feel justified to ignore the knowldege of the brain without first studying it and trying to understand it. I used to hold this attitude, but I was force to learn about the brain in my PhD program, and what i learned so fascinated me that I now am enamored with the study of the brain. I can literally think of no more interesting topic. The brain is a vast mystery and to dismiss its study so nonchalantly only reveals that you are not well informed about our current state of knowledge of the brain and mind.
The brain and mind are two different views of the exact same thing. The mind is not different from the brain. The mind is a process created by the brain. Now, this does not need to imply that there is no mind that transcends brains, as for example, with the occult idea of the mental plane. From another angle, God's mind created not only the brain, but the entire physical world.
All I am saying is do not sell yourself short by rejecting ideas with which you have no familiarity. If your brain was to become damaged either by trauma, stroke or other means, you would quickly appreciate the significance of the brain in the action of the mind. I hope it never comes to this and that you can simply open your mind to current knowledge and discover intellectually just how important the brain is for the operation of your mind.
Another popular analogy is to compare the brain to a fantastically efficient computer, while describing the mind as the operator of that computer.
Again, such thinking is a vast oversimplification. There is nothing wrong if you wish to allow your thinking to exist at such a simple level. However, when others offer more sophisticated views, I would hope you would at least listen to what they have to say.
The brain/mind is very, very different from a computer. I don't have time to go into this but if you want references to authors who discuss this matter, I can happily send them to you.
The brain controls itself. Your sense of control of your thoughts, emotions and actions are in fact due to a specific part of your cerebral cortex. There are thousands of documented cases of people who have sustained damage to these regions of the cortex and lost control of themselves and experienced drastic changes in personality.
I use to believe that the brain was merely a channel for our non-physical self. I no longer belief this idea. I consider the idea, but I do not believe it. What I do know, and have seen in hospital settings is that people who experience brain damage undergo drastic changes in their mental and psychological functioning.
To me, the crux of the matter always rested on dreams. Dreams, supposedly are our nonphysical experiences, or at least some of them are. The fact is however, when people suffer symptoms of brain damage, these symptoms are also present in their dreams. If our dreams were, say, our astral body acting semi-independently of the physical body, there is no reason to believe that brain damage would affect the action of the astral body. However, brain damage symptoms do occur in the person's dreams, indicating that dreams themselves are a product of the brain.
This idea leads to a very different line of thought than the traditional occult view that seperates physical and nonphyscal bodies. Instead of simply rejecting this view because it appears to counterdict what you presently believe, I would recommend opening up to this view, even if it does challange your present believes.
I have discovered, and unfortunately, again do not have time to dwell on this issue, that the idea that the brain creates our conscious awareness is not contradictory to traditional occult ideas of transcendental realities. however, by mixing the two viewpoints, a new viewpoint emerges that is substantially different than either alone, and, not suprisingly, is a view in complete harmony with the great mystical and religious truths of the aeons.
At this point, someone might assert that the brain/mind separation is a perception of reality that is not amenable to either scientific proof or disproof in our times.
Again, I would only suggest that the reader familiarize oneself with the evidence. When you see the state of our current knowledge, you will come to appreciate that such statements as this are no longer applicable.
Please don't think that the brain/mind relationship solely deals with matters spiritual, and is never amenable to scientific proof. It can, I say, be studied by scientests, in an open and unbiased manner.
And while we expect scientists to approach this study with an open mind, we should expect theosophical students to make the effort to familiarize themselves with current evidence and thinking.
You will see that scientific ideas are not biased, that they are driven by necessity (for example, trying to determine how to treat a victum of brain damage). You must ask yourself: as an occultiust who makes a claim to understanding the human constitustion, how would you personally deal with a person who has suffered brain damage? How would your ideas be of practical value in helping such a person?
This is really worth thinking about.
By Eldon B. Tucker
[from October 20, 1993 posting on firstname.lastname@example.org.]
I'm not sure that I'd call Theosophy just a library of ideas, since its deep study constitutes a spiritual practice that awakens the highest and most noble parts of our natures.
The study of Theosophy is a practice, and it is more real than the visiting, in our current state of human development, of other planes. We do not become something by visiting a place, we change by changing ourselves. A bird that happens to fly through a human library will not thereby gain human knowledge. There is a long sweep of evolutionary unfoldment, and it is hastened by the awakening of additional faculties of consciousness, and by the deepening of the consciousness that we have, not by escaping the physical plane or perceiving the physical side to other planes. WHERE WE ARE is not as important as the fact of the self-unfoldment of consciousness.
I would say that it is possible to hasten our spiritual evolution through the study of Theosophy, whereas the cultivation of psychic capabilities is a distraction at best, and often a hinderance. I don't think that the acquiring of paranormal powers is a something new; we've had great powers in previous races, they come and go in a cyclic manner; they are one phase of the experience of life in the personality. The life that we have in a particular subrace, including the senses and powers, are regulated by, I would say, the Dhyani Chohans. Their presence, the times when they naturally occur, their ease of use all come when a particular type of learning in the personality is needed. Their absence likewise comes when different types of learning are needed.
Psychic and magical powers, powers to perceive and control our external environment, on whatever plane, were developed in us before even reaching the human kingdom. The powers we are developing, and we've only made a start at it, are the powers of mind.
I'm not sure where the dividing line between safe and dangerous psychic development lies. In medicine, there is the concept of prescription and non-perscription drugs. If you're a doctor and have had medical school training, you can write prescriptions; otherwise you're left to the guidance of your doctor and may only on your own use non-perscription drugs.
When you acquire paranormal powers, what part of your nature are you developing? Certainly not the spiritual. Do they come along with spiritual development? I'd say not, since their possesion is a cyclic attribute of personality and not a permanent, lasting, evolutionary change.
I'd say that the western occultism that may come from Theosophy will center around the study of the original teachings. And the popular religion to come will center around a few core ideas of Theosophy wedded to popular thought, with perhaps a bit of astrology, the Tarot, Jungian psychology, astral projection, magical practices, and Buddhism thrown in. The religion will contain much that is popular and touches people in an easy-to-see, immediate way, and like the other religions be an exoteric blind for the esoteric truths.
When comparing Theosophy to Jungian psychology or the various religions of the world--say Christianity, Buddhism, or Hinduism--it is possible to draw analogies and enrich one's understanding of the teachings to a degree. It's important to do this with care, though, since not everything in every religion or philosophy is correct. When drawing on quotes from the religions of the world in "The Secret Doctrine", HPB would sometimes say "we agree with this", but also at times say "we don't agree with that" ... Theosophy provides a key to help the student separate the good from the bad, it does not say all is good, believe everything, everywhere.
We can, say, talk about the different schools of Yoga, the Tree of Life, the Tibetan Deities, Jungian archetypes, or near-death experiences. We can apply keys to understanding them provided us by Theosophy. There is much to be learned in them. But I would say that we can be misled when we use them to teach us Theosophy.
Take Tibetan Buddhism. We can go to it and see certain ideas as theosophical. Further exploring Buddhism, we may find related Buddhist ideas that we can apply back to Theosophy. We are using Buddhism as an analogy to Theosophy and extending the analogy to see if we can learn something more. And it may very well prove true and we may have new understandings. But it could also prove to be a false analogy. Discrimination is needed and each idea must be tested against the teachings to see if it has the ring of truth to it.
If Theosophy says that we are reborn, and another philosophy that we might study also says we are reborn, there is an analogy. But if the other philosophy goes on to say that we are reborn as butterflies, we'd reject that idea as inconsistent with the teachings. (Excuse the poor example here, it's the only one that happens to occur to me at this moment as I'm writing this.)
I'd say that going after the highest and most spiritual in you is the most direct route, the quickest approach to spiritual evolution, where the personality is maintained but not given too much importance. Forget the senses and go deeper within, KNOW and BE, don't just see, touch, and taste life.