Dogmatic theological statements are neither logical propositions nor poetic utterances. They are "shaggy dog" stories; they have a point, but he who tried too hard to get it will miss it.
-- W.H. Auden (1907-73), Anglo-American poet.
By Boris de Zirkoff
[This was a private talk given December 22, 1974, to a gathering of about twenty Theosophists in the home of Lina Psaltis, Ojai, CA.]
Lina, and friends, we are glad to be here -- all of us -- and to partake of the hospitality of Lina's house. It is a beautiful day outside, a little windy, brisk. Look at the sky and you wonder what we can do to have our own minds as clear as that sky is.
We will consider tonight, friends, some Teachings and ideas connected with the Winter Solstice. All over the world, as far back as we know in the night of time, there have been these celebrations, festivities, rites, connected with the Winter Solstice. All over the world, and among all the races of people, both the Winter and the Summer Solstice and the two Equinoxes of Spring and Autumn have been revered, greatly revered, as sacred points in the compass of the year, and have been connected with profound symbolism in many rites and ceremonies. And they are all based on very ancient traditions. Particularly the Winter Solstice, which has been from time immemorial considered to be the period of the birth of divine beings, the birth of gods, the appearance of Initiates, the Masters of Life. Actually the appearance of divine beings. Traditions and symbolism connected with it have always been centered around the Winter Solstice. And throughout the length and breadth of mankind, we have had these rites celebrated in the dead of winter, in connection with spiritual events, which traditions have told us about, and which are based on the actual facts of nature.
Now the Winter Solstice as such is only a part of a larger picture. In order to get the more complete picture you have to think of the four Sacred Seasons of the year: the Winter Solstice, the Spring Equinox, the Summer Solstice, and the Autumnal or Fall Equinox. This is a yearly cycle, each part with its own specific meaning. Each one different from the others and yet deeply correlated with each other. The symbolism of the four Sacred Seasons of the year is based primarily on astronomical facts. Astronomical and astrological in a way; but do not read into the term ASTROLOGICAL anything that goes by that name today. It is something much more deeper. Now the simple astronomical fact is -- of course -- that the motion of the earth in its orbit around the sun encounters these four positions, these four main positions, at which time the days are of a certain length, and the nights -- or they are of equal length, the passage from the Winter Solstice to the Spring Equinox, and so on through the Summer Solstice to the Fall Equinox is familiar to most of us.
Now this astronomical symbol which might be called a Cross, a Cosmic Cross, the intersecting line of the Solstices and the Equinoxes. That symbolism is reflected in our daily life, and the life of the twenty-four hours if you like, and in the life of the individual throughout his incarnation. Anyone of us is passing through four primary or essential stages of development. The first is our birth, our physical birth. The second is adolescence. The third is complete and full manhood or womanhood in its full sway. The individual is in full possession of all he will be in this particular life -- great or small -- he has achieved the highest point of his personal development, and after a while will begin gradually to decline into old age and the fourth stage, and final for this incarnation, his passing. Followed, of course, as the theosophical philosophy of life is concerned, by many other lives based on the same general pattern. And that general pattern applies to other kingdoms below the human. Now the fact that we go through these four stages and the fact that these stages are symbolized by the four Sacred Seasons of the year have to do with another extension of the same symbolism. And that is connected with what is generally known as Initiations.
Now there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the meaning of that term. Not misunderstandings among students of Theosophy, but generally in the world. The word has been used and misused. But essentially what is meant by students of Theosophy by the term INITIATION is something like this, to put it simply: An individual aspiring to the Spiritual Life gradually discovering, uncovering within himself great potentials of growth, and gradually becoming aware of the great distinction there is between material life and spiritual life, and growing in love for and devotion to spiritual ideals, may go that way through many incarnations. And little by little training himself to a greater knowledge, to the possession of greater knowledge, to the development of greater spiritual powers, and someday in one or another of his incarnations will achieve or rather reach the point where he makes a final and permanent contact between his personal consciousness and the divinity within himself. Not just an aspiration towards it, not a vague sense of its presence, but a personal, strong, and positive, and permanent link forged between his lessor self, the human self, however far advanced it may be, and the Inner God. Mystical Christians would have called it through many a century the Christos Spirit within man. The Oriental or the Buddhist School would call it the Inner Buddha. This is what the ancient Greeks knew as Apollo. That is what the Egyptians meant by Osiris. And many other terms and names. Or, in a descriptive way, the Inner God, the Higher Self. A spiritual, divine Entity of which you and I as human beings are only a ray, an emanation, a manifestation, I would think.
Now through Initiation is a rite -- rite spelled R-I-T-E, of course -- rite, of a spiritual nature concerned with establishing in the ready neophyte, establishing that inner connection. And it is done by, or I should say under the tutelage and the guidance of very inspired and high Teachers in the spiritual knowledge. All through antiquity, as far back as we know, such individuals of high spiritual knowledge have existed among men; and at all times there have been neophytes, aspiring individuals, disciples, ready to undergo their first Initiation. That Initiation is usually taken at the Winter Solstice. So the Winter Solstice Festivities, Ceremonies, Outer Forms, Symbolism, which are familiar to us and familiar under other forms in other nations, are merely an echo, you might say, an aspect of a spiritual something that is taking place at those seasons. And that is what I am trying to point put. The symbolism of the existing religious-philosophical Schools about it have been based on and have originated from ancient days before some of the ideas concerning the four Sacred Seasons had been forgotten, forgotten in the occidental civilization.
Such Initiatory Rites of the Winter Solstice and the other Sacred Seasons exist today. They take place. Certainly they do not take place in the busy marts of men. But in secluded places, both in the Orient and the Occident. And they have to do with the progressives development of the disciple into higher degrees of spiritual knowledge. Now if you were to ask the question, or wonder in your own mind, as to just exactly what a student of Theosophy means by Initiation, the answer would be something like this, when stripped of all details: It is the ability which the trained disciple -- trained for many lives -- the quality or rather the ability that he develops to withdraw consciously from his physical body and from the more subtle envelopes of the inner man -- the pranic, the kamic, lower mental, and astral sheathes, we might call them -- and issue forth as a spiritual Ego, as a reincarnating entity that he is and that we are, without loss of self-consciousness. The Initiation is a self- conscious process.
That my friends is something that sounds simple enough, but would be utterly impossible without lives of training. You see what happens to us. We go to sleep; we lose consciousness -- self-consciousness -- for a while. We dream; it is not under our control. We die; we have lost self-consciousness. We can lose self-consciousness during the lifetime in various ways. You can lose it through an anesthetic; you can lose it by being hit. In all kinds of ways it is very easy for us to sever the link of self-consciousness, and become temporarily -- shall we say -- entranced; that is what it is. But the individual who can withdraw from his human instruments or apparatus, in which he is duly and harmoniously integrated and incarnated, without loss of self-consciousness, and be able to investigate or learn experimentally in the inner worlds the structure of nature and the operations of natural law -- that individual is something more than just human. You see, he is a human being that has reached the university stage of spiritual development. He is about to graduate from the human school of life. Oh, he does not cease to be human, now, but he is as far ahead in knowledge and self- control and possibilities as a great professor of some chemistry or physics or astronomy is when compared with a newly-born baby, or the individual who comes to the grammar school. He is human, he remains human; but he has learned by the transference of his self- consciousness into the inner worlds what is the actual structure of them apart from anybody's opinions, theories, hypotheses. He knows it at first hand, experimentally, as much as a professor of chemistry knows what is going to happen to his chemicals in a chemical laboratory.
After a while -- it may be a matter of a few days or a few weeks -- that individual returns back into his physical body. Now his physical body in the mean time has been entranced. Obviously it is not functional, but it is very much alive. And it is protected by the guardianship of some highly-skilled Teacher or Adept, ready for the incumbent when he returns back from his journey from the inner worlds. When he returns, successfully we hope, he is not anymore an ordinary neophyte, he is not anymore just an aspiring student, a noble- hearted occultist, a disciple; he is not that anymore. He has become by means of what he has seen and been through, which includes very severe trials -- tremendous tests and trials in the inner worlds -- he has come back as a self-conscious Initiate. He is a Master of Life to that extent. Sure enough, he is a beginner, a beginner in a higher school of evolution than the ordinary human school. But nevertheless, however much of a beginner he may be, by comparison with what he was just a little while ago he is an Initiate because he has experienced, and he knows, and he can Teach. Not intellectually, not the way we consider the subjects, but he can Teach others in a supreme way in which only very advanced human beings can do.
Such Initiations take place at the four Sacred Seasons of the year. They are not all the same; they do not concern the same type of people. I do not know the details of the subject of how the Initiatory Rites of the Winter Solstice differ from others, but the general pattern of what we have already spoken of prevails. The neophyte at the Winter Solstice Experiences his birth. That is his new birth. It is the birth of the Inner God into full-fledged manifestation through that individual. Returning back into his physical body that was guarded for him, he is as if he were born again. That is why in the Orient such individuals in symbolism have been called DVIJAS, twice-born. The first time they were born, they were born from their mother, physically. The second time is their new birth into the same body, and in a greater state of consciousness. They are twice-born, a symbolic way of speaking of it.
Now there may be a long period of time, of work and dedication and activity that belongs to that category of men -- and some of them are women -- but eventually, it may be next life, the next incarnation, it may be several incarnations hence, that individual is ready to undertake some greater trails, achieve a still greater knowledge, learn a great deal more that he was not yet able to master. So he goes through another Initiatory Rite, and that would be the one corresponding to the Spring Equinox, because he has reached adolescence, symbolically speaking. He is an adolescent as an Initiate.
And eventually, perhaps several lives hence, he will take his rightful place among semi-divine beings, a full-fledged -- not a full-fledged human being, but a full-fledged Initiate or Master of Life, an equal to very great beings. That he will achieve at the Summer Solstice someday by going through the Initiatory Rites connected with the Summer Solstice, the period of full manhood.
Eventually that individual will reach the highest conditions possible for the human being on this planet. There is nothing else for him to learn in this school of experience. In the natural course of events at an Initiatory Rite of the Autumnal Equinox will come the end, the permanent end of his association with mankind. Not because he renounces it, but because his progress calls for what the ancients called the Great Passing; he passes out of our sphere into spheres far higher than ours. Now it is at that time that the Initiate, high as he is -- immensely high -- can renounce his further progress, and instead of disappearing from our midst, he pledges to stay with us for incalculable ages helping mankind on its way upward. That sacrifice must be something tremendous. We cannot fully appreciate it; but we can think of it as something that he was yearning to achieve but renounces it for the sake of remaining with us. That is what the Buddhists call a Bodhisattva, a being whose very nature is wisdom. And the Buddhists revere, deeply revere far more, an individual who has renounced the Nirvana or Buddhahood to stay with us than they revere the one who has in the natural course of events gone on.
So here we have that sequence of events based on astronomical facts, spiritually astrological if you like to put them that way, based upon immense knowledge that the highest exponents of the human race have had for ages past. And we who aspire in our theosophical work, dedication, meditation, thought; we who aspire towards these noble ideals; we are in some way or other geared to them together with hundreds of others who aspire as we do whether they know of Theosophy or not. We are directing the arrow of our life, you might say, in that general direction.
Now I said that these Initiatory Rites are connected with astronomical facts. There is a good deal that can be learned on this general subject from the study of Dr. de Purucker's works. Many of you are familiar with his name and some of you have read his works. He has given a great deal of explanation, as much as was possible, to this general subject. You will find it partially in his ESOTERIC TRADITION, a two-volume work, partially in THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, and elsewhere scattered here and there, various passages and excerpts which deal with the subject of Initiation.
Now the astronomical connection is something like this, briefly speaking: The Initiatory Rites are, or rather stand in very close relation to the Moon, and to the Sun. The ideal condition for certain Initiations is the time of the New Moon. In other words, the alignment of the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, the new-moon alignment, which apparently, if my understanding is correct, helps the neophyte in his journey through the inner worlds. Because all the exits from here and coming back to here, of really everything, is connected with the Moon. The Moon has been called in ancient symbolism the giver and the taker of lives; it is deeply connected with after-death states, and stages of reincarnation as well, and therefore it is connected with Initiations because strictly speaking the Initiation Experiences are experiences of dying consciously and returning back.
Other Initiatory Rites -- as far as I understand of a much higher nature -- are also connected with the position of Venus and Mercury, and their interrelation with the Moon and the Sun. In other words, conjunctions and oppositions of these bodies are connected with Initiatory Rites. Or to put it into a different language, Initiatory Rites and Experiences do not happen by haphazard, but are geared to certain spiritual mechanics you might say that have to do with the motions of certain planetary bodies around the Sun.
A great deal of the symbolism of the Christmas Season that we have with us today, and which we have had for a long time -- not just we in the Occident, but the Middle East, and India, and Egypt, and all kinds of places -- a great deal of that symbolism was prepared mainly for the general public. Not for mystics, not for occultists, but for the people who love delicate thoughts, realities put symbolically -- and there are thousands of them. And so we see a certain language used by organized religions. A certain language for spiritual realities -- but the key to the understanding of that language can only be had through the study of the Ancient Wisdom. You might pick up THE SECRET DOCTRINE of Blavatsky, but you can also pick up half a dozen other works.
I mention casually a little booklet which our friend Geoffrey Barborka sitting here wrote a few years back, THE CHRISTMAS STORY. It is available for sale, I think you will find it here in the bookstore I suppose, or at the Krotona Bookstore. It gives quite a layout, an explanation of the symbolism of the Christmas Season among other things. It is well worth reading. There is a great deal of facts there. But casually to mention a few:
It is obvious from the deeper standpoint that every Initiate of any nation whatsoever is always born immaculately from a virgin because this means that the virgin soil of his spiritual nature produces immaculately, unmaterially, unrelated to the world of matter, produces the birth of the inner man. It is a symbolic statement around which is woven a great deal of church symbolism, but they have lost the key.
It is also obvious that every Initiate is born, is always born in a manger, in a stable, or in a crypt, and is surrounded by animals. See, the real you and the real I are living in a personality which is mainly activated by animal instinct not yet controlled. The animal nature of man is much stronger in the present age -- and has been so for a long time -- than the spiritual nature. We live in a manger. It is out of that manger or stable surrounded by animals that eventually the individual arises and brings under complete control the animal -- or shall we say the animals -- that we are made of on the lessor plane of personal selfhood. Another symbolic statement, that the Initiate is born as a little babe, surrounded by animals in a manger.
Now it appears that the Initiate is always heralded by a star. It is only a symbolic way of saying that the appearance of Initiates is not at random. Profound students of astrology who are Initiates -- they are not running the streets, they are not writing books, no -- would be able to tell by looking at the position of certain planetary orbs in the solar system what are the times when some other unusual individual is going to appear among men as an Initiate with a mandate to perform a certain work among men. He is always heralded by a star. That is another symbol.
An Initiate, as a rule, is obviously greeted by the three wise men. We will not go into that. But that story has to do with the positions and the natures and the qualities of the planets Mercury and Venus, and the Moon. These are the three wise men of the story. And it can be proved by the analysis of the names that have been given to them in symbolism.
So you see that story whether it relates to one or another Initiate, whether that symbolism is Occidental, Oriental, ancient Egyptian, or Middle East, or anything, is practically the same with a slight modification of expressions and must not be interpreted literally. It must be interpreted by means of the inner meaning of certain terms which have come down to us from the mystery schools of ancient nations. It is true, but it is not literally true; it is factual, but it is not material factual.
And then we have the christmas tree, which is merely another form -- a fairly recent form at that -- of the great reverence that has been given to trees in general in connection with the Initiatory Rites. In ancient Scandinavian countries it was called YGGDRASILL. Among the Druids it was the Druids' Oak. It was called IARMANZULL among the Anglo-Saxons. And the famous ISHWATTHA tree in ancient India. Trees that are not necessarily pines or furs, but trees in the symbolism which calls for the sturdiness of the trunk that the Initiate is. The immense power of his spiritual sap of life-force and the idea of his spreading his knowledge for the benefit of mankind as a tree spreads its branches. Now the green, the evergreen that we use, is probably not more than two or three hundred years old and is a European custom. And the oriental tree -- symbolically, not physically -- the oriental tree of the symbolism connected with this time, the ISHWATTHA tree for instance, is a tree that is rooted in the spiritual realms and grows downwards branching out, and its branches are the worlds, and the planes and the sub-planes of the universal structure. And it bears on these spreading branches planets, suns, galaxies, star clusters, which today are symbolized by our lights on the Christmas tree. All symbolic, but symbolic of actual facts in nature.
So you see these are some of the reasons why students of Theosophy revere the four Sacred Seasons of the year. They do not belong to any particular religion. They have a religious aspect; they have also a philosophical and mystical aspect; but essentially they are a scientific fact. They are a simple scientific fact, a fact which modern science has not yet discovered. It knows all about solstices and equinoxes, astronomically speaking, but it does not understand yet and does not seem to tend to understand the meaning of ancient occult correlations based on astronomical data. Someday they will uncover it. It is really an open book; it is not hidden from them. But they want technical proofs of everything, and only a very few of them -- even that is good -- a few of them are mystically inclined, and are beginning to discover certain things they have been very blind to for a long time.
The four Sacred Seasons of the year are to us a rhythm. It is a repetitive rhythm which you can find throughout nature. The growth of plants, the manifestation of life in the spring, the fuller florescence of it summer, the gathering of the fruit of the earth and of the harvests, and the withdrawal of everything in the height or quiescence of the winter is a fact that everybody knows. But upon these facts, and back of them, there are other occult facts which are deeply interrelated with them and are the key to a far deeper story which goes on from age to age as long as mankind remains as we know it today, and that means for a long time.
It also means, friends, if it means anything at all, that there are in our midst -- and when I say OUR MIDST, I mean these teeming millions everywhere -- there are in our midst in dividual, one here, one there, one someplace else ...
[The tape recorder mysteriously stops working here for a few minutes.]
... and we will be there. There are thousands of others behind, from behind us, that are linked with us by chains of similar aspiration and eventually will reach some further stage outward bound. That is really all that matters. The thing is moving. And no matter how many people may drop things forever by the wayside, and forget these things and perhaps even turn against them for a while -- in spite of that -- the pilgrimage moves on. And we are an integral part of it. And strictly speaking none of us could say how many thousands of tens of thousands of other people the world over are moving in the same pilgrimage.
Do not look upon this world, friends, as something that is going to pieces. It is not. The mere fact that we have so many horrors in the world today and so much despair and so much ignorance and stupidity is only due or is mainly due to the fact that a great light is being introduced in the midst of mankind from higher spheres. And some of us are agents in this work -- all of us are agents in this work -- and if you introduce a strong light there will be -- or a strong force -- there will be an ejection upon the surface of the dross, of the debris, of the dross. What happens to a boiling kettle: it will throw out dross on the surface and can be skimmed off. That is what is happening in most countries today, a tremendous spiritual push is behind the scenes and as it is coming into manifestation there is that throwing off of all of that which must be overcome before that great force from within can manifest itself in a new type of civilization. Not a paradise, oh no, but a new type, a greater, and nobler type of civilization. We can be grateful to our own inner self that we can contribute to that process.
And then I would like to also leave with you this thought. Obviously we do not compare ourselves with the Great Ones. We could not possibly be proud enough or self-centered enough to imagine that we can be in touch with the Great Ones. They are so far ahead you might say they are out on the horizon beckoning to us -- yes, if you like to put it that way, symbolically -- but they are on the verge of so many noble, spiritual things that we have not even dreamt about, that we cannot identify ourselves with them. And yet there is no break of continually between them and us or between us and others coming from behind. Therefore somehow or other, and very tangibly so, those who are undergoing these Initiatory Experiences and reach the stage of Initiation and knowledge, let us say the Winter Solstice, emanate from within their inner nature enough power, force, strength, inspiration to touch anyone of us, if we are receptive to it. They cannot keep it to themselves no more than a floodlight can keep the light to itself. It has got to spread. Where is it going to spread as a vibratory rate? All over mankind; all over. A great achievement in inner consciousness on the part of any human being belongs to mankind as a whole, and instantaneously so. But of course only those will be affected who are ready to receive any of it.
Therefore an attitude on our part of quiet meditation upon these themes, an attitude upon our part of listening in -- I am speaking now metaphorically -- a readiness to receive, a feeling or a desire to become at one with that higher life, makes us that much more receptive to the reception of emanating forces from the crypts of Initiation, from the centers of Initiation while they take place. Obviously what I am saying now is good any time of the year. But it is especially potent at these four Sacred Seasons of the year because of the reasons which I have tried to explain.
Therefore in a Christmas Season like this one, our own progress will depend to a considerable extent upon our own state of mind. We can vitalize our spiritual natures; we can attune ourselves to the highest that we know of within our consciousnesses; we can make a specific effort to grow or rather to rise above some pet weaknesses which we may have. We can demand of ourselves to become nobler, greater, more universal, to become an outpouring strength of genuine brotherhood. Towards who? Towards anyone. Towards anyone who needs it. Towards anyone who would be helped by it. When we decide to do so there is always someone who turns up who needs just that. Just watch it. When there is a desire on your part to do something for someone else and you do not know the WHO, somebody is going to turn up with precisely that which you can give him.
In other words, the Winter Solstice is a period when we can grow more rapidly, more definitely, more potently, because we have with us strong spiritual forces at work and we can align ourselves with them. And anything that aligns itself with a higher rhythm begins to vibrate in unison with that rhythm. Now it may not last very long. We may fall down after a while. We may not be able to keep up this thing too long because of worldly associations and our own inner weaknesses that will assert themselves again. But let us try. It can be done. It can be successfully done. And the results of it can never be fully estimated. We do not know how much good we may do. It may be momentous in the life of another. It may be momentous in our own life where no one else knows anything about it.
And one other thought, friends. Obviously in the light of these Teachings, we are not alone. We can never be deserted. The only way to get deserted is to build a wall of human selfishness which prevents us from being human. Then we are along, because we are inside a fortress built by our own ignorance and stupidity. And some people do that and they do not know it. But strictly speaking, we are not alone. We are part of a pilgrimage. There are always individuals who are ready to show us the next step in evolution. Each one of us here might at one time or another -- if we desired to do so -- might at one time or another open a window to another brother, to someone else. It may mean troubles, metaphorically speaking, but also very factually -- and tell that other: "Come to this window. Have you ever seen this sight?" And you give him a few of the Teachings in some simple language. And suddenly, and suddenly he is unable to go back into his troubles anymore. He has seen a greater vision. He knows there is a greater life.
Anyone of us can do this if we watch out for the opportunity. And if we watch out for an opportunity, the opportunity invariably arises. Because this thing is based upon Law, not on haphazard. And so we can never be alone. The Great Ones are dedicated to helping mankind. But they can help only those who are ready to help themselves. They cannot stop the evil in the world, because karma has to work itself out. But they can help a great deal -- and do -- in alleviating suffering, in softening the conditions, and in opening up new doors for those who can see.
I trust that you will have a very pleasant Christmas Season, friends one and all. And that you will keep these thoughts in your mind, dwell with them as often as you can, and watch yourself expand in consciousness, in understanding, in universality, and in a genuine spirit of brotherhood for all that lives. We will now end, friends, with a few moments of silence ... [pause]
... I want to thank Lina for her hospitality. Good night all.
By Eldon B. Tucker
[based upon an January 4, 1994 posting to theos-l.]
The subject of good versus evil has multiple levels of meaning, multiple possible interpretations, each true in a certain sense, but all of them capable of abuse. Consider the word EVIL. It is considered, in certain groups, among the followers of certain philosophies, a bad word to use. Some of us may want to avoid the word, to say that it is judgemental and narrow-minded to use.
In talking about a particular individual, we may not want to say "that evil man!", but rather describe him in more neutral terms, to say that he is just a person like us, with a particular problem that we do not have. This may be kinder to that man's feelings, but it is the right thing to do?
When we speak of a holy man, or someone with a special sense of goodness, we don't describe him by saying that he is just an ordinary person, with a particular gift or advantage.
We are not being nice to someone that is bad, to describe things in such a way as to not hurt his feelings, if in doing so, we allow him to go along in life, hurting himself and others, perhaps unaware of what he is doing. Certainly we should have more responsibility to him!
It is not really possible to separate the person from his actions. It is not possible to say that this is a man that DOES EVIL, whereas that is a man that DOES GOOD. That assumes a uniform, indentical self that is unaffected by what he does. The description would hold true of the Monad itself, which is above and apart from anything that the personality may do, apart from anything in the manifest world, but not true of the personality itself. We are what we do, and in the processing of doing good or evil, we are good or evil people.
Now it is possible to change, over time, to be an evil man that turns for the good and changes himself. It is also possible for a good man to become corrupted. Change is possible. But the personality, whatever it is, is the sum total of what it has done. The personality is the totality of actions taken, and relationships established, in this lifetime.
We may look at an evil man, and choose not to associate with him. Looking at his personality, we may not be able to pass absolute judgement on him, because we do not know the totality of the person, the person's individuality and karma from previous lifetimes, karma that did not find its way into expression in the current life. We may not know the limits of good or evil that he could aspire to, and become, as a personality, based upon what he carries within. But we do know his current self, his current personality, and it is a very real part of him, something that we have to face and deal with.
We learn to distinguish the real from the unreal, to preceive through the maya and illusion that surrounds things and perceive them correctly. We can also learn to distinguish the good from the evil, the right from the wrong, to perceive through an ethical and moral maya that surrounds things, and judge the character and nature of things. We are not judging things in the sense of the law, we are not evaluating them for purposes of punishment or reward. But we are judging them in the sense of perceiving their true nature, a correct discrimination of one aspect of the truth in people and situations.
The ability to tell right from wrong is considered a sign of adulthood in our society. It shows that one is responsible for his own actions. It is one sign that the childhood is over, and the higher nature is fully incarnate in the personality. And it is a quality that we need, for in order to know what is good, virtuous, and moral, we need to know what it is not.
There is a certain type of consciousness that we mostly lack, one that will grow and evolve in the future. It is a MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS, where we are aware of the full impact and implications of our every action in the world. We are aware of how we affect others because of our associations with them. We are composed, in fact, of those associations, it defines our being, and it is found in Buddhi, the principle of inter-relatedness, the priniple of personal oneness with others.
This moral consciousness will become as intricate, as involved, as complex a part of our consideration of what we do, that it will rival the activities of the mind, the complexities of thought. This sense is largely asleep in us at our current point of evolution, it is instinctual and automatic in operation, lacking in self-consciousness.
This buddhic consciousness is what distinguishes us from those on a path of evil. It is that which not only allows us to be spiritual, but to be good as well. It contains the sense of compassion and caring for other lives, and it is that which will one day make of us Buddhas!
By Eldon B. Tucker
In the February 27, 1997 issue of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES there is a report of the first cloning of an adult mammal. It gives the following overview.
Years of failed experiments preceeded the feat of genetic engineering that created Dolly, the cloned sheep.
How Mammals Reproduce
Normal: An egg and a sperm each have only half a set of DNA. They must fuse and join their DNA to get the whole blueprint for an organism.
Cloning: A full set of DNA is obtained from one parent. That DNA is inserted into a sea of embroyonic proteins in an egg from which the nucleus has been removd, setting the stage for growth.
Why Cloning Hasn't Worked Until Now
As a fertilized egg grows into an adult, unneeded DNA is systematically shut off. In an adult skin or brain cell, for example, 85 percent to 90 percent of DNA is inactivated. If that DNA is placed in an egg cell in an attempt to clone it, the proteins thast inactivate the DNA remain in place. Thus an embryo cannot grow.
What the Scientists Did
Ian Wilmut's team devised a way to unlock DNA blockers from the DNA, allowing it to become functional again. When that restored DNA is placed in an egg, it forms an embryo.
How They Did It
1. Wilmut's team removed cells from a ewe's udder and starved them so they would stop growing -- a process that unblocked the DNA.
2. They also removed the nucleus of an unfertilized egg from another sheep.
3. The udder cell and the egg were fused with an electric current.
4. The fused egg was placed into the uterus of a third ewe, the surrogate mother, where it grew into an embryo just as if an egg had been fertilized in the normal manner.
There are a number of points that could be considered with regard to cloning.
A close produced from one's DNA would be the equalivent of an identical twin, except with a much later birthdate. But would there be the same psychic and karmic links between the clone and the original person as there is between identical twins?
The clone is produced using an egg cell, where the nucleus has been removed. Is there still any karmic link betwen the particular individual that might have been born using that egg cell and it's original DNA?
Is the individual that is born of the cloning the same one or someone different?
Could the ability to clone indicate that the connection between the incoming reincarnating ego and the physical body is with the DNA, rather than the particular egg cell that is fertilized?
Since with identical twins there are more-than-one person incarnated in forms with the same DNA, this would indicate that the DNA is not "customized" to a particular individual. This might imply that it's possible at a later time than conception for an individual to take possession of a form, since it's not customized for one individual only. (We'd still assume, of course, that there needs to be at least one individual needed to animate a physical form.) Similarly, a multiple-personality disorder might result from more than one individual trying to share the same physical form.
By Sarah Belle Dougherty
THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT and BHAGAVAD-GITA with Judge's "Essays on the Gita" have been added to TUP Online Site.
Theosophical University Press has added electronic versions of two more of its publications to its online site (www.theosociety.org/pasadena). First is Judge's BHAGAVAD-GITA combined with his "Essays on the Gita," and second is THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT, both in html format with helpful links throughtout the texts.
THE BHAGAVAD-GITA is Judge's recension of all eighteen chapters of the Gita, combined with his insightful and explanatory essays on the first seven chapters.
THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT contains all the letters in A. T. Barker's 2nd edition, linked in the order in which he published and numbered them, as well as chronologically using Margaret Conger's "Combined Chronology" for the Mahatma and Blavatsky letters -- links to both the chronologically previous and following letters are given for each letter. The files containing the individual letters are named in such a way that it is easy to go to any particular letter without a link. Also included are Barker's article "How the Mahatma Letters Were Written" and his discussion of "Mars and Mercury"; the Foreword, Preface, Introduction, Biographical Sketches, and Bibliography from TUP's edition of the "Combined Chronology", which give useful background information; and two letters not included by Barker: the first letter of K.H. to A.O. Hume, and the View of the Chohan on the T.S.
By Brenda Tucker
Reaching into the distant past to discover who we are is familiar to the theosophist. Using our past to shape our future, however, may not be possible. Many people are looking at themselves as a new race of beings, not held by the conventions of yesterday.
Some groups, like the Extropians for example, believe it possible to live forever. They are working to defeat death. Whether this is accomplished through the use of cryonics or cloning, they view any attempt to interfere with their life process as illegal and unwarranted.
By altering our genetic structure to remedy nature's failures, we are looking at a level of control whereby many new things become possible. We could raise "ourselves" if we chose to. You wouldn't require one cell from each of two people, but could produce an exact copy, genetically, of yourself.
How long before computers are implanted in our brains? Implants and artificial limbs are accepted as life prolonging medical advances. What additional devices can be thought of?
Engineered viruses can enter the body and reform it more perfectly this time. One element can be transmuted into another by nanotechnology, with the result being that physical objects can be produced in a new way. Uploading of our mental schemata from one biological brain to another or to a synthetic brain, could generate mental processes that would be speedier and more diverse than is currently possible through the use of one brain.
"Life and intelligence should never stagnate; it can reorder, transform and transcend its limits in an unlimited progression." is the view of EXTROPY's editor, Max More. While he feels religion to be primitive and God an oppressive invention, theosophy would argue that the fifth race is a necessary step in this grand cycle of evolution. God really was "hovering" beyond our reach, whereas now, because the adepts are nearer to us and able to communicate with some members of the sixth race, we perceive the new race as the true race of men. An attempt to speed the process along by criticizing those who are still unable to make acquaintance with their higher selves or "masters within," is only creating an inharmonious relationship between fifth and sixth races.
New science should make us no less religious. It should produce a greater inkling toward purity of life and noble purpose for the sake of those beings whose lives we unfold through our own. Unity within the human family must be pre-emptive of fads and the growth of counter-cultures. Theosophists, knowing full well the challenges facing a group who develops ideology, inventions, and a body of knowledge existing outside the mainstream of thought, may be sympathetic to the growing pains felt by the Extropians.
A separation of any one segment of socity due to beliefs and practices cannot endure the overriding pressure of the grand truth we call unity. We only hope to work within our culture. Change must be slow. The alienation felt by Extropians, Transhumans, and Nanotech advocates, can be prevented by proper thinking through of the productive uses of the new science.
"On Becoming Posthuman" by Max More. http://www.primenet.com/~maxmore/becoming.htm
By Eldon B. Tucker
[based upon an January 6, 1994 posting to theos-l.]
In conservative religions, we are told what is good, and what is bad. We are not permitted to figure it out for ourselves, being considered a flock of simpler people needing guidance. Depending upon our religion, we are told different things, and different ways to treat others. Every exoteric religion has its code of conduct, and does not assume that its followers have a developed moral consciousness, with the ability to perceive for themselves the rightness of things in life.
In the west, we have religions like Christianity teaching us specific actions are good, and others are bad. We are told whom are good and bad people, and given a set of standards to judge them by. In the east, we often have religions teaching us that an amoral awareness is good, and that passing judgement is bad, and we are given a set of standards, again, as to how to evaluate people. The rules are different but the process is the same: we are told certain ways to believe and act, and given a standard to follow.
We know that is it bad if we do not act according to our true nature and role in life, if we betray ourselves with making the wrong choices. We also know that it is not good to be careless, to be neglectful, to make unnecessary mistakes in going about things. If one wants to define the bad in these terms, where it refers to mistakes due to our lack of diligence, then he could say that evil is relative, since what is a good choice for one person may not be the right choice for another.
Mistakes due to our own human fallability are forgivable, since we are all subject to accidents of the mind and heart. But this assumes that we all approach things with a good nature, always sincere in how we are living life, and always choosing good over evil, choosing the good spirituality over the dark side of life.
There are some--fortunately few--who are on an actual path of evil. There is such a thing as the left hand path, and it is possible to make progress on it, for a time, before facing eventual destruction. It is possible to choose harm for its own sake, to dwell in malice, to identify with cruelty and harmfulness. This is rarely the case in life, an abnormal exception to the scheme of things, but it is possible, and it happens. There are invisible influences for harm in the world, and they do not go away by denial; they cannot be dismissed as the figment of someone's imagination, the product of an overworked mind, the result of psychological projection.
We may prefer not to believe in good and evil, but all of life does not become good and the evil in life does not go away through our DENIAL. We can turn a blind eye on this side of life, and are not forced to dwell on it. Evil is not a proper subject for meditation. But a correct understanding of it is necessary for a complete picture, in one's mind, a comprehensive worldview of the panorama of life.
One's understanding of the Teachings is lacking without a proper place for the darker side of life. We cannot have good without evil, light without darkness, life without death. They are pairs of opposites out of which life is composed. To ignore any of them is to turn one's back on an understanding of life.
The Christians may believe that they have a good handle on the subject of evil, but they define it in over-simplified terms--usually in terms of anything going against what they believe--and that belief has been abused so much that it is no wonder that many of us reject it out of hand! But the eartern view of an amoral consciousness is equally incomplete, and subject to different but equally dangerous abuses of its own!
An argument might be made that since good and evil seem relative, and since they seem to vary in interpretation from one person to the next, from one culture to the next, that the distinction is entirely subjective, and without merit. The argument could be made, but it would be invalid.
Consider another duality: truth and falsehood. One could say that there is no truth, that everyone has their own idea of truth, and it varies widely, so everybody or nobody are correct. But there certainly is such a thing as telling a lie, and we can single out a compulsive liar from someone whom takes great pains at honesty. There are differences in truthfulness, and our ability to distinguish them is based upon our clarity of consciousness, and our penetrating insight, which allows us to perceive what is really happening.
The same is true of character, of the nature of the personality, as built up in this lifetime. We can judge the character of another. That character may change over time, but at a particular moment it IS a particular way. And the most insightful of us are good judges of character.
With us, our ability to tell right from wrong is not vague, because it is an imaginary, unreal thing to do. Rather, there is such a thing, but it is an undeveloped faculty of consciousness at our present stage of evolution. It will one day be possible to see through the moral maya that surrounds things, and perceive their true nature, their true sense of rightness--or wrongness.
It is possible to tell people, in whom their buddhic splendor is awakened, from those in whom it is not, and the Mahatmas do so. We are not all--as human personalites--spiritual, and it is only in our higher natures, as we learn to dwell in them, that we spiritualize our consciousness, as we take it from the corruptible to the incorruptible.
We should not be afraid to question eastern, as well as western thought, in our studies. Theosophy is not merely Buddhism in disguise. The teaching of a type of amoral conscious may be presented us, but we must not take it as unquestingly true. But when we question such deeply-held beliefs, we are bound to arouse opposition.