The philosopher is Nature's pilot. And there you have our difference: to be in hell is to drift: to be in heaven is to steer.
-- George Bernard Shaw
By Eldon B. Tucker
[based upon an April 28, 1994 posting to email@example.com.]
When we gather to hold a conference on Theosophy, there are only so many different things that we can say and do. Many issues arise. How do we apply Theosophy in our lives? What things can we do in our theosophical work to become more effective in spreading the Teachings? What words and means can we use to make Theosophy more interesting to the public, to draw attention to it?
At the recent conference in Krotona, the ideas expressed were similar to those at the one in 1984. And the basic themes arise in any theosophical lodge. There are basic questions that we need to consider, and not many good answers.
One difference at the recent conference, though, was a growing sense of acceptance, a feeling of companionship among the participants. In the past, things have been more aloof, if not hostile. During a talk now, someone might whisper "How can that guy believe such a silly thing?" In the past, there might have been anger and antagonism.
The growing goodwill among the members of the different societies comes from meeting, learning about, and coming to know the members and philosophies of the other groups, information that was not given out in the past. You could go to some theosophical group, and they would not tell you, or even their new members, of the competing theosophical lodge across the street.
Hopefully the goodwill and free exchange of information and ideas will last for a long time before it subsides. These things are cyclic, and the day will come when we go our own ways again. For now, we are in a time of cooperation.
Our biggest enemy to this cooperation is the sense of intolerance. There are others in fundamental disagreement with us. Our problem is the inability to have a free, friendly exchange of ideas with them. This intolerance can show up in different ways. Some are subtle.
There are several worldviews in the theosophical community. These represent complete systems of thought about how life works, from the nature of the universe, our purpose in existence, the nature of Theosophy, and the inner structure of the universe. It embraces cycles of manvantaric proportion and things closer to home, like what happens when we are asleep, or what happens after we die. There are not just differences among individuals regarding various points, where all resolves to personal opinion. We have completely different systems of thought.
We have one system centered on Blavatsky, Judge, and perhaps *The Mahatma Letters.* There are also the ULT/Crosby and the Point Loma/Purucker amplifications. And there are the Besant/Leadbeater and the Alice Bailey variations. These are but a few of the systems.
The intolerance arises when we stick to our worldview, and just get angry when someone else says something that challenges some of its basic assumptions. We need to admit that there are other worldviews, even within our theosophical community, and allow them free expression. It is not a personal attack when someone else says something that denies something that we take for granted.
A good example is regarding the place and purpose of psychic powers. In the early days of the Theosophical Society, HPB or her Masters did not teach astral projection or the occult arts. They had knowledge and experience of them. But they choose not to teach them or provide clues to help anyone get these powers.
In certain theosophical worldviews, the cultivation of powers is considered harmful, and a philosophy that stresses development of the mind and the spiritual nature is emphasized. From these worldviews, the Adyar TS has in the past been seen as lost over to psychism, to the maya of chasing after phenomena. There were a few individuals like Joy Mills. She was considered ok because of her extensive study of *The Secret Doctrine,* but most Adyar people were considered as "lost."
This has been the attitude in the past, but with the growing communication between the various groups, the hostility and the negative stereotypes are going away, and there is more of an open sense of cooperation and appreciation.
The dropping of stereotypes needs to be done by everyone if it is to succeed. Those in the Besant/Leadbeater worldview need to drop their negative images of other groups. Some of us study the original Theosophy of Blavatsky. We are not trapped in dusty, outmoded ideas of Victorian, imperialistic England. There are no people plotting to assassinate the character of certain figures in theosophical history. The refusal to accept certain ideas--like group souls, the deva kingdom, or the seven rays--may not be because certain people have not read enough Theosophy to appreciate the brilliance of those ideas. They may, on the contrary, have read too much Theosophy to find those ideas acceptable.
When we seek to clarify the theosophical Teachings, it is important to specify in terms of which context we clarify them. Which worldview are we describing things in? Failing to do so is really denying there are other worldviews; it is a subtle intolerance of others, of people that see things differently.
Some of us may have studied one form of Theosophy, then in later years came to learn and accept another. We've come to appreciate how different the belief systems are. For any of us, though, we must not cling so tightly to our current favorite that we feel insulted and angered when our basic assumptions are questioned.
In a way, it's like some kids sitting, ready to play a board game. Some are playing one game, according to one set of rules. Others are playing another game, with different rules. The board and most of the pieces are the same. When someone playing the other game does a move, it seems unfair, outrageous, like cheating, when interpreted in terms of our rules. But it can be understood if we accept that there are other games, and the other kid's moves were done fairly, but according to a different game.
How can our different worldviews peacefully coexist? Not by repression, where one view is enforced as the standard and all ideas must be interpreted in its terms. We cannot cause peace by saying the Besant/Leadbeater or the strictly Blavatsky standard is in charge, and all communications are interpreted in its terms. Rather than bring peace, such a move would drive away people and bring back the rifts between groups.
We need to work on tolerance in our views. This is not according to "I said something first so keep quiet and do not argue with me." Without getting angry, nor questioning the intelligence or character of anyone, we can politely see that our views are properly represented too. Our duty is to see that what we know is clearly and truthfully expressed, that what we know is heard and not hidden in silence. There may be some idea that we consider as so true that it goes without question, yet other Theosophists may consider it outrageously controversial. Or we might find exception with something that is being discussed.
Let's relax and lighten up a bit, and not cling too tightly to our worldviews. And let's see more open discussion of the competing ideas. When we do not allow the other worldviews a voice, we miss much, and we shut off communication with our fellow Theosophists. We have a lot to learn from each other.
By Carmen Small
[The following is a general letter dated June 13 sent out by the President of Point Loma Publications, Post Office Box 6507, San Diego, California 92166, USA.]
We are writing to you to give you the latest news from Point Loma Publications. As you know, we opened "Wisdom Traditions Bookstore" in late November, 1996. So far we have broken even between expenses and sales. We have ongoing classes, which have been well received.
For those of you who are regular supporters of Point Loma Publications, we cannot thank you enough for the help you have given. We particularly thank those who have helped us so regularly in the past and now those who are currently helping with donations. It is through your contributions and support that we are able to continue our work.
Our upconing publication, due approximately August 1, 1997, is ASTORLOGY OF A LIVING UNIVERSE, which is H.P. Blavatsky's visionary philosophy of the Seven Sacred Planets edited and annotated by H.J. Spierenburg.
A friend of Point Loma Publications gave us a free homepage on the Internet. Our address is:
Please check it out.
We appreciate hearing from you. Any one of you with free time will be of great help in our ongoing work.
Also, as 1997 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Point Loma, Dr. Dwayne Little of the Point Loma Nazarene College will show slides of the early Point Loma days (1897 onward) at 10 AM on September 3, 1997. Any friends who wish to attend are welcome. At our "Wisdom Traditions Bookstore" historical photos and memorabilia of Point Loma will be displayed during the month of September, 1997.
Best wishes to you all.
By Donald J. DeGracia
Copyright 1997. All rights reserved worldwide by the author.
[based on an April 27, 1994 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
The issue of different theosophical "denominations" has come up in discussions from time to time. It's not a pretty issue and it gets people quite fired up, protecting their favorite school of thought.
In some respects this is understandable, but I feel it is a blatant contradiction to the principles of Theosophy. So, basically, I was encouraged to see the results of the theosophical conferences on inter-theosophical dialogue [held in Krotona, April, 1994].
On one hand the cynic in me says, "Its about time people started doing this", and it seems that its more a digging of oneself out of a hole than any kind of real progress.
On the other hand, the realist in me recognizes the sociological factors that cause splits to occur in any type of social organization, and it is heartening to see different groups of theosophists working against these forces and trying to seek some type of unity.
Let me comment on the 10 points raised in the April, 1994 conference report.
To Clarify the Teachings
This is essential. We can't forget that the theosophical teachings grew out of Victorian, imperialistic England. Since then we have seen two world-wars, the atomic bomb, and we are now talking to each other around the world on our computers. Simply stated, things have really changed a lot.
This idea of clarifying the ideas of theosophy and making them relevant to the modern mind is one of my interests at present. I am especially interested in the angle of clarifying the relevance of certain theosophical teachings towards modern science. To this end I have written a book entitled "Beyond the Physical: a Synthesis of Science and Occultism". Interestingly, the TPH will not publish this book, which indicates to me Wheaton's unwillingness to break out of its sectarian mindset.
At any rate, this idea of clarifying the theosophical teachings is a sticky one. A number of important questions arise immediately:
What interpretation of theosophy are we trying to clarify? For example, I have been influenced by the teachings of Besant and Leadbeater, and my book reflects this, which may be part of the TPH's unwillingness to publish this material. Other theosophists follow Blavatsky's writings, or G. De Purucker, or Rudolph Steiner. So, who's ideas really *represent* the "teachings of theosophy"?
The differences amongst the ideas of these different authors is a major reason for the splits in the TS. This issue has to be tackled head on and with an open-minded courage, because before we can clarify the teachings, we need to define what they are.
How shall we clarify them? What are we trying to achieve here? Do we want to give a slick MTV look to theosophy? Are we trying to make the ideas respectable to the accepted intellectual establishment? Are we trying to create a religion? What? What is it we want to say to the modern world about what theosophy is? These questions must be addressed. The quality of the answers will in large measure determine the future of the TS.
To me personally, I have found theosophy to be an kind of a Noah's ark of ideas that science has rejected but may be relevant for understanding aspects of humankind and Nature. But other theosophists do not see this or have the background in science to see the relevance of such a viewpoint.
I would suggest that a type of historical/sociological/ psychological analysis of the theosophical society would do a lot to clarify what the TS is. For example, the TS evolved in response to 19th century materialism. It was a counter-cultural response to the accepted society of 100 years ago. Today that society no longer exists. Materialism is dead, so the original impetus that drove Blavatsky et al. no longer exists. Today we live in a world of mega-corporations, a world where the dominant forces are still basically completely secular. We live in a world of tremendous economic disparity. We must look at the following in an attempt to clarify the teachings of theosophy:
* Why the 19th century created theosophy to begin with.
* How the world has changed since then.
* How the TS has changed since then.
* We must ask: has the TS stayed in step with the world? Has it lost touch? What?
These are important issues, but based on my experience with the TS, I do not feel that the TS as an organization is prepared or capable of addressing such issues. Instead, members of the TS continue to debate irrelevant things as the Society itself withers from existence.
To Practice Theosophy as a Way of Self-Transformation
Interestingly, I think that if we undergo the process of self-transformation that is taught in Theosophy, we don't really require theosophy as a teaching anymore. This is kind of like how the final Greek archon (king), whose name I forget right now, abolished his archonship so that democracy could proliferate in ancient Athens. Or as Buddha taught; once one achieves nirvana, there is no longer a need for Buddhism. People confuse the means with the end. Theosophy, in my opinion, is a means to an end, not an end in itself. However, for many people the TS is an end in itself. This is wrong.
Once we mature emotionally, psychological and spiritually beyond a certain point, we no longer need any type of dogma, or structured mindset. Organized teachings (such as religions and philosophies), dogmas, creeds, beliefs, these are all psychological "training wheels". So, theosophy as it exists presently is, for the most part. a type of mental training wheels. This fact must be dealt with by theosophists but is difficult for many of them because they have not matured enough to understand the relative place of ideas in human existence. Most theosophists need theosophy because they need mental training wheels to guide their thinking.
To Balance Mind and Heart
This statement really means nothing. Balance is important in thought, in feeling, in all wakes of life. The terms "mind" and "heart" are simply too colloquial to be of any use in precise discourse. Such lack of precision in theosophical pronouncements is exactly why most thoughtful people ignore theosophy.
... To Participate in Theosophical Activities With Creative Energy, To Adapt Theosophy to the Contemporary World and Language, To Develop Programs and Methods to Broadly Disseminate Theosophy, To Revitalize the Theosophical Movement With the Presence and Energy of Young People, To Encourage a Broader Outreach of Theosophical Activities on Both Community and Worldly Levels ...
These points all tie together and it's misleading to separate them thus. The essence of these five points can be stated this way: how do we, as theosophists, fit into the world? What is our purpose and what are our goals? All these 5 points revolve around this central question.
And this comes back to the idea of clarifying the teachings of theosophy: who are we? what is our self-image? and again, how do we fit into the world?
I think what has happened throughout this century is that theosophy has become just another cult. After the death of Blavatsky, things started to fracture. The Pasadena branch broke away when Besant became president, and Steiner split off in Germany. And this trend continued and had crystallized by the end of World War II into the various sects that exist today.
Frankly, when an organization claims that it is its goal "to form a nucleus of universal brotherhood" but has this kind of history, its simply embarrassing. I think all theosophists need to face up to this history and deal with it.
On the other hand, theosophy has had its influence too, as was recognized by the Krotona conference. But the question is: does that influence still exist? Could it be that the TS has served its purpose and is no longer needed in its present state? Would a metamorphosis be appropriate?
And another thing about some of these goals, like pulling in youth, or adapting theosophy to the modern world. One thing the TS does NOT want to do is what desperate middle age people do who are beginning to realize that they are getting old; they try to regress back to a youthful posture. They try to stay up with the latest fashions and trends, and its simply a silly posture and the youth see through this kind of stuff. So, I think the idea of trying to "jazz" theosophy up and make it look like MTV, or to make it "fun" would be futile and absurd thing to do. This is where the TPH in Wheaton is making a big mistake; because they are trying to sell books that appeal to the mass market, not publish quality or thoughtful writings.
Finally, with regard to the several goals listed above, the frank fact is that they require money to execute. The TS in Wheaton is of very limited means, and other TS sects are not any better off. With no money to support theosophical activities, the ideas listed above are little more than pipe dreams.
Aside, from the very practical matter of resources, I think we need to recognize that the TS served a very important purpose early on, but this purpose is no longer valid. The TS played a role in forming the 20th century, but now the 20th century is almost gone, and so is this role. The question is: what can we do now?
First, we must evaluate the spotted and sometimes frankly embarrassing past of the TS and hold this evaluation side by side with the contributions of the TS throughout this century. This will help to give us a balanced self image of what we are right NOW. Many theosophists fail at this task and instead try to sweep the past under the rug and ignore it. Such selective memory is unhealthy. Psychologists call such behavior "repression" and recognize it as a weakness of character.
Next we must ask: what do we want to become? And here, what we need to do in answering this question is to be acutely sensitive to the needs of the modern world.
We not only have to open up to other spiritual traditions -- we have to come down off the high-horse of spiritual self-righteousness and be open to the secular world too. For example, as stated above, the TS claims to provide a nucleus for universal brotherhood. But the fact is there are only 7000 some odd TS members in the United States presently. This amounts to 0.028 % of the US population. That is two one hundredths of one percent.
On the other hand, the Internet has served to connect the ENTIRE WORLD together in a PRACTICAL fashion, making the idea of the "human family" a concrete reality. And the Internet was NOT created by theosophists. The Internet was created by scientists, who are supposedly secular, materialistic and non-spiritual. How is it then, that if science is such a bad thing, that it has provided a framework for truly and practically uniting humanity?
This example illustrates the need of theosophists to broaden their appreciation of apparently secular things, for this supposedly secular thing called science has provided the concrete basis to unify humanity. The bottom line is, if theosophists continue to go about with a dogmatic attitude at any level, we might as well just close up shop and go home now.
So, to wrap this up, I acknowledge the effort of the Krotona school to resolve the divisiveness that exists amongst the various sects of theosophists. However, if we truly want to affect a change in theosophy as an institution, we must realize that an institution can only transform when the individual members of that institution have undergone personal transformation. Whether the members of the TS have such a potential is doubtful based on my experiences.
Theosophists have before then an exacting task that will requite courage, intellect and will, self-probing and the ability to admit their wrongs. Theosophists can ignore the challenges listed above and slowly fade away into history or they can face-up to these challenges and grow and survive as a viable system of thought that serves a use to humanity and not self-agrandizing and deluded egoes.
By Sarah Belle Dougherty
H. P. BLAVATSKY AND THE SPR: AN EXAMINATION OF THE HODGSON REPORT OF 1885 by Vernon Harrison, Ph.D. is now available in a full-text online edition from Theosophical University Press at:
In December 1885 the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London, England, published a 200-page report by Richard Hodgson, perhaps best known for its denunciation of H. P. Blavatsky as an "impostor," and often featured in encyclopedias, reference books, and biographical works.
In April 1986 the SPR Journal -- "in the interests of truth and fair play" -- published a critical analysis of the Hodgson Report by handwriting expert Vernon Harrison, who found it "riddled with slanted statements, conjectures advanced as fact or probable fact, uncorroborated testimony of unnamed witnesses, selection of evidence and downright falsity." Since then Dr. Harrison has continued his research, including a line-by-line examination of 1,323 color slides of the Mahatma Letters, and now concludes that "the Hodgson Report is even worse than I had thought."
H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR combines Dr. Harrison's first paper, "J'Accuse," with a new monograph based on his later work, together with his Opinion, Replies to Criticism, and 13 full color plates of sample pages from the Mahatma and Blavatsky letters. (The photographica copy of his Affadavit is not available in the online edition.)
By Tony Downey
[reprinted with permission from the June 1997 "Australasian TS Newsletter".]
What influence has Theosophy had on the world? Have the theosophical efforts of the past 125 years been concentrated on a few intellectuals at the expense of the general community? These are questions that often arise at our meetings as the enormous, but quiet, influence of theosophy on science, technology, and the arts has passed by unnoticed by most commentators.
Let's take the example of modern art which illustrates the impact of Theosophy on world thought in recent times.Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian are generally considered to be the two chief founders of modern abstract art.
At the centenary of Kandinsky's birth in 1966, Hilton Kramer, the art critic for the New York Times, acknowledged the great influence of theosophy on his art. Kandinsky is especially noted for his book -- CONCERNING THE SPIRITUAL IN ART. It was published in 1911 and was so timely that avant guarde artists everywhere tuned into its message.
Early in the book he speaks of H.P. Blavatsky, the principal founder of the Theosophical Society, as a major force in reviving interest in the spiritual and artistic traditions of India. He speaks highly of her book THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY as the source of many inspirational ideas for artists.
A detailed study of the influences on Kandinsky concludes that when it came to developing his own theories and putting them on canvas, Kandinsky made abundant use of the theosophical classic, THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Perhaps the most highly regarded of the founders of modern abstract art today is the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian (1873-1944).
One writer states that Mondrian was deeply concerned with religious matters and maintained a strong interest in theosophy having joined the Theosophical Society in 1909. He goes on to say: "Mondrian's theosophy was more than just a personal quirk. Several artists around 1910 sought through it deeper and more universal truths, meaning behind meaning, new dimensions to understanding. The thought that the ancient seers perceived and imparted a veiled wisdom that behind the many guises of truth there is one truth, is partly based on Oriental and Neo-Platonic ideas, it easily links with the romantic and symbolist theory of illuminism, which gives the artist extraordinary, even occult powers of insight into the nature of the world, the reality behind appearances- a new content for art". (Frank Elgar)
He developed a style that banished the conventions of three dimensional space and the curved line. He built his pictures from the simplest elements -- straight lines and primary colours which he moved around the canvas until he found the perfect composition balance. His aim was to create an objective artwhose laws would somehow reflect the order of the universe. Mandrian always had a portrait of Madame Blavatsky hanging in his studio. Other famous modern painters influenced by theosophy include Paul Klee, Paul Gauguin and Nicholas Roerich. Paul Klee (1879-1940) worked with Kandinsky in Munich when he made his transition to abstract art.
However, before meeting Kandinsky, Klee had developed an individual style of expressing the subconscious mind and fantasy in art. Professor Knotts in his book PAUL KLEE AND THE MYSTIC CENTRE writes: "Certainly Blavatsky was of interest to Klee in revealing the mysterious forces that speak on a different level of human consciousness, a level for which Klee always found a kinship. In his work Klee almost always removes things from their immediate surroundings, placing them in ever expanding realms, which result in a close correspondence between earth and cosmos, the living and the dead, things past and present.
Paul Gauguin (1843-1903) was described by one art historian as being 'enamoured of theosophy' (Thomas Buser). Gauguin's sympathy for theosophical ideas included reincarnation which influenced many of his paintings such as his large canvas (1898) entitled 'Whence do we come, what are we, where do we go?'.
Nicholas Roerich, a Russian artist and student of oriental thought introduced the works of Blavatsky to fellow artists in Russia and New York. He promoted the idea of Human brotherhood through the medium of art founding the institution 'Peace through Culture' in New York to exhibit representative contributions from all countries, intended to show that true art knows no boundaries.
His wife, Helena Roerich translated The Secret Doctrine into Russian and today Roerich is revered in his homeland for his contributions to art and there is a museum devoted to his memory in New York. Many artists were resident at the former international headquarters of our Society at Point Loma near San Diego, California. Included amongst them were Reginald Machell who exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. Many of his works still adorn our HQ now at Pasadena including his most well known work 'The Path' which illustrates the trials besetting the soul in its evolutionary journey (prints of this wonderful picture are available from our bookshop in Melbourne).
Others include Charles Ryan, who later wrote a definitive history of the Theosophical Society, Edith White, Julius Kronberg, Osvald Siren, and the well-known landscape painter Maurice Braun (1877-1941). Braun credited theosophy with sharpening his insight into nature. As one observer noted: 'To him art was for "the service of the divine powers in man" or as he otherwise phrased it, 'Art for humanity's sake', and he saw in Theosophy "the champion and inspirer of all that is noble and true and genuine in art". (Emmett A. Greenwalt: CALIFORNIA UTOPIA: Point Loma 1897-1942).
His son, Ernie Braun, carries on the family tradition with his beautiful nature photographs featured on the covers of most issues of our international magazine Sunrise.
Other contemporary artists around the world are equally inspired by the teachings of theosophy. An outstanding example from the Australasian Section of our Society is Allen David, formerly resident in Australia, but now working in New York. Allen was one of the first European artists to take a serious interest in Australian aboriginal art in the 1950s. His beautiful paintings and glass sculptures adorn many homes, galleries and public places in Australia, America and Israel, eg. his glass screen at the main entrance of La Trobe University's Borchardt library in Melbourne.
In the 1980s a group of California artists associated with our Society formed 'TACO', The Theosophical Artists Cooperative, to encourage spiritual themes in modern art. Their works are regularly exhibited at the Theosophical University Library Centre in Pasadena at our international headquarters. In 1986 a collection of more than 400 paintings were exhibited in Los Angeles and later in Chicago and The Hague with huge attendances - THE SPIRITUAL IN ART AND ABSTRACT PAINTING 1890-1985. At the end of the exhibition catalogue there is a large picture of HP Blavatsky and a long article on Theosophy stating clearly its cultural influence: "The Theosophical Society became the most widely influential organisation for the public promotion of Occult teaching in modern times... the society is historically important for popularising ideas of reincarnation and karma, secret masters, and Tibet as the land of ageless wisdom; for fostering the revival of Buddhism in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Hinduism in India; for encouraging the comparative study of religion; and for persuading many that the essential teachings of the great religions are one."
[Editor's note, Andrew Rooke: for those interested in following the influence of Theosophy on contemporary culture Sylvia Cranston's book. The extraordinary life & influence of Helena Blavatsky founder of the modern theosophical movement is recommended. Also two articlesf by I. M. Oderberg: 'HP Blavatsky's cultural impact', published in Sunrise Vol 45 numbers 2 and 3 1995 and 1996 give an excellent overview of the influence of theosophy on science, technology, and the arts. Most of the information in this article is derived from these sources. Many of the artists mentioned in this article are featured in a video" lecture and slide presentation by California artist Wynne Wolfe on the spiritual in modern art, 'Philartsophy' library.]
By Thoa Tran
[based upon a January 9, 1997 posting to email@example.com.]
I am learning several glorious aspects of humbleness.
First is simplicity.
I was the type of person that feels that I can do everything, and I did try. I worked, went to school, cooked elaborate meals, learned anything that came my way, helped others and did art work. Even my art work could not be simple. I had to do oil painting, silk painting, computer graphics, seamstressing, and ceramics.
What resulted was a person with very diverse skills but no deep love of any one thing. I ultimately became tired and disappointed in myself as I was forced to let go of each skill. The thought of the mountain of things I have to do each day paralyzed me into not getting anything done.
Lately, the light is shining through for me. I am learning to simplify and let go. I am breaking down activities and being mindful as I perform them.
It feels very calming to say, "I am following each brush line of this painting. I am building slowly each stroke. One day, all these strokes will be a painting, but for now, I am enjoying each stroke," or to say, "Today, I am mopping the floor. I am taking my time mopping the floor. I am not going to think of how the rest of the house needs organizing."
It is all right to be humble by being simple. This was a very basic Buddhist tenet, but I never truly understood it until now.
The second thing I learned is not having to prove myself.
I don't have to prove that I am best at anything anymore. I don't have to begin a painting by thinking how I am going to make it a unique and special painting. Just the simple act of enjoying each brush stroke is good enough.
Making each task a special event within myself instead of a wonderful event for somebody else is difficult, but much more rewarding.
Also, there's no need to prove how smart I am. I simplified my vocabulary and just try to communicate as honestly as possible.
The third is that I am learning about love, loving each moment, loving each thing, seeing the Divine in all things. This automatically creates humbleness. There is so much involved in being humble.
By Eldon B. Tucker
[based upon an April 27, 1994 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
After we have studied Theosophy a bit, and come to appreciate the wealth of wisdom that it contains, we wonder how we can share the treasures that we find with others. The world is hungry for what we have found, there is something quite special to behold in the Teachings. We cannot help wanting to share them with others, for the beauty of what we've found burns the most brightly in our minds and hearts as we share and pass on the Teachings.
There are two parts to the Teachings that can be shared. There is the part that leads to the door to the Mysteries. This is a path for the few, something special that is not meant for public dissemination. These are reserved for the few, although we have the potential of joining their ranks.
The second part is the keynote ideas and ethics needed to raise the spiritual consciousness of our age. This part concerns keeping the spiritual alive in western thought, and the transformations needed as one subrace changes to the next, for popular thought is always changing and transforming itself.
Considering this part, we find the task a difficult task before us. We must work the basic ideas of philosophy into our media, and into popular thought. This goes from the schoolyard games to the themes of popular paperback fiction, movies, and television. Everywhere we look about us in life, there are stories being told, and people living them out in their lives.
The way the stories go, and how they end, reveal the bias and the thought atmosphere of a society. There are certain morals, certain endings to stories that we see, with an implied "this is how things are." We can trace and observe the basic themes in our media, but we do not have to accept any ending.
There is, for instance, certain formulas for writing fiction that sells well. Another example is found in family movies. If the good guy kills someone, he is tainted, and will die before the end of the movie. Often, his death will be in some action that redeems himself, but he has already done something that is so terrible that his ultimate fate is sealed. Or consider a bad guy in a movie, whom needs to be killed off before the ending. The good guy cannot kill him, so the bad guy has to die through his own accident or evil deed, like a wicked witch slipping and falling to her death as she tries to kill the hero.
The morals behind the stories that we are emersed in are not always straight forward, not always spelled out to us, but they are there. We have our own Aesop's Fables, but the morals are not always stated straightforwardly.
In the 1960's, psychic powers were portrayed on tv as unreal, delusional, with disclaimers. Everyone knew they could not be true, and it was considered wrong to show them as possible, real, or of any good. Astrology is still presented at times as just "for entertainment value."
There are themes in our stories that need to be changed, for they are wrong, and although we may know better, the public may not know better.
It is important to better the stories of our society, because the stories that we hear and think of set the context for how we live our lives. The stories provide the themes for our personal existence. We live by the stories we think and use to pattern our lives.
Our day-to-day activities are seen while playing various roles, drams, games in life. One person may say: "I am a postman, delivering letters." Another may be a policeman, "only doing my job." A third may be a mother of four driving her station wagon to school to take her children home in the late afternoon. These are all stories that we have learned and are following in our lives.
Let's consider one theme that is still pervasive, an attitude that could lead to accepting evil in one's life. There is a theme that something is ok to do if someone can get away with if. It is ok to do if there is no accountability. Soldiers in Bosnia rape and kill the civilian population with little or no individual accountability. We even find this attitude in people portrayed in the media using paranormal powers. We may watch on tv as a man uses his mental powers to throw someone across the room, perhaps injuring or killing that person. It is often presented as though he may do so because he is a superior being, because of his powers. If someone else, without paranormal powers, did the same thing using a gun, we'd think "what a terrible man!" But when paranormal powers are involved, the moral accountability is somehow missing.
If you read someone's mind and know how they feel about you, without asking them, are you in the wrong? Is this any different from snooping in a woman's purse or a man's briefcase, or stealing a look at someone's journal? What if you influence someone, and change them, getting them to be or do things that you want? If you used mental affirmations or thought control from a distance, are you any less guilty of manipulation and coercion than that done by J.R. Ewing on "Dallas" in a more obvious and straightforward manner?
Looking about us, we are surrounded by media of all forms. We are faced with the need to help the theosophical philosophy pervade modern thought, to help clean up, raise, and ennoble modern thought. We have a hard job ahead of us, but we are not alone. We are sharing in the work of the Masters when we act to help keep struggling humanity moving along, toward its ambitious evolutionary goals, which ultimately lead to nirvana and liberation. And the biggest media that we can work with is all about is, so obvious that we do not often notice it and give it a thought: it is the current, actual, living karmic circumstances of life right now. This is an excellent starting point for this work!
By John Shafer
[based upon a report by Tamara Gerard, John Shafer, and Christina Zubelli that was posted April 26, 1994 on email@example.com.]
This is a report of the Inter-Theosophical Dialogue held at Krotona last month. Comments welcome.
On March 26, 1994, The Krotona School of Theosophy in Ojai, California, sponsored the "Inter-Theosophical Dialogue: The Theosophical Movement Past and Future." Members of different groups who grew from the original Theosophical Society were invited to attend for the purpose of having a dialogue with each other. This was the second time such an event has occurred. The last time was in 1984.
The subject for the morning session was, "The Theosophical movement in the 20th Century: What have we achieved?" Panelists speaking to this question were: Nandini Iyer, Associate, United Lodge of Theosophists, who pointed out that theosophy's effect on people's minds is reflected in 20th century thought: wherever thought tends to be free, there the theosophical movement can be found; Carmen Small, Point Loma Publications, who gave information on how a number of theosophical-oriented schools have influenced education; Jerry Hejka-Ekins, Theosophical Society, Adyar, who spoke of how theosophy has influenced and been influenced by paradigm shifts; Eleanor Shumway, Temple of the People, Halcyon, who described the formation and structure of Halcyon's Temple of the People; and Alan Donant, Theosophical Society, Pasadena, who spoke of how we have become cosmopolitan, citizens of a greater group.
The afternoon session addressed the question: "Theosophy in the 21st Century: Where Do We Go From Here?" The panelists for this session were: Rob McOwen, Associate, United Lodge of Theosophists, who discussed the need to understand and disseminate the concepts of unity and diversity; Nancy and John Coker, Theosophical Society, Pasadena, who talked of the danger of looking too much to the past, that we need to keep the message fresh and current and focus on reaching youth by speaking in their language; and John Algeo, President (American Section), Theosophical Society, Adyar, who reminded us of the original vision of theosophy to be the cornerstone of the future religions of humanity, and how a new institute for theosophical education could help fulfill that.
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to actual dialogues between all attending theosophists. Everyone was divided into groups of approximately 10-12 members each, making a total of 14 groups. This was pre-organized so as to mix members of various branches as much as possible. Each group was asked to discuss two questions: 1) What does the theosophical movement need to do in the 21st century to be of service to the world; and 2) what steps could each of us take to contribute? After an hour and a half of dialogue, everyone reassembled and representatives gave a summary report from each group. Through this process over a hundred separate items were presented; several common themes began to emerge which were echoed many times in different ways.
We compiled all this and have attempted to synthesize it down to a list of ten themes which we present below. Since we did not feel it was possible to accurately prioritize them, we have tried to order them in a logical manner based on the notion of taking care of inner needs first, then expanding to outer concerns:
1. Clarify the teachings: Have a clear and sound knowledge of the wisdom presented in theosophy.
2. Practice theosophy as a way of self-transformation: Apply the theosophical teachings in our daily lives so that we can transform ourselves and set an example to others.
3. Balance mind and heart: Cultivate the heart aspect of the teachings in order to reach a middle point between intellect and heart.
4. Participate in theosophical activities with creative energy: Utilize our own unique talents and put our energies to work. Get involved through study groups, social service, etc.
5. Make theosophy inclusive of other spiritual traditions: Accept the wisdom shared by other movements as part of our own. Be more embracing of other sources of literature, spiritual practices, and teachings in general. Be discriminately open.
6. Adapt theosophy to the contemporary world and language: Explore new methodologies. Restate and present the theosophical teachings in a modern, fresh, and current terminology.
7. Educate: Develop programs and methods to broadly disseminate theosophy. Explore new educational means such as cultural, artistic, and entertainment activities. Reach the people.
8. Involve Youth: Revitalize the theosophical movement with the presence and energy of young people. Work together with them to bring forth activities that will stimulate youth participation.
9. Network: Increase interaction and association with sympathetic individuals and groups. Promote cooperation among different organizations.
10.Reach Out: Encourage a broader outreach of theosophical activities on both community and worldly levels. Take advantage of new media technologies.
We would like to make special mention of one group's presentation which we feel summarizes the sentiments of the day in a particularly succinct and elegant manner:
1. Clarify an understanding of the basic principles.
2. Apply principles to self-transformation.
3. Share principles with others.
In other words, "learn it, then just do it!" This was from GROUP 9 facilitated and presented by Diana Dunningham Chapotin.
After the main events of the day, many participants gathered for dinner in the Krotona School where they had an opportunity to socialize in a more informal setting. Following this, the group facilitators and a few others gathered for a post-conference debriefing which turned out to be the most intense gathering of the day. This group also processed the days events and came up with a list of four priority questions for the theosophical movement:
1. What are the essential teachings of theosophy that all theosophists can agree on?
2. How should theosophy evolve with the new paradigm shift -- in other words, how do we adapt the old language and ideas to the modern world?
3. How should theosophy present itself to the world now?
4. Where's the party? In other words, does theosophy need to be so serious all the time? How do we attract new younger members?
Everyone was very energized and wished to see the enthusiasm and dialogue somehow carried on. It was decided that a longer weekend retreat was needed to continue and expand discussion; one was organized for the weekend of May 14th and 15th.
For those interested, both audio and video recordings of the day's events are available. For audio tapes, contact at Krotona School, (805) 646-1139, for video tapes contact Olcott headquarters, 1-800-669-1571.
By David Reigle
[This is Part I of two parts of the BOOK OF DZYAN RESEARCH REPORT, June 1997, published by Eastern School Press, 3185 Boyd Road, Cotopaxi CO 81223. They have no email id. Accents have been removed from the original edition because of technical limitations.]
The doctrine of svabhava or svabhavata, as was discussed in the previousBook of Dzyan Research Report, "Technical Terms in Stanza II," is a fundamental doctrine of the "Book of Dzyan" as presented in The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky. To establish its validity outside the small circle of believing Theosophists, it must be traced in the Buddhist texts where it is said to be found. Until it can be traced in the Buddhist texts, the affirmation of its former existence by a Nepalese Buddhist Vajracharya carries no more weight to objective investigators than do statements about it by Theosophical Mahatmas. To trace it in the Buddhist texts we must necessarily do so in terms of the "dharmas," the word they use throughout for all the "elements of existence." Here we will need to reconcile their universally-held doctrine that all dharmas are anatman, or "without self," with the Theosophical teachings which regularly use the term atman. Then we come to their teaching of shunyata, the "emptiness" of all dharmas. Only at this point are we back to svabhava, for shunyata is defined as the nihsvabhava, the "lack of svabhava," of all dharmas.
It will already be obvious that for our research we must first find out if there is anything taught in Buddhism that is not a dharma, something beyond the "elements of existence." The Buddhist authority Walpola Rahula, explaining dhamma, the Pali equivalent of the Sanskrit dharma, tells us that there is not:
There is no term in Buddhist terminology wider than dhamma . It includes not only the conditioned things and states, but also the non-conditioned, the Absolute, Nirvana. There is nothing in the universe or outside, good or bad, conditioned or non-conditioned, relative or absolute, which is not included in this term.
[Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, 1959; second enlarged edition, New York: Grove Press, 1974, p. 58. Note that many current Buddhist writers translate "dharmas" as "phenomena."]
In an earlier Book of Dzyan Research Report, "Theosophy in Tibet: The Teachings of the Jonangpa School," the Buddhist teaching of the dhatu, the "element," described as permanent, stable, quiescent, and eternal, was likened to the Theosophical teaching of the "one element." What, then, is the relationship between the one element, the dhatu, and the many elements of existence, the dharmas? A verse from the now lost Mahayana-abhidharma-sutra, quoted in several extant Buddhist texts, tells us that it is their basis or support (samashraya):
anadi-kaliko dhatuh sarva-dharma-samashrayah | tasmin sati gatih sarva nirvanadhigamo 'pi ca ||
From beginningless time the element is the basis of all the dharmas. Because it exists, all the destinies [of living beings] exist, and even the [possibility of the] attainment of nirvana.
[All translations are by myself unless otherwise noted. This verse is here taken from Asabaga's commentary after 1.152 of the Ratna-gotra-vibhaga, where it explains the tathagata-garbha or Buddha-nature, the dhatu or element when obscured. Hence, dhatu's Tibetan translation is here khams, element. When this verse occurs in Yogacara texts, as at the beginning of Asabaga's Mahayana-samgraha, and in Sthiramati's commentary on verse 19 of Vasubandhu's Vijnapti-matrata-siddhi-trimshika, it explains the alaya-vijnana or substratum consciousness. Hence, dhatu's Tibetan translation is there dbyins, or realm. This verse is accepted not only by the Jonangpas and the Yogacarins, but also by the Prasabagika Madhyamikas, the dominant school in Tibet. It is quoted approvingly by Jam-yang-shay-ba in his somewhat polemical Tibetan monastic study manual, with the comment: "The Prasabagikas accept these passages literally." See Jeffrey Hopkins' partial translation of this study manual in Meditation on Emptiness, London: Wisdom Publications, 1983, where this occurs on p. 623.]
This seems to also provide us with a firm basis for tracing the Theosophical svabhava or svabhavata doctrine in Buddhist sources. If the element is thought of as svabhava, and svabhava is indeed given as one of its meanings in Maitreya's Ratna-gotra-vibhaga, we would have it. So what happened to this teaching?
[Ratna-gotra-vibhaga 1.29 gives ten meanings for the dhatu, the first of which is svabhava.]
Early Buddhism was divided into many schools. Although they classified the dharmas differently, and even had different numbers of dharmas, generally speaking they held that each dharma was a real existent (dravya), had its own svabhava, and was impermanent (anitya). ---
[See: Etienne Lamotte, History of Indian Buddhism from the Origins to the Shaka Era, translated from the French by Sara Webb-Boin, Louvain-la-Neuve: Institut Orientaliste de l'Universite Catholique de Louvain, 1988, p. 600.]
--- Thus the svabhava of a dharma is here its individual nature, which is non-eternal. An exception to this was the Sarvastivada school. The teachings of this once-dominant school have been preserved for us as taught by the Vaibhasikas of Kashmir in Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-kosha . This text, however, says little about their svabhava teaching. But the same author wrote a commentary on this text criticizing many of its teachings from the standpoint of the Sautrantika school. Strangely enough, it is here in a verse ridiculing this teaching that we find its clearest statement:
svabhavah sarvada casti bhavo nityash ca nesyate | na ca svabhavad bhavo 'nyo vyaktam ishvara-cestitam ||
Svabhava always exists, but an existent entity is not held to be permanent; yet an existent entity is not different from svabhava. Clearly, [and absurdly,] this is the doing of [some imaginary] God.
[This verse is found in Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-kosha-bhasya on 5.27.]
No Buddhist school has ever believed in God. The Sautrantikas are saying that this position is so illogical that it would have to be the work of an all-powerful God who could transcend the laws of reason, and hence for Buddhists it is completely absurd. The Sarvastivada position seems to be that the svabhava of a dharma is eternal, although an independently existing entity (bhava) is not eternal. If this svabhava is taken to be the one element, we would have an exact statement of the Theosophical position. There is the one element, only the one element, and nothing but the one element; and it is eternal. All apparently existing things are non-eternal as such. Yet, if there is nothing but the one element, all apparently existing things cannot be different from it. But the Sarvastivada position was not seen in this way. Rather it was seen like that of the other early Buddhist schools to refer to the svabhava of the individual dharmas. For as stated in the early Samaya-bhedoparacana-cakra by Vasumitra, who was himself a Sarvastivadin, "The svabhava [of a dharma] does not combine with the svabhava [of another dharma]." ---
["Origin and Doctrines of Early Indian Buddhist Schools: A Translation of the Hsuan-chwang Version of Vasumitra's Treatise," trans. Jiryo Masuda, Asia Major, vol. 2, 1925, p. 48 (section 3, chapter 5, verse 29). See also Abhidharma-kosha 1.18 for a similar statement.]
--- Vasumitra's treatise is terse and admittedly not always easy to understand, but my bracketed material in the above quote certainly reflects how later schools understood the Sarvastivada position, namely that their eternal svabhava is that of the individual dharmas.
Buddhist thought as studied in Tibet for the last millennium holds that the Sarvastivadins or Vaibhasikas were refuted by the Sautrantikas; the Sautrantikas were refuted by the Yogacarins or Cittamatrins; the Yogacarins were refuted by the Svatantrika Madhyamikas; and these were refuted by the Prasabagika Madhyamikas. This latter is accepted as the highest teaching on earth by the majority of Tibetan Buddhists. In this manner the old Sarvastivada teaching of svabhava as eternal, taken to refer to the individual dharmas, was superseded.
The teaching of the eternal element or dhatu as the basis of all the dharmas, allowing the possibility of seeing in it a single eternal svabhava, was taken differently by different schools. The Yogacarins understood the dhatu to refer to the alaya-vijnana, or substratum consciousness. The Madhyamikas understood the dhatu to refer to the tathagata-garbha, or Buddha-nature, taken to be the emptiness of the mind. Buddhist schools sought to avoid emphasizing this teaching in any way which could be seen as holding a unitary eternal svabhava, apparently because of the similarity of this idea to the Hindu atman doctrine.
THE QUESTION OF ANATMAN
All known schools of Buddhism have always taught that all dharmas are anatman or "without self." This means that atman as the universal higher self taught in Hinduism and also taught in Theosophy is denied. This distinctive teaching of Buddhism defines for Buddhists their teachings as Buddhist. Thus most Buddhists regard Theosophy as derived from Hinduism, not from Tibetan Mahatmas who as Buddhists could not hold the atman doctrine. Conversely some Theosophists as well as others have attempted to show that Buddhism does not really deny atman. Since this doctrine is so central to Buddhist teachings, any Theosophist who wishes to trace a svabhava or svabhavata doctrine in the Buddhist texts must first reconcile the anatman doctrine one way or the other with the Theosophical teachings. To do this we should consider the words of Walpola Rahula:
What in general is suggested by Soul, Self, Ego, or to use the Sanskrit expression Atman, is that in man there is a permanent, everlasting and absolute entity, which is the unchanging substance behind the changing phenomenal world... .
Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of such a Soul, Self, or Atman . gccording to the teaching of the Buddha, the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality... .
"The negation of an imperishable Atman is the common characteristic of all dogmatic systems of the Lesser as well as the Great Vehicle, and, there is, therefore, no reason to assume that Buddhist tradition which is in complete agreement on this point has deviated from the Buddha's original teaching."
It is therefore curious that recently there should have been a vain attempt by a few scholars to smuggle the idea of self into the teaching of the Buddha, quite contrary to the spirit of Buddhism. These scholars respect, admire, and venerate the Buddha and his teaching. They look up to Buddhism. But they cannot imagine that the Buddha, whom they consider the most clear and profound thinker, could have denied the existence of an Atman or Self which they need so much. They unconsciously seek the support of the Buddha for this need for eternal existence--of course not in a petty individual self with small s, but in the big Self with a capital S.
It is better to say frankly that one believes in an Atman or Self. Or one may even say that the Buddha was totally wrong in denying the existence of an Atman . But certainly it will not do for any one to try to introduce into Buddhism an idea which the Buddha never accepted, as far as we can see from the extant original texts.
[What the Buddha Taught, pp. 51-56.]
The term atman is used in Theosophy for the seventh or highest principle in man. In the "Cosmological Notes" from January 1882 a Mahatma gives in parallel columns the seven principles of man and of the universe in Tibetan, Sanskrit, and English. ---
[in The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, comp. A. T. Barker, 1925; facsimile reprint, Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 1973, pp. 376-386.]
--- The term atman is found in two forms in the Sanskrit column for the principles of man. The Tibetan terms given for these, however, are not translations of the Sanskrit terms, but rather represent a different system. In other words, the Tibetan system used here by the Mahatmas does not have atman or its translation; only the Sanskrit system does, which consists of terms drawn from Hinduism. It is well known to readers of The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett that the Mahatmas expressed great difficulty in finding appropriate terms with which to teach their doctrines, and they often drew from wherever they could find similar ideas, including even the European philosophy of the time. Indeed, this practice could satisfactorily explain their references to the Svabhavika school of Buddhism thought to exist in Nepal, were it not for the fact that the term svabhavat is given seven times in the Stanzas from the "Book of Dzyan." Since the Mahatmas had Hindu chelas, they would have already had intact a system of Hindu terms. But it does not necessarily follow that the Mahatmas were themselves followers of the schools from which the terms were taken. E.g., "We are not Adwaitees [followers of the Hindu school of advaita or non-dual Vedanta], but our teaching respecting the one life is identical with that of the Adwaitee with regard to Parabrahm." ---
[The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, comp. A. T. Barker, 2nd ed. 1926, p. 53; 3rd ed. 1962, p. 53; chronological ed. 1993, p. 271.]
--- So also, from their use of parallel terms it does not necessarily follow that the Mahatmas accept all the implications of the term thus used, as we learn from an article published at that same time.
An article by the Adwaitee Hindu chela T. Subba Row, "The Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man," came out in The Theosophist, January 1882, with notes by H. P. Blavatsky. These notes were written before the publication in 1883 of A. P. Sinnett's highly influential Theosophical classic, Esoteric Buddhism, and therefore before Blavatsky felt obliged to counter the view that Theosophy is esoteric Buddhism so as to stress its universality (as she later did in The Secret Doctrine). Thus she here speaks unguardedly of the differences between the esoteric Buddhist or Arhat doctrine of the Tibetan Mahatmas and the esoteric Brahmanical or Aryan doctrine of the Hindu Initiates. By the time this article was reprinted three years later in Five Years of Theosophy, key sentences giving these differences were omitted; and in her subsequent writings we read only of the identity of the Hindu Vedantic parabrahman and atman with the Buddhist teachings and with Theosophy. Here are the relevant excerpts from her notes:
So that, the Aryan and Tibetan or Arhat doctrines agree perfectly in substance, differing but in names given and the way of putting it, a distinction resulting from the fact that the Vedantin Brahmans believe in Parabrahman, a deific power, impersonal though it may be, while the Buddhists entirely reject it. [p. 406]
The Impersonal Parabrahman thus being made to merge or separate itself into a personal "jivatma," or the personal god of every human creature. This is, again, a difference necessitated by the Brahmanical belief in a God whether personal or impersonal, while the Buddhist Arahats, rejecting this idea entirely, recognize no deity apart from man. [p. 410]
We have already pointed out that, in our opinion, the whole difference between Buddhistic and Vedantic philosophies was that the former was a kind of rationalistic Vedantism, while the latter might be regarded as transcendental Buddhism. If the Aryan esotericism applies the term jivatma to the seventh principle, the pure and per se unconscious spirit--it is because the Vedanta postulating three kinds of existence--(1) the paramarthika (the true, the only real one), (2) the vyavaharika (the practical), and (3) the pratibhasika (the apparent or illusory life)--makes the first life or jiva, the only truly existent one. Brahma or the one self is its only representative in the universe, as it is the universal life in toto while the other two are but its "phenomenal appearances," imagined and created by ignorance, and complete illusions suggested to us by our blind senses. The Buddhists, on the other hand, deny either subjective or objective reality even to that one Self-Existence. Buddha declares that there is neither Creator nor an Absolute Being. Buddhist ration-alism was ever too alive to the insuperable difficulty of admitting one absolute consciousness, as in the words of Flint--'wherever there is consciousness there is relation, and wherever there is relation there is dualism.' The One Life is either "mukta" (absolute and unconditioned) and can have no relation to anything nor to any one; or it is "baddha" (bound and conditioned), and then it cannot be called the absolute ; the limitation, moreover, necessitating another deity as powerful as the first to account for all the evil in this world. Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony admits but of one absolute, indestructible, eternal, and uncreated unconsciousness (so to translate), of an element (the word being used for want of a better term) absolutely independent of everything else in the universe; ... [pp. 422-23]
[H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, ed. Boris de Zirkoff, vol. 3.]
The central doctrine of the upanisads, and therefore of Vedanta, is that there is nothing but brahman, or parabrahman, and further that brahman and atman, the Self in all, are one. Buddhism, for whatever reason, did not teach an a-brahman or "no brahman" doctrine, but rather taught an an-atman or "no self" doctrine. At the time of the Buddha there existed in India other Hindu schools, such as Sabakhya, who interpreted the upanisads differently than the Vedantins. The Sabakhya school understood brahman as referring to unconscious substance. This may be seen from the extensive polemics against them by Shabakaracarya in his commentary on the Brahma-sutra, also called the Vedanta-sutra, whose whole point is to prove that brahman is omniscient, and therefore not unconscious. Since they are the primary target of Shabakaracarya's polemics, we may assume that the Sabakhya school was once quite influential; and this is indeed borne out by the old epic literature of India. So there was in early India an influential Hindu school which held that brahman was unconscious substance (acetana pradhana or prakriti). But despite the teaching that brahman and atman are one, the Sabakhya school understood atman as referring to the conscious purusa or spirit, much like the Vedanta school's atman as the conscious jivatman in man. Thus, if the Buddha's point was to refute an absolute consciousness, he would have been obliged to refute atman rather than brahman. As such, I would choose to reconcile the Theosophical teachings in favor of the anatman doctrine of the Buddhist teachings, despite Theosophy's use of the term atman, which I would then take as a working but not entirely overlapping parallel.
If, on the other hand, the Buddha's point with the anatman doctrine was not to refute an absolute consciousness, but to refute an absolute substratum of any kind, the Buddhists have some very embarrassing sutras of their own to reconcile. These are the Tathagata-garbha or Buddha-nature sutras, ---
[There are said to be ten Tathagata-garbha sutras: Sh ri-mala-devi-simha-nada-sutra; Jnanalokalamkara-sutra; Sandhi-nirmocana-sutra; Mahaparinirvana-sutra; gvikalpa-pravesha-dharani; Dharanishvara-raja-paripriccha (Tathagata-mahakaruna-nirdesha-sutra); Arya-abaguli-maliya-sutra; Mahabheri-haraka-sutra; Tathagata-garbha-sutra; Anunatvapurnatva-nirdesha-parivarta.]
--- said by the Jonangpas to be of definitive meaning, and said by the Gelugpas to require interpretation. For example, one of these, the Maha-parinirvana-sutra, teaches that:
The atman is the Tathagatagarbha. All beings possess a Buddha Nature: this is what the atman is. This atman, from the start, is always covered by innumerable passions (klesha): this is why beings are unable to see it.
[Etienne Lamotte, The Teaching of Vimalakirti, Eng. trans. by Sara Boin, London: The Pali Text Society, 1976, Introduction, p. lxxvii.]
It is noteworthy that this very sutra, extracts from which had been translated by Samuel Beal as far back as 1871, was quoted in The Mahatma Letters on this very question of atman:
Says Buddha, "you have to get rid entirely of all the subjects of impermanence composing the body that your body should become permanent. The permanent never merges with the impermanent although the two are one. But it is only when all outward appearances are gone that there is left that one principle of life which exists independently of all external phenomena... ."
[The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 2nd ed. p. 455; 3rd ed. p. 448; chron. ed., p. 217. Compare: A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, by Samuel Beal, London: Trubner & Co., 1871, p. 184.
The teachings of the Tathagata-garbha sutras are synthesized in a unique and fundamental text, the Ratna-gotra-vibhaga, which is considered in Tibetan tradition to be one of the five texts of Maitreya. This text refers to the four qualities which Buddhism had always taught as characterizing all dharmas or phenomena, namely, impermanence (anitya), suffering (duhkha), no-self (anatman), and impurity (ashubha); but says that their opposites characterize the dharma-kaya or absolute, namely, permanence (nitya), happiness (sukha), self (atman), and purity (shubha). The commentary then quotes in explanation of this a passage from the Shri-mala-sutra, which I here translate in full:
O Lord, people hold mistaken views about the five perishable personality aggregates which form the basis of clinging to existence. They have the idea of permanence about that which is impermanent, the idea of happiness about that which is suffering, the idea of self (atman) about that which is without self (anatman), and the idea of purity about that which is impure. Even all the Shravakas and Pratyeka-Buddhas, O Lord, because of their knowledge of emptiness (shunyata), hold mistaken views about the dharma-kaya of the Tathagata (Buddha), the sphere of omniscient wisdom, never before seen. The people, O Lord, who will be the Buddha's true sons, having the idea of permanence, having the idea of self (atman), having the idea of happiness, and having the idea of purity, those people, O Lord, will hold unmistaken views. They, O Lord, will see correctly. Why is that? The dharma-kaya of the Tathagata, O Lord, is the perfection of permanence, the perfection of happiness, the perfection of self (atman), and the perfection of purity. The people, O Lord, who see the dharma-kaya of the Tathagata in this way, see correctly. Those who see correctly are the Buddha's true sons.
[Ratna-gotra-vibhaga-vyakhya after 1.36; E. H. Johnston ed. p. 30-31; Z. Nakamura ed. p. 59. A perfectly good translation of this exists by J. Takasaki from Sanskrit, pp. 209-210, and also by E. Obermiller from Tibetan, p. 166. I have retranslated it in order to bring out the technical terms, particularly atman, which Takasaki and Obermiller translate as "unity" rather than "self."]
Terms such as Tathagata-garbha and dharma-kaya have multiple connotations, so I have left them untranslated above. As mentioned in an earlier Book of Dzyan Research Report, the Tathagata-garbha, or Buddha-nature, and thei dharma-kaya, or body of the law, are what the dhatu, or element, is called when obscured and when unobscured, respectively; and these three terms correspond well with the "One Life," the "One Law," and the "One Element," of The Mahatma Letters . These three terms for the absolute are interpreted by the Gelugpas as referring to the absolute truth of the emptiness of all things, and not to any absolute substratum. But for the Jonangpas they come from texts of definitive meaning which require no interpretation, so do refer to an absolute substratum which is empty of everything but itself. The Tathagata-garbha texts, like all Buddhist texts, still deny atman in regard to phenomenal life, but accept atman in regard to ultimate reality; that is, as applied to the Tathagata-garbha and the dharma-kaya, or the obscured and unobscured dhatu, the element, which is described as eternal, but not as conscious. This certainly justifies the Mahatma's use of the term, even from a Buddhist standpoint.
THE QUESTION OF SHUNYATA
Having reconciled the Buddhist anatman doctrine with Theosophical teachings, at least to my own satisfaction, we can now proceed to the shunyata, or "emptiness" question, which is closely linked with the svabhava question. The doctrine of anatman is taught throughout Buddhism from beginning to now, and in all its branches. The doctrine of shunyata, however, comes from sutras said to have disappeared from the realm of humans forty years after the time of the Buddha, and only brought back centuries later. These texts form the basis of Mahayana or northern Buddhism, but were not accepted by Hinayana or southern Buddhism. Primary among these are the Prajna-paramita or Perfection of Wisdom sutras, which were brought back by Nagarjuna from the realm of the Nagas, the "serpents" of wisdom, called by Blavatsky, "initiates." ---
[The Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky, vol. I, p. 404; vol. II, pp. 211, 501.]
--- Hinayana Buddhism in general teaches that all dharmas, though they are impermanent or momentary, really exist, so each has its own svabhava. The Prajna-paramita texts teach that all dharmas do not really exist, that they are empty of any svabhava of their own; thus adding to the early anatman doctrine regarding persons (pudgala-nairatmya) an anatman doctrine regarding dharmas (dharma-nairatmya).
The doctrine of shunyata, the central teaching of the Prajna-paramita texts, is stated in terms of the shunyata, the "emptiness" or "voidness" of all dharmas; or more fully, that all dharmas are svabhava-shunya, "empty" (shunya) of svabhava. These texts never tire of repeating this teaching: ---
[These representative examples are drawn from the 25,000 and 18,000 line Prajna-paramita sutras. There is at present no complete Sanskrit edition of any of the three large Prajna-paramita sutras. But as pointed out by Edward Conze, their contents are essentially identical, with the 100,000 line version spelling out in full the extensive and repetitive lists of categories which are only abbreviated in the 18,000 and 25,000 line versions. So each of the three can be divided according to subject matter into eight progressively achieved "realizations" (abhisamaya), following Maitreya's Abhisamayalabakara. Using this, we can readily see what the available Sanskrit editions cover:
Catasahasrika-prajna-paramita, ed. Pratapacandra Ghosa, vol. 1 (18 fascicles, 1676 pp.), vol. 2 (1 fasc., 71 pp., incomplete), Calcutta, 1902-1914, Bibliotheca Indica 153; includes 13 parivartas covering most of the 1st abhisamaya.
The Pancavimshatisahasrika Prajnaparamita, ed. Nalinaksha Dutt, London: Luzac & Co., 1934, Calcutta Oriental Series 28; covers the 1st abhisamaya.
Pancavimshatisahasrika Prajnaparamita II -- III, ed. Takayasu Kimura, Tokyo: Sankibo Busshorin Publishing Co., 1986; covers the 2nd and 3rd abhisamayas.
Pancavimshatisahasrika Prajnaparamita IV, Takayasu Kimura, Tokyo: Sankibo Busshorin Publishing Co., 1990; covers the 4th abhisamaya.
The Gilgit Manuscript of the Astadashasahasrikaprajnaparamita, Chapters 55 to 70 corresponding to the 5th Abhisamaya, ed. & trans. Edward Conze, Roma: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1962, Serie Orientale Roma 26.
The Gilgit Manuscript of the Astadashasahasrikaprajnaparamita, Chapters 70 to 82 corresponding to the 6th, 7th and 8th Abhisamayas, ed. & trans. Edward Conze, Roma: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1974, Serie Orientale Roma 46.
The 25,000 line editions of Dutt and Kimura, covering the first through fourth abhisamayas, and the 18,000 line editions of Conze, covering the fifth through eighth abhisamayas, make up the complete subject matter of these texts. Thus it was not until 1990, with Kimura's edition completing the last of the eight abhisamayas to be edited, that we had access to a complete large Prajna-paramita sutra in printed form.]
--- No dharma has ever come into existence (anutpada); they do not exist (na samvidyate); they are non-existent (abhava); they are empty (shunya); they are empty of svabhava (svabhava-shunya); they are without svabhava (nihsvabhava); their svabhava is non-existent (abhava-svabhava). Again, I have left svabhava untranslated. One may employ any number of possible translations: essence, own-being, inherent existence, self-existence, self-nature, essential nature, intrinsic nature, intrinsic reality. As may now be seen, most occurrences of the term svabhava in these texts are found in conjunction with occurrences of the term shunyata, because the whole point of the doctrine of shunyata is to refute the doctrine of svabhava.
The shunyata or emptiness teachings of the Prajna-paramita sutras were first formulated into a philosophy by Nagarjuna. This is the Madhyamaka or "middle way" philosophy, so called because it seeks to avoid the two extremes of eternalism and nihilism. Its primary text is the Mula-madhyamaka-karika, or "Root Verses on the Middle Way." In this text Nagarjuna underscores how critical it is to understand shunyata correctly:
An incorrect view of emptiness destroys the slow-minded, like an incorrectly grasped snake, or an incorrectly cast spell.
vinashayati durdrista shunyata manda-medhasam | sarpo yatha durgrihito vidya va dusprasadhita ||]
Yet early on, varying schools of interpretation of Nagarjuna's treatise arose. Its verses or karikas are concise and often hard to understand without a commentary. Nagarjuna is thought to have written his own commentary on it, called the Akutobhaya, but his authorship of the extant text of that name found in the Tibetan canon is rejected by Tibetan tradition. ---
[Meditation on Emptiness, Jeffrey Hopkins, p. 360]
--- By the time of Tsong-kha-pa, more than a millennium after the original text was written, there existed many commentaries. After studying these, Tsong-kha-pa wondered what the correct interpretation was. Through mystical means, the Buddha of Wisdom Manjushri told him that the interpretation by Chandrakirti was in all ways reliable. ---
[The Door of Liberation, by Geshe Wangyal, New York: Maurice Girodias Associates, Inc., 1973, p. 66.]
--- In this way Tsong-kha-pa and the Gelugpas came to champion Chandrakirti's school, the Prasabagika Madhyamaka, which became dominant in Tibet.
The Prasabagika or "consequence" school uses a type of statement called prasabaga, somewhat reminiscent of Socratic dialogue, which points out unexpected and often unwelcome consequences in whatever anyone can postulate. It reduces these postulations to absurdity. Through this type of reasoning dharmas are analyzed and shown not to be findable, and as a consequence are proven to be empty. This school seeks to avoid making positive statements of its own. Not only are all dharmas empty, so too is emptiness empty. Shunyata itself does not exist any more than anything else. It is not the void in which things may exist. Shunyata is here absolute only in the sense of being the absolute truth of the emptiness of all things, including itself.
Would this, then, also be the Theosophical understanding of shunyata? The Theosophical teachings are said to represent an esoteric school of interpretation, so one should not expect them to agree with the exoterically known schools, such as "the Prasabaga Madhyamika teaching, whose dogmas have been known ever since it broke away from the purely esoteric schools." ---
[The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, p. 43.]
--- For as Blavatsky points out:
Esoteric Schools would cease to be worthy of their name were their literature and doctrines to become the property of even their profane co-religionists--still less of the Western public. This is simple common sense and logic. Nevertheless this is a fact which our Orientalists have ever refused to recognize.
[H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 433.]
So now that Blavatsky did bring out to the western public some of the esoteric teachings, under instruction from certain of the Tibetan Mahatmas who believed that the time had come for this, where do we find the Theosophical understanding of shunyata? Returning to the passage quoted earlier from Blavatsky's notes on Subba Row's article, we continue reading:
Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony admits but of one absolute, indestructible, eternal, and uncreated unconsciousness (so to translate), of an element (the word being used for want of a better term) absolutely independent of everything else in the universe; a something ever present or ubiquitous, a Presence which ever was, is, and will be, whether there is a God, gods or none; whether there is a universe or no universe; existing during the eternal cycles of Maha Yugas, during the Pralayas as during the periods of Manvantara: and this is Space, the field for the operation of the eternal Forces and natural Law, the basis (as our correspondent rightly calls it) upon which take place the eternal intercorrelations of Akasha-Prakriti, guided by the unconscious regular pulsations of Shakti--the breath or power of a conscious deity, the theists would say--the eternal energy of an eternal, unconscious Law, say the Buddhists. Space, then, or Fan, Bar-nang (Maha-Shunyata) or, as it is called by Lao-tze, the "Emptiness" is the nature of the Buddhist Absolute.
[H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 3, p. 423.]
The term "space" is Samuel Beal's rendering of shunyata in his 1871 translation of the most condensed Prajna-paramita sutra, the Heart Sutra. ---
[Found in A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, by Samuel Beal, London: f304 Trubner & Co., 1871, pp. 282-284. It had been published earlier in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, n.s. vol. 1, 1865, pp. 25-28.]
--- Blavatsky had quoted it earlier in another note to Subba Row's article:
Prakriti, Svabhavat or Akasha is-- Space as the Tibetans have it; Space filled with whatsoever substance or no substance at all; i.e., with substance so imponderable as to be only metaphysically conceivable... . 'That which we call form (rupa) is not different from that which we call space (Shunyata) ... Space is not different from Form... .' (Book of Sin-king or the Heart Sutra ... .)
[H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 3, pp. 405-406.]
Beal was one of the first western translators of Buddhist texts. Influenced by Brian Hodgson's account of the four schools of Buddhism, Beal believed that Chinese Buddhism followed the Svabhavika school, accepting a "universally diffused essence." ---
[Beal, Catena, p. 11: "Both these writers adopted the teaching of the Swabhavika school of Buddhism, which is that generally accepted in China. This school holds the eternity of Matter as a crude mass, infinitesimally attenuated under one form, and expanded in another form into the countless beautiful varieties of Nature." Also, p. 14: "The doctrine of a universally diffused and self-existing essence of which matter is only a form, seems to be unknown in the Southern schools. It would appear, therefore, that there has been no advance in the Southern philosophical code since the date of Nagasena [i.e., Nagarjuna], who was a strenuous opponent of the Swabhava theory."]
--- So in Beal's understanding, shunyata or space was just another form of the absolute svabhava. Several decades later the first comprehensive study in English of the Madhyamaka school based on a thorough study of Nagarjuna's original Sanskrit text came out: T. R. V. Murti's The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, 1955. Although no longer based on a Svabhavika idea, Murti still understood shunyata to be the Buddhist absolute. Therefore Madhyamaka was seen by him as a kind of absolutist philosophy. In recent decades, however, since the Tibetan displacement, a number of new works have come out based on collaboration with Tibetan Gelugpa lamas, which severely criticize the earlier absolutist interpretations of Madhyamaka. ---
[See, for example: Tsong Khapa's Speech of Gold in the Essence of True Eloquence: Reason and Enlightenment in the Central Philosophy of Tibet, by Robert A. F. Thurman, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984; The Emptiness of Emptiness: An Introduction to Early Indian Madhyamika, by C. W. Huntington, Jr., with Geshe Namgyal Wangchen, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989; The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, by Jay L. Garfield, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.]
--- They point out that Madhyamaka is by definition the middle way which avoids the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. Neither of these two forms of absolutism can be the correct interpretation. The Tibetans are heirs to an unbroken tradition of Madhyamaka spanning more than fifteen hundred years. Since this tradition has been thoroughly sifted by generations of scholars, they have every reason to believe that theirs is the correct interpretation of shunyata; and this shunyata is not something which itself exists in any absolute way such as space. Do we here have another case where Blavatsky quoted whatever she could find which seemed to support the esoteric teachings, but which later turns out not to support them after all? I don't think so.
In one of the most significant extracts drawn from secret commentaries and found in The Secret Doctrine, we find:
... As its substance is of a different kind from that known on earth, the inhabitants of the latter, seeing through it, believe in their illusion and ignorance that it is empty space. There is not one finger's breadth (angula) of void Space in the whole Boundless (Universe)... .
[The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, p. 289.]
This leaves no doubt that shunyata or space is indeed understood in the Arhat secret doctrine as the absolute, the one element, the eternal substance. But how can there be an absolute in the middle way taught by the Buddha?
By Jerry Hejka-Ekins
[Based upon a January 24, 1997 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org. The following article was revised by the author, but was still felt to lack the detailed background information needed by an uninformed reader. Such background information, he says, would require a whole book. An historically informed reader, however will be able to follow what was written.]
I've heard it said that TPH is publishing a lot of fine books by creative authors, but the authors aren't Theosophists, don't write about Theosophy, nor do they really know much about the subject. This may be so, yet the books may have theosophy (note the small "t") of some sort within them. For instance one can argue that a book like MARY'S VINEYARD is "theosophical" in some sense of the word.
After all, many Theosophers of the past were mystics and/or Christians. Surely, most any book can be argued to be theosophical in some sense -- whether it is a book of Christian mysticism or the latest study in chaos theory, it will in one way or another touch upon some Theosophical issue.
But I think that a Theosophical publisher with limited resources cannot be all things to all people. Rather, the Theosophical Society was originally built upon the teachings of HPB's teachers and communicated primarily through HPB's writings.
Therefore, I believe that the priority of the Theosophical publishers should be to make the core Theosophical text available, and to publish those classical theosophical texts upon which the Theosophical teachings stand. I am think here of the classical religious and philosophical texts of the worlds great cultures.
I'm not suggesting that HPB should be canonized as holy writ. Rather, HPB herself made it clear that she did not present her writings as infallible nor did she want them to be regarded as such. Rather, she hoped that later generations of Theosophists would study her works and follow up on its leads in order to expand upon what she began. Her writings are so rich with hints and suggestive statements begging to be researched in light of present knowledge.
I think this kind of work, if it had been pursued by students of Theosophy could have led to the publication of thousands of volumes of fresh and interesting material, that would have led to innovations of practical application for all of humanity. But alas, the Adyar TS abandoned this kind of follow up after 1908.
In a promising beginning of scholarship, TPH made an initial commitment to the translation and publication of good translations of the world scriptures. This was a first step in the fulfillment of HPB's program of making available source theosophical texts. Scholars at Adyar brought to the world translations of Indian texts never before seen by the Western world.
These theosophical texts and others like them are necessary in order to evaluate HPB's Theosophical texts. But by 1908 the Adyar TS became preoccupied with Krishnamurti as the returned Christ, and the TS began to abandon the translation of theosophical writings as well as to de-emphasize the core modern Theosophical writings that were designed to lead to realization. In their place, the new generation of leaders produced a new breed of discourse based upon revelation. References to the MAHABARATA were replaced with revelations from the Mahachohan.
In contrast, students in the Point Loma TS during this same period produced studies that were spun off of hints in HPB's writings and based in current science. They produced some very interesting research papers on anthropology, physics, geology, meso-American and Biblical history. But much more could have been done if the Point Loma TS remained stable, and that research continued after 1951. But the Point Loma TS became withdrawn for about thirty years and the research of its earlier quality came to an end.
U.L.T. has a long history of keeping the original Theosophical texts in print, and Theosophy magazine used to be full of fine examples of Theosophical scholarship in current fields. Even today, the editors of Theosophy magazine continue a section on Theosophy and current issues.
They have done what they can, but U.L.T. does not have the human resources of the other organizations, and like the Pasadena TS, ULT by virtue of its use of the word Theosophy, was doomed to suffer from the public rejection to Theosophy generated by events in the Adyar TS.
The Anthroposophical Society also took HPB's que and developed theories and applications in education and agriculture. Most of their agricultural applications were appropriated by Rodale and are widely practiced under the label "organic gardening," but much of this came from the Anthroposophical "Biodynamic Gardening."
I think there is still much for the Theosophical Organizations to do, if only they would be able to put their efforts in this direction once again. But innovative research and writing that considers Eastern paradigms is now being done in academic and scientific circles which would never associate itself with Theosophy because of its reputation for cultism and revelationism.
How often I find academic or independently written works which draw from HPB's ideas without any acknowledgment whatsoever. I'm not suggesting plagiarism, but rather, that so many of HPB's ideas are more timely than ever and are permeating the thought atmosphere -- these ideas are "in the air."
HPB made a prediction in the S.D. that by the end of this century her secret doctrine teachings would be vindicated by science. I think that to a small extent her prediction is coming to fruition.
HPB's hints are already being pursued in physics, anthropology, astronomy, Biblical studies etc. Likely, most of these researchers know nothing about HPB or her writings, but it is interesting that they are pursuing the very questions that HPB raised and they are moving in directions that she pointed. It is therefore ironic that so many academic circles which condemn HPB and Theosophy are more in touch with her ideas than most Theosophists.
What would have happened if the original program was followed -- if the TS did not become an organization based upon a revelation that eventually met public discreditation? What would have happened if generations of Theosophical scholars had continued to work ceaselessly for the last hundred years researching HPB's leads and publishing the results?
For instance, HPB's then absurd statement concerning the divisibility of the atom when pursued by Rutherford and Milliken yielded the atomic age. How great it would have been for the Theosophical Movement if these scientists were among "the greatest minds" that the Mahatmas wanted to attract.
More currently, HPB's hints and dating of the age of physical humanity is far closer to current science than in her time. But the no Theosophical Organization can take credit for the Louis, Mary and Richard Leakey's very Theosophical outlook either.
Yet there is still far more to be done by future researchers. In the early days, HPB tried to accommodate the researchers of her time by offering a special classification of membership to them. This is no longer done, and the TS no longer attracts the great minds that it once did.
Though the Quest book line occasionally publishes some interesting books (interesting to me), they are drawing from independent authors most of whom are involved in traditions very different from the one established by Blavatsky or the other established by Besant and Leadbeater.
I believe that if the TS had followed up on the original writings, rather then publishing books like Mary's Vineyard, they might have been the ones to publish more influential works like THE TAO OF PHYSICS and THE DANCING WU LI MASTERS.
The quest book line would be full of cutting edge theoretical and practical discourses on subjects like naturopathy, astrophysics, biblical archeology, chaos theory, and yes, spiritual development, written by students of Theosophy.
Though I have nothing against publishing appropriate works from other traditions, it is sad that we have to seek writers from outside of the Theosophical tradition because of the lack of writers within it.
What is to be done to bring the TS and its publishing policies back to the original program? I suggest three steps: First, I believe that the Adyar TS needs to recognize and acknowledge that with the advent of Krishnamurti, they had changed direction and cut their lines to the original impulse begun by HPB, Judge and Olcott.
When Krishnamurti baled out in 1930, the Adyar TS was left with a tradition of revelation without a revealer. After Besant's death in 1933, George Arundale took the Presidency, ignored Krishnamurti, and tried to make Theosophy all things to all people. But he failed to realize that if Theosophy is everything, it is nothing. Though the TS membership was near an all time high when Arundale took the Presidency in 1934, it was at an all time low when he left the Presidency in 1945.
Second, I think the Adyar TS needs to carefully re-evaluate the traditions that were adopted during and after the Krishnamurti era and still held to this day. The "Theosophy is everything" philosophy is still held by many members, while the inner group holds to more rigid definitions developed during the Besant period.
This inherent contradiction weakens the TS because it creates an unintentional hypocrisy. An organization can have strength when devoted to an ideal, or it can be strong when it is all embracing, but it cannot be both and remain strong. I believe that if nothing else, the history of the TS has demonstrated this.
This same contradiction is the source of a major weakness of the Quest magazine: it tries to appeal to the new age crowd (by being all things to all people), while attempting to promote a very specific philosophy. It cannot do both.
Either Theosophy is all things to all people (in which case it becomes nothing), or it is a particular definable thing that people can accept or reject. If it is the latter, then it must be defined for the sake of honesty and for the benefit of the public and the membership.
Third, the TS needs to re-evaluate the original program from which it abandoned in 1908. If the program established by the founders is still suitable for the times, we ought to consider returning to it.
I personally believe that the original program is still suitable for today's world. But does the TS have the will, the resolve, and the strength to reclaim its place as a source for relevant theoretical and practical discourse in current thought? If so, the TS will have to take the above three steps before they can attract and find expression through students, researchers, writers and workers united by the ideals of the original program.
Many people dedicated to the original program have come to the TS in the past fifty years. But because of the kind of changes that have taken place in the TS over the last eighty, they find themselves marching to a different drummer. The potential supporters of Theosophy were seeking realization, not revelation.
Because they do not march to the tune played by the TS leadership, they have been again and again marginalized or driven out of the TS altogether. In other words, for those who wish to build upon HPB's original program through realization, (i.e. though critical discourse and discrimination), they are not welcome in her organization. A pity.