The Theosophical Society was founded by the Masters of Wisdom ... to give to mankind a religio-philosophical and scientific explanation of life's riddles, based upon the natural fact of Universal Brotherhood, which would bring about a moral and spiritual revolution in the world.
-- G. de Purucker, "The Main Purposes of the T.S.," MESSAGES TO CONVENTIONS
By Eldon B. Tucker
[based upon a September 8, 1994 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
As we take Theosophy and bring it into the activities of our daily lives, our personal interests come strongly into play. Those things we like to do determine how we live out the Teachings, how we bring them into the world and influence the people and surrounding environment.
If our interests are in art and music, we give it a theosophical touch. If we are strongly involved in interpersonal work, perhaps as psychologist or social worker, we use our new-found wisdom to fashion new techniques of helping others, and to enrich the content of our interaction with them. And if we are school teachers, we may pose good questions, leading the children to think in the right direction, and work to continually train them to keep open minds and continually reconsider what they thought they knew and took for granted.
We need to make a distinction, though, between our personal interests, based upon the personalities we have fashioned for ourselves in this particular lifetime, and the actual content and nature of the Teachings themselves. What is given us is quite distinct from how we may give personal expression to it. If we don't carefully make this distinction, we lose sight of the true Gupta Vidya, the Wisdom-Religion. When we take our personal interests, and project them onto Theosophy itself, we no longer gaze directly on its face, but instead look at an idealized mask of our own personality.
A simple description of Theosophy is that it is a gateway to the Mysteries, a semi-veiled exposition of introductory Mystery teachings. The wondrous part of it is that it is just that: semi-veiled, leaving open the possibly of entry into the outer court without a key. The outer door has been left ajar, rather than shut and locked. We may step inside if we dare.
It is easy to confuse our personal interests with the right way to do things. We may assume that since we do so much good in the world that everyone should follow our lead and do the same sort of work. We forget that any form of service to others, any form of contribution to the well-being and betterment of humanity is quite personalized, and must be self-devised. Forgetting that, we become short-sighted and start picturing others, with different interests and activities, as apathetic, as non-caring, as wasting their time in "unreal" pursuits. We have erred in seeing things through the narrow perspective of our personalities, rather than opening up and gazing upon the big picture.
Consider the socially-oriented person. This man or woman may care deeply about how others feel, and have an interest and aptitude in helping them solve personal problems. There may be a talent in providing psychological assistance to troubled people. Such a person, taking too narrow a view of things, might call on others to "get real" and start doing things to help people, doing "real" things. But what are real things? How are the others, with other involvements, not also making a contribution?
Tolerance is important. Not just tolerance for different views and ideas about things, but tolerance for different approaches to making valid contributions to the good of others, different approaches to giving outward expression to the highest in life.
It is different, though, when we approach the Teachings, when we approach the Path. Although the means that we employ to engage the Process may vary, that which we approach is one and the same thing. The Treasure that we approach is the same, even if the means of sharing it varies widely by individual temperament.
As students who would enter the Stream, we see that our study of the Mysteries is a REAL activity, something leading to inner transformation and very real changes in others and the world. First we attain the treasures, and the means of sharing them will naturally follow. Hard work making the nicest of wine bottles is fruitless, a waste of time, should the bottles remain empty, because we have neglected wine- making itself.
Going after the wine, we find an approach that challenges our highest natures, the highest parts of us accessible at this point in evolution: the spiritual-intellectual. This is what we train in, Buddhi-Manas, and it opens up a new part of ourselves that was not present before.
There are many ways to confuse the making of wine bottles with the going after the wine. One is found in the assertion that in the dynamics of the personality is the only real basis of growth, leading to transformation of self and society. Another is that the wisdom to be shared comes from psychism, from the fruits of a quest for phenomena and powers. A third is in an even-more material quest: to provide food, shelter, and physical health to the helpless and incapable of society. In all cases, we become preoccupied in too low a part of our natures in our search for Wisdom. These can all be ways to personally share what we have found. They are but empty wine bottles, though, if they are uninspired activities, activities lacking the inspiration of a rich inner nature, aglow with an awakening spirituality and wisdom. An awakened spiritual- intellectual nature provides the wine to fill these bottles we may fashion, bottles of whatever shape.
We can have a moderately healthy life and not be preoccupied with body building. We can have some naturally- unfolding occult powers without being drawing into a craving for power and phenomena. We can have reasonable psychological health, without an obsession with psychological well-being. And we can have a reasonably active intellect, with challenging things to read, study, and talk about. All the various parts of our nature can be active and healthy. And the next step is the higher Human Nature, the spiritual- intellectual, the inspired-mind nature. This is what we nurture, what we would have flower in our lives. It provides the wine that gives the contents and value to our outer lives. This part of us is "where the action is," and we seek to make it the seat of our consciousness. It is the part that we train in, that the Wisdom-Religion promotes in its followers. And it is a faculty that is there, ready to be tapped, waiting for us to make it a part of our lives.
There are great Treasures to be found in our philosophy. They provide a beckoning gateway to the Mysteries. There is just the smallest step to take, a small step beyond the books in the right direction. And taking that step is the most important thing that we should be doing. The outer activities in our lives will naturally follow. Let's embrace the Mysteries and live for the Highest.
Until this step is taken, Theosophy may seem to be a mass of philosophical theory and speculation, with but bits and pieces of eastern thought worthy of sharing with western thought. But that is only while we keep our eyes shut! And we don't have to; our eyes can open any time we choose!
I'm reminded of a shy teenage boy, sitting beside a girl he would date. He has only to ask her out and she'll happily say "Yes!" But he burdens himself with doubts and lets fear and uncertainty hold his tongue silent. The easy words are not spoken and the prize goes unclaimed.
By Gynendra N. Chakravarti
[From REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS AND DOCUMENTS OF THE 1893 PARLIAMENT OF RELIGIONS, pages 129 to 132.]
One of the greatest fallacies that are committed in the spiritual life, both in the East and West, is that because the spiritual teaching advocates the subjugation of the flesh and the giving up of the gratification of the senses, the way can be attained by falling away from the duties that one has to perform, and by retiring into the forests and jungles to meditate upon something, heaven knows what. Not so, however, can the animal tendencies and the overpowering attractions created throughout a series of incarnations be conquered, not so can one pass out of the wheel of births and rebirths. If he runs away, a chain a thousand times stronger brings him back on the arm of the wheel of birth, to be broken, pounded, maimed, and injured until he regains his position again. The fallacy arises from the fact of putting forward the physical body and the energies of the physical plane above everything else in the universe. Think you that merely by taking the physical body out of the center of activity you kill the activity of the mind? A prison with its iron bars is not more stringent in confining you within its bounds than the thought, the passions, the desires, the grand attractions that you have every moment of your life created on the plane of the mind. Every moment of your life you are thinking of matter, and, according to the esoteric teaching, every thought that comes out of your brain has a potency for good or evil, it has a kinetic energy, a momentum which goes on rolling from time into time eternal. All these bands which you have been forging from incarnation to incarnation cannot be so easily broken. The body alone is not the whole of man. When I entered that most beautiful and magnificent of the harbors of the world, your own harbor of New York, I was delighted, I was edified by looking at that grand statue of Liberty with the torch of knowledge, equality, and fraternity in its hand. But it was not without a shadow of regret that I looked upon it; my sensation was not altogether free from cloud. I thought: Is liberty really possible thus? Is liberty to be attained merely by the intellectual appreciation of the thing? Is liberty really possible when the mind of man is enslaved with the thousand passions that work in his bosom? Is liberty possible when the heart of humanity is rent into a thousand pieces by the darts of selfishness? (Applause.) So long as the root of the poison, the root of selfishness, flourishes luxuriantly in the heart of the people. -- Why liberty? Why unselfishness? Why must fraternity forever remain a mere term, an illusion never to be realized. Instead of fraternizing with each other, what have you got in the West? A struggle for life; the higher trampling upon the lower; and still you talk of liberty! Where is liberty to be found? Not until your soul has been liberated from the turmoil and the various passions that are now storming in your nature, can you realize that ideal which you want to set up in that glorious monument in the harbor of New York.
One of the great reasons for this delusion that mere retirement from the scene of the world leads to spiritual progress, is probably due to the fact that in India it is regarded as the ideal of spiritual life; you have so many persons there roaming about the country without any ostensible end in view. Some of them are working for the good of humanity, although they don't work in the same way as you do. I confess, and I confess plainly before you, that there are hundreds and thousands of sham yogis who sham and wear the garb of holiness so as to satisfy the cravings of the flesh and to gorge their stomach upon the charity of the people. I do not mean to say that there do not exist ideals of simple unselfishness, the ideals of spiritual purity, even among those who spend every moment of their life in the contemplation of the divine and in serving humanity with all their heart, and that their soul is pure, which really is the necessary consequence of the realization of the higher life. But what I do mean is this: that this imitation of things only proves the existence of the genuine article, and there are quite enough to deceive the world by leading it to believe that in India, the land of spirituality, a life of laziness, a life of elimination of one's duties, is sufficient. Not so. In the Shastras, Krishna very pointedly says: What is the use of your retiring, because even your body will not go on without acting? And why can you be so selfish? Why can you be so degraded, that your hands and feet may work only for the few feet of flesh that is in you, and not for the world into which you are placed, not for humanity of which you are a factor? What is the use of retiring into the jungles and considering yourself to be a pure saint, when your minds revel simply in the infection of the tremendously vicious and the foul moral atmosphere of your own mind? It is pure hypocrisy. And it is said in the Bhagavad-Gita (reciting Sanskrit) that the man is a hypocrite who does retire in this way. Not only our teachings in the sacred rolls go to show what is this ideal life. It is not to retire from the world. Even the popular traditions and mythological fables lead you to the same conclusion, to the rigid and the strict performance of one's duties. On this point I am going to relate to you one of the finest stories that can be found in our sacred literature, showing you what ideal of duty has been held before India, in spite of the degeneration of our present days.
There once reigned a king renowned for piety, renowned for devotion, and who never refused to grant any favor asked of him. There was also a sage who at that time was one of the spiritual gods of the country, and once upon a time this sage took it into his head to try the piety of this virtuous king. He came to him and asked him if he would grant him a favor. Out of the generosity of his heart the king at once said, "Why, yes; anything you want." The sage said, "I want your kingdom, I want nothing short of that." Realizing the ephemeral nature of all possessions, considering as trash the most glorious throne on which a human being can sit, without a moment's hesitation the king gave away his kingdom. That was not all. The custom is in India that if you make a present to Brahma, here represented by the sage, you must give some gold along with it. The sage reminded him of that custom. He was confused; he knew not what to do; he had parted with all that he had, and whence was the gold to come? Yet he was not to be balked. He was not to be taken out of the sphere of his duty. He said, "Yes, I will give you the gold, and let me know, holy sage, what is the proper quantity." He was told that seven kotis of gold were required for such a present as this. Well, the king went with his royal queen to the market, and there he was prepared, for the sake of performing a duty to Brahma, to hold his wife up in the open market to be sold away as a slave. The wife, devoted as the Indian wife is, the ideal of chastity, the ideal of spiritual exaltation and purity, regarded not the lot, although her husband the king was the very sunshine and lotus of her heart, and it was without a pang of regret that she went out and said, "Verily, I will stand by you in the path of Karma, in the path of virtue; through me must you perform what is right." She was sold and fetched only four kotis of gold. There were three yet to come. The king himself offered himself to be a slave to somebody, and he was taken out to be a chandala, that is, a person whose duty it is to assess taxes upon bodies who come out to be burned on the bank of the great river. Thus, they parted.
The wife had a little son along with her, to whom no extra allowance of meal was given by her master. Out of the portion allotted to her did she support this child. But one fair morning when this child was sent out into the garden to cull certain flowers used in the worship of the master, a black, venomous viper crept out of its shady retreat and put an end to the sunshine of the queen's life. This little child was dead. With that child in her arms, with ashes in her breast and with tears in her eyes, she went out to the burning ghat, the place where the dead were burned, to consign the last relics of the dearest one to the flames, as is the custom in India. What is it that she saw there? Her own husband, the king who never before his wife had refused anything to anybody, was standing there with the rod of his master, demanding tax for everybody that was burned. In vain did the wife plead her poverty, in vain did she plead her desperate condition, in vain did she plead to his heart as being his own truest one and the child their own. Immovable as the rock stood the king. He had his duty to perform to his master, and no human being, however sacred, was to swerve him from that rigid path of duty. At a moment like this the sage was satisfied, the gods were glorified with such devotion, such a rigid idea of duty, and, says the fable, came down from heaven fiery cars with gods in them to take the husband, wife, and child living, up to the heaven of bliss. This, then, is the ideal which is laid down in the Indian Shastras, to be reached by every human being according to the light that is in him, according to the strength that is in his breast. And, indeed, from the very conception of Indian philosophy, this has already been laid before you as in their view of life possible.
The universe I tell you springs from one source and returns to the same source. In the first half of its evolution there is differentiation, there is parting, but in the latter half of its course there is again involution, reuniting, and each man advances according to his realization of this unity of all beings. The more totally a man realizes the essential unity of all existence, the more advanced is he on the plane of being. This being the case, you cannot cut yourselves away from the mass, you cannot shrink from the world's garments that lie around you. It is for you to realize that you cannot leave your brother behind. Ties unseen, ties unbreakable, ties which are in the nature of things, really bind you to the whole, and therefore with the whole mass you progress, This view of things leads you to perform your duty, to sacrifice yourselves for the good of others, because thus alone you can realize the unity of all being, thus alone you can see the links that bind you to your brother, and thus alone, therefore, can you make spiritual progress. It is nothing but the realization of the unity of all created beings. It is therefore a law which no one can subvert, that it is only upon the cross of sacrifice that you can atone for your sins, it is only from the altar of suffering that you can catch the spiritual fire; only by burning itself does the candle show light to the world. Even so with the human being. You must burn your personality, you must discard all that you love and all that attracts you before you can reach the realms of the spirit. This is the grand work that we have to perform, and not run away to the jungles like cowards. You have to meet and face bravely and like a hero a thousand trials and troubles that meet you in your dreary journey through this vale of tears, and as you conquer each weakness it becomes a rung in the ladder of progress. Each little act that you do by sacrificing yourself for the benefit of humanity becomes a lovely bloom laid on the altar, made to the spirit that you worship.
In this task, I need hardly say, there are great sufferings, great pains. As soon as you begin to live the life of unselfishness, why all the lower forces of your nature awaken with redoubled activity, and then begins to rage within you a warfare more stormy than any that you can imagine on the physical plane, more bloody than the battle of Thermopylae, more vigorous than any in the field of life. It is majestically represented in the allegory of the eternal fight between God and Satan. Yes, your heart's blood will have to be shed in this mighty struggle; but you have no reason to despair, because if your devotion is unflinching, if you really pursue the truth, if you have got a glimpse of the eternal sun, nothing can vanquish you, and out of the dust and storm arising in this fearful struggle the moral hero will come with a crown of unsurpassed resplendence and beauty, decked with the diamonds of eternal peace, eternal life, and eternal bliss.
By Gerald Schueler
[based upon a September 29, 1994 posting to email@example.com]
Some theosophical students have a jolly good time talking about the Dark Brothers and the Dark Brotherhood. I would like to jump in, and say a few words of my own on the subject.
The "Dark Brotherhood", call it what you will, does exist. It opposes the "White Brotherhood," is just as powerful, and will live just as long -- relative only to Globe D of our planetary chain (where matter and spirit are so carefully balanced).
I do not believe that there is any real conspiracy or collusion between individual black magicians. But then again, I do not believe that "black magicians" have anything to do with the Dark Brotherhood.
First, permit me to clear up a typical misperception. Those on "the left hand path" have nothing, specifically, to do with the Dark Brotherhood. The "left-hand path" refers to the Tantric path of sexual magic where a woman (karmamudra) sits to the left of the male tantrica.
In certain Tantric rites, a male tantrica would have a woman sit to his right -- without sexual union. The "left-hand path" was considered a perversion of the "pure" Tantricism by the purist (spelled puritan) faithful.
The phrase refers, in general today, to any and all practitioners of sexual magic which involves a physical partner. Period. If you want to consider this "evil," then OK, but it has nothing to do with egotism or selfishness or the lose of one's "soul."
I agree that the whole idea of a conspiracy or organization of any kind between people who are exceedingly egotistical and selfish is a contradiction. But those kind of people refer more to black magicians than to the Dark brothers of the Dark Brotherhood.
To reach spirituality with a sense of personality makes you at best a god or goddess and at worse a Titan, not a member of the Dark Brotherhood.
Tibetan Buddhism views six segments of living beings all tied together in this universe, and two of these are the gods and the titans (jealous gods). HPB also describes these six realms, almost as if she believed in it.
While early theosophical literature talks about the possible loss of one's "soul" and a wasted life, I would submit that this is pure theory, and that in practice the number of "totally evil" persons is quite small and not worth scaring young children about.
I would also submit that a "good" person "with some occult powers may be able to hold off the after-death states for a period of time," as well. The magical techniques used for this have nothing to do with one's goodness or one's evilness, but rather with one's motive.
I can envision a situation where an "evil" person dies, and then sees his entire life flash by him, and perceives the wrong that he/she has done to others, and feels intense regret, sorrow, and remorse, and then eventually returns to life to try and make amends.
I believe that the polar opposites of good and evil exist. Both good and evil battle for control of the direction of the world, and both have equal status and power. The notion that only good exists is simplistic dualism (I must say though, that it sure would be nice if this were the case). This idea is probably the single-most reason why I left the Christian Science church. Christian Science too wants to believe that you can hold on to the good and throw away the evil. I wish everyone with this idea a lot of luck.
I think a lot of folks misinterpret the idea of the Pratyeka Buddha as well as the Dark Brotherhood. They are not the same thing. In Mahatma Letter IX, KH calls the "Brothers of the Shadow" or Dark Brothers, "the Sorcerers," "the Elementary Spooks," and "our most potential Enemies." In Letter XLIX, KH mentions "the Red Capped Brothers of the Shadow" suggesting that the Dark Brotherhood referred to the Red Caps of Tibet.
If we read all of the Letters, as well as what HPB has to say, it seems to me that they meant the Dark Brotherhood to be the polar or dualistic opposite to the White Brotherhood. If we consider the White Brotherhood to be good, then the Dark Brotherhood must be evil.
The Sanatana-Dharma (An Advanced Textbook of Hindu Religion and Ethics) says that "the measure used in Ethics at the present stage of evolution, by which the rightness or wrongness of an action is decided, is the tendency of the action to promote or to hinder Union." (p 265)
By this we can say that whatever tries to help us progress upward through the Arc of Ascent is "good" and whatever tries to pull us downward along the Arc of Descent (which G de P calls the Shadowy Arc) is "evil." By this measure, you can tell those who are in the Brotherhood of Compassion and those who are in the Dark Brotherhood. Most members of both groups who are incarnating, are totally unconscious of their membership.
The Pratyeka-Buddha is another story. This is the Arhat of Hinayana Buddhism. However, we have to remember that the term Hinayana (lower vehicle) is a Mahayana term, meant to be somewhat disrespectful. The Pratyeka-Buddha is one who fully sees the Maya and illusiveness of the world. He views the world as a mental projection, and unreal. Other people are also unreal mental projections, phantasms, ghosts.
The Pratyeka-Buddha is not really selfish in the sense that we think of the word. Once you recognize that all aggregates are unreal (one of Gotama's last teachings) then why have compassion over an illusion? Once you understand that life is a dream, why deliberately fall back asleep in order to have more dreams of helping people? In other words, they lack compassion simply because they fail to see anyone to have compassion for. And, technically they are correct -- all of us needy people are ourselves illusions, asleep to the truth of things. I am not saying that this view is "right" but simply trying to point out that they are not selfish in the same way that we normally think of the term.
By Thoa Tran
[based upon February 8 to 12, 1998 postings to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
I'm drinking my decaffeinated coffee, thinking how cool the Internet is. Via the discussion lists, I'm able to interact with theosophists, people who can discuss about the Absolute, sacred geometry, and black magic. I can be a busy person, a bed-ridden person, a fly on the wall, or maybe even incarcerated (do they allow prisoners access?) and still be a part of the conversation, even if it's only as a listener.
Theosophists are pretty neat people. The people I live, work and play with daily are not theosophists, with the exception of dear Mark. Granted, theosophists love to argue. But who can argue as well as a theosophist? I thank those who responded to my posts so that I don't feel like I'm typing to nowhere land. I don't always get my answer, but I appreciate the attempt. I understand the time that it takes to respond to a post. I used to be pretty prompt in my responses, but I will just have to be a laggard at this time of my life. Thanks, folks. I love you, wo/man!!!
I'm just being sentimental, because we need more tender emotion expressed in this world!
I believe that it is through "paradox, humor, and fun" that we are able to see the whole picture. When looking at something, I wonder about the other side of the coin, and whether each side contains a little bit of each.
It is through fun that we see the possibilities of things, that it can be more than what it is. When we were children, we think of a box as a million things, a spaceship, a boat, a house, etc. As we grow older, a box no longer suffices. We don't want a crappy box, we want that mysterious Mega-tron that would shoot bullets and costs $100.00. As we grow even older, that Mega-tron becomes a limited plastic toy that feebly shoots bullets, and we long for that speed boat.
If we stop having fun, then that is what life will be, a series of short goals that we become disenchanted with once we've reached them. By having fun as adults, we can still look at that box and see psionic transmitters. Fun enables us to throw up our arms and do a crazy dance, when things don't go our way. As they say, it's the journey that counts.
What is the Theosophical Society? What sets it unique from other organizations? One of its object (let's say, the first) is to promote the Brotherhood of Humanity. Another of its object (say, second) is to discover the mysteries and the truth. If we focus on the first object, we can do volunteerism, etc., without enriching our knowledge of the mysteries of life. Why would I need the T.S. for that? There are countless organizations that I could lend a hand to that is devoted purely to service, no scholarship needed, no theosophical rules and politic required.
If I focus on the second object, I would be greatly stimulated by little inklings of the mysteries that I learned and comprehended.
The danger of that is that I could have all this great knowledge without doing anything to promote the Brotherhood of Humanity. On the other hand, would not knowing the mysteries open one up to the Brotherhood of Humanity? Certainly, a true student of occultism would realize this, and not just focus on the power aspects of occultism.
For me, an inkling of the mystery makes me feel like Ramakrishna, makes love flow from my heart, and makes me more kind and tolerant of others. When you actually feel the mystery, the material and power aspects become unimportant. When you feel the mystery, you feel interconnectedness with all beings and life. With this interconnectedness, you would not want to hurt others, for you feel that they are like yourself.
People follow the path in myriad ways. I would give them all credit for starting somewhere, and would be hesitant to blanket describe them as selfish. My feeling is that if one truly follows the path, eventually one could not avoid the understanding of the Universal Brotherhood. Some can go straight into doing whatever they can for the "orphan humanity", but others need to be at certain stages of development.
I believe that understanding, tolerance, and setting good examples will do more good than making people feel that they are selfish. My personal belief is that building a strong inner foundation will enable the person to be more effective helpers of humanity.
An ignorant helper of humanity can sometimes do more harm than good, although the chances of hurting by helping are little. I was more concerned with effectiveness. I have periods where I am out to the world, and periods where I am in seclusion to strengthen my foundation. Both periods are valid, and I have no apologies for either periods.
So-called "selfish" people in spiritual movements are also a part of orphan humanity. They are also lost and trying to find themselves. In finding themselves, they will be stronger as a helpful Brother. Perhaps the most effective way for theosophists to spread the value of service, is to keep on performing service, and promote service through discussions and news items of areas of service needed. You can describe to a person a great dish, but it would not really make them hungry until they see you eating with gusto that delightful dish.
I agree that the theosophical leaders, if they were really concerned about their brother theosophists, would put themselves on the line and be open, in order to communicate and understand all concerns.
If a leader were truly an open-hearted theosophist, he would put himself out in the line of fire, and wisely defuse the arguments. In this way, he would do more to unite theosophists and gain respect, rather than through terse communication. Any truly great people would put themselves out in the open, even under the real threat of bullets, such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. I don't think that such a leader would have to worry about bullets, just a bunch of theosophists with great vocabulary. Is the TS important enough for that step to be taken?
On the other hand, what step can the dissenting theosophists do to unite with the TS? Does one be direct and accusing? Or can one quietly perform services for the TS while putting your influences in? I have no idea how resistant the TS is to changing ideas. If the leadership would not be influenced, then how about all the different lodges setting their own focus?
And what about spreading the influences to other lodges via communication? You start with one, spread to a group, spread to a lodge, spread to other lodges, until it touches the leadership? Naive? Why not? Communication can be powerful if done smartly.
I understand the widespread concern regarding theosophy reaching the masses. I also consider that to be important.
To me, the problem is not the order of the objectives. I don't think changing the order would make much difference. Even the layman would love to learn of the mysteries. I think the most effective action is making areas of communication accessible to the masses. This could be done by distributing books geared toward the layman, perhaps books with lots of pictures and easy to understand writing.
A good example of that would be the series of books on the esoteric by Thames and Hudson. Their books are large, with writing that would not insult the intelligence, yet would not be tedious for the layman, and is 50% pictures. This, I think, would be appealing even to a child.
Perhaps someone with a good knowledge of the important theosophical works would be willing to simplify them and portray the ideas pictorially. This someone would also have to have clear and friendly communication skills. This condensing will not insult the original works. Think of these books as a bridge to deeper knowledge.
If communication is done via the Internet, the discussions should also allow for simple and naive inquiries, and even crassness. The response should be tolerant, kind, helpful, and related to the tone of the writer. The layman could be uneducated or could be working on a doctorate. Respond in a way that the questioner would understand, but do not insult the intelligence of the writer. And, my personal preference, a few jokes and poetry makes the environment more pleasant.
Consider that the "scholarly elite" were laymen who have crossed the first bridge and wants to continue crossing more bridges. There are places for them, too. The only thing is that, as people further in their search, they should not forget to walk back to the first bridge once in a while and assist the new ones over.
The best way to reach people is through communication and acceptance. Accept them where they are at, and work with them from their strength. If you want to push people away, then tell them that they are not good enough where they are, and that they should be ashamed of themselves. Why not give constructive ideas without pinpointing blames, or blanket categorizing people? You can influence friends, but you can't influence enemies. Actually, you can influence your enemies, but that would be the strategy of war.
Many of us follow ahimsa, so I don't think we'd want to do that. Make friends first, see what they are about, let them know what you are about, let them see what you are passionate about, and positively glow about your passion. In that way, you can be persuasive and charismatic. Believe me, I know it works.
When people like you, they are more than willing to do whatever they can for you. This is from my personal observation from former workplaces, and from extracurricular activities. I am not the type to take advantage of it, perhaps that is a part of it. I did notice that when I make a suggestion of change because I cared, people are quick to respond. And sometimes people goes above and beyond my request. All this surprised me.
By Liesel F. Deutsch
[based upon a September 30, 1994 posting to email@example.com]
I've started thinking about what my own beliefs are re good and evil. I most often just try to see the plus side. I try to work darn hard on my own character traits, those which I find undesirable; and try to ignore what I consider evil in others -- unless they get into my hair too much, in which case I give them a biting piece of my mind.
For one thing, I go along with the idea that thinking and talking about evil things like black magicians and black brotherhoods reinforces undesirable thought forms. For example, reading about evil has made me feel that maybe I'm evil too, and I bet it has given you the same feeling too at times. (When you stop to really think about it, you realize that you're not evil. We're humans with favorable and unfavorable traits.) Thinking/talking about negative things has that effect, because, as Serge King taught us, the Unconscious doesn't differentiate between Myself and Other. Say something negative, either about yourself or someone else, and the Unconscious reacts negatively. Say something nice either way and the Unconscious tends to become more genial with pleasure.
So, with that in mind, I don't watch hardly any cops and robbers etc. stories on TV. The news brings enough horrible real happenings to suit me. Sometimes I sit there and send blessings to the people so negatively involved. When I want to relax, I watch sitcoms, or concerts. As for reading matter, after years of spiritual/psychological fare, I must confess, I've lately discovered Lilian J. Braun's "The Cat Who ..." mysteries. She's a charming story teller, and her murders are never very gaudy, so I've made an exception. My teachers may not be pleased, or else might think I'm using my judgement. I enjoy Braun's tales..
So how should I deal with the ideas of "good" and "evil", and black magicians? I imagine most theosophical students reading this grew up under the very strict Puritan-American guilt trip which emphasizes being a lowly sinner, born in evil. I grew up with the same ethic in Germany. We tend to consider us evil to begin with. To add to that, nowadays, we're trying to deal with a world full of violence, both physical and mental.
In my life, I've been influenced enough by Buddhism to talk about "ignorance" instead of "sin", even though I've had cognizance of some of the worst of it. Or maybe because I've come in contact with some of the worst of it. I can't believe that human beings could do such horrible things to each other if they really understood what they were doing? They put false values on their deeds, or rather values other than the usually accepted ones, and then come up with these gruesome misdeeds.
To give you a very up to date for instance, recently I heard the two white authors of "The Corner" talk about the mindset that existed among the folks who populpated the "corner", a hangout for drug addicts. Their standards of dealing which each other were entirely different than our usual, and the 2 men talked about the difficulty they had with one addict, while retraining him to be drug free and able to cope in the normal world. The standards at the "corner" were a kind of contorted brotherly hanging together ... a very twisted kind of loving, in which some of them got killed off. When he tried to apply these same standards to the normal world, they didn't go over well, nor give the desired effect. This was at times very unsettling to the newly drug free young man.
If people do the wrong thing because they don't know any better, at least they can learn to change their ways, at some time. So if I hear of kids toting guns to school, I try to do something to help change them, but if I want to try to help them change their ways, I need to do it very lovingly -- even if it's tough love - or it won't work. If I can't lovingly convince them, they'll keep on smuggling in guns. I included Tough Love, because the loving act might be to put one's foot down and give these kids some discipline, guide lines over which they may not step, or some such thing.
I think love, and the power that comes from knowledge and wisdom are the positive energies that can help turn things around. I think black magicians and negative people aren't very loving. Only loving yourself, isn't enough. Loving is learned while dealing with others, not only yourself. Groups who try to turn young people around along those lines are springing up all over these days. They try not to think of these as evil kids. "Hate the deed, but love the doer." said Martin Luther King.
I don't know whether anyone can change a black magician, or whether their habits are already to ingrained. Someone like that, Serge taught us, gets at you through your fears, so I'd try not to be afraid. To me, these are all positive rules to live by, but somewhere inside me there's still a vestige of the negative ethics I was brought up with.
Speaking of people more advanced in Wisdom versus black magicians:
... from first to last, from Pythagoras down to Eliphas Levi, from highest to humblest, everyone teaches that the magical power is never possessed by those addicted to vicious indulgences. Only the pure in heart 'see God' or exercise divine gifts -- only such can heal the ills of the body, and allow themselves, with relative security, to be guided by the 'invisible powers' .... 'magic has nothing supernal in it'; it is a science, and even the power of 'casting out devils' was a branch of it, of which the Initiates made a special study. 'That skill which expels demons out of human bodies, is a science useful and sanative to men' says Josephus."
-- ISIS UNVEILED, I, 218
If you should be meandering through AB's "Path of Discipleship", I think you can get the idea that one must be ethically pretty solid before one is initiated into the more advanced esoteric wisdom. That's always helped me when I've thought of black magicians. Serge told us that he'd met any number of them when he served in Africa. And again, he told us that they rule by fear. As for instance, if one of them wanted to cast a spell, he/she makes sure the "victim" would know about what he was doing and then the victim would get scared, and do all the damage to himself. He also told us that black magicians never got to being very old.
How different were the qualities I noted upon meeting Serge (there were 70 of us at that workshop) He's a very loving person, very much at ease, and unafraid. He taught us the rudiments of what he knows, a philosophy and techniques based on establishing love, harmony and peace. He also told us there was a group of Hunas working together around Hawaii, where he lives. I've met two more people like him. Both were Theosophists. Both have, in different ways, had a very positive influence on my life. So I'd rather talk about them any old time, than those old looking but not being black magician. Besides, I never knowingly came across one of them.
And from C.W. Leadbeater, INNER LIFE, 4th ed., 127, we read:
There is no hierarchy of evil. There are black magicians certainly, but the black magician is usually merely a single solitary entity. He is working for himself, as a separate entity, and for his own ends. You can not have a hierarchy of people who distrust one another. In the White Brotherhood every member trusts the others; but you cannot have trust with the dark people, because their interest is built upon self ... Matter is not evil. Spirit and matter are equal. Matter is not in opposition to spirit. We find matter troublesome because of the bodies we have to use; but we are here in order to learn what without the physical life could not be conveyed to us. The physical plane experiences give a definiteness and precision to our consciousness and powers which we could never acquire on any plane, unless we had spent the necessary time on this. But why do people bother about evil? There is plenty of good in the world, and it is better to think of that, for your thought strengthens that of which you think. To think and talk so much about black magicians unquestionably attracts their attention to you, and the results are often exceedingly undesirable.
By K. Paul Johnson
[based upon a September 26, 1994 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
On the question of possible "Dark Brotherhood" intervention in the history of the Theosophical Society [TS], to disrupt and paralyze it -- yes and no.
First, the same caveat about the "Dark Brotherhood" that I would make about the "Great White Brotherhood." To see them as organizations with titles, officers and such is to materialize a spiritual concept and thus to make a travesty of what HPB intended.
In her teaching, the Mahatmas are exemplars of a future state of human evolution, having attained levels of wisdom, love, and power that we will all reach in the distant future. As such, they are harbingers, a vanguard, way-showers WHO BY THEIR INHERENT NATURE are uplifting forces inspiring progressive development. No need for fancy titles or hierarchical organizations or meetings in hidden places.
Do Jupiter and Saturn have meetings and titles in order to figure out how to cooperate in the solar system? The higher the degree of spiritual evolution, the more such trappings are left behind.
Therefore, by analogy one can identify the Dark Brotherhood as exemplars of past states of human evolution who exemplify primitive conditions of consciousness that we should be moving away from. As such, BY THEIR INHERENT NATURE they drag down the progressive evolutionary flow of human history, thwart the enlightening, liberating movements of their time, etc. Again, there is no need for organizations, titles, meetings, etc.
Of course, the idea of power is also part of the concept of the Dark Brotherhood, but selfish power that is anti-social in nature. In today's world one might nominate Khomeini, Falwell, Zhirinovsky as all beings who somehow draw on collective energy but use their power in an anti-evolutionary direction.
Now, in this abstract definition, one can look at TS history in a broader way. To say that the TS was aided by the GWB means that it was inspired and encouraged by beings who were far in the evolutionary vanguard.
To say that it was disrupted by the DB means that it was opposed and thwarted by the anti-progressive forces of the time. For example, there was a Brahmin takeover of the TS of sorts, after which the anti-caste platform of the Society was quietly relegated to a back seat. Or, in Steiner's case, a Christo-centric, German-speaking cultural chauvinistic trend that spun off a large chunk of the Society's membership, energy, etc. And so on through TS history -- a steady progressive movement, aided by "forces of light" but constantly disrupted by anti-progressive forces seeking to undermine that movement.
I apologize for naming names above, and my suggestions are only that, but the general principle of progressive vs. regressive energies is, I think, the healthiest guide to examining this question without getting into paranoid weirdness.
By Eldon B. Tucker
[based upon a September 27, 1994 posting to email@example.com.]
There is also discussion of the path of evil in "Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy" by G. de Purucker.
The dark path is described in terms of degrees of failure in evolution. It starts with normal, unawakened people, called "soul-less" because they do not have spirituality awakened in their lives, to "lost souls" where an entire lifetime is wasted, and onwards, through progressively worse degrees of failure ending with destruction of one's inner nature, and a form of hell after our evolution on earth is complete (being "ground over" in an Avitchi Nirvana and then having to restart evolution).
In "The Mahatma Letters," there is mention of the Mamo-Chohans, whom rule over the Pralayas or outer periods of death and decay. (We're safely gone from the scene, having departed into Nirvana upon destruction of the earth.)
One aspect of organized "evil" involves other planetary chains. We can experience hell-like worlds, places of suffering, since our Earth Chain is not on the lowest plane. There are other planetary chains yet on lower planes. To have an experience on one of these chains would seem hell-like. To visit the highest globes of one of these chains would be an Nirvana of pure hell, as compared to the relatively lofty consciousness we have on the globes of the Earth.
Purucker goes to considerable lengths to distinguish the spiritual-material polarity from good and evil. He explains how it is possible to be material, and yet good, or how it is possible to become spiritually evil. A simple way to describe spiritual evil is what happens if one awakens his higher faculties and yet remains focused in a strong sense of personality. The sense of personality and separateness is raised into the higher principles, along with a "not caring" that takes on monstrous proportions. Instead of the sweet coolness of good spirituality, there is the killing, icy coldness. There is a vast penetration into the secrets of nature. Personal powers and dominion over nature and other people becomes the prime motivator, rather than selflessness and a dedication of life for others. Hatred is left behind as a waste of energy. Like J.R. Ewing on "Dallas," one may be likable, but deadly if one gets in his way. There is absolutely no thought of others, the sense of personality and individual separateness reigns supreme.
What does this sort of path end with? Personal destruction. The duration of one's existence depends upon how deep in one's spiritual nature that the evil has crept. (Picture a cavity; if it gets too deep, a root canal is necessary.) An totally evil person may have but a wasted lifetime. An evil person with some occult powers may be able to hold off the after-death states for a period of time, but meets with dissolution as the "second death" is faced and the good part of Manas (for him -- nothing) separates from the Kamarupa. Still more evil, someone may be able to persist even longer. The longest that one exists, though, is to the Pralaya, at which death ensues, since the evil person cannot persist after the dissolution of the inner worlds on which he clings to existence. (What about the Mamo- Chohans ruling at the Pralayas? Another story ...)
It is wrong to picture an hierarchy of good, and another of evil, both of equal status and power, both battling for control of the direction of the world. There is but one order, and that is good. The apparently organized forces of evil are failures in life, those failing in the process of evolving into matter in order to acquire self-consciousness and to raise that treasure back into the spirit. That process is failing for them, and if totally failed, just means that it must be started anew.
The failures may band together, in some loose-knit manner, but because of the nature of their consciousness, they cannot trust each other nor be depended upon to support any organized structure, unless it is in their self interest. Any cooperation not based upon self-benefit would have to be out of fear. If stronger individuals can control weaker ones, the weaker ones, although untrustworthy and treacherous, will do what they are told, until their boss turns his back ... I would not use the term "Dark Brotherhood," because that implies some sense of brotherliness, at least among fellow members, and any sense of that type of consciousness is lost early on in their development of evil.
Another important aspect of good and evil, of spiritual success and failure, regards the major turning points in cycles. At the turning point when the push into material existence ends and the return to the spiritual begins, like at the middle of the Fourth Round, there is a point of failure. Some do not make the turn, but go lower. It is not a happy fate. Purucker mentions it in passing, but does not go into much detail.
Should we be concerned with any of this? Not really. But what if we aren't perfect? Certainly we all have various personal flaws, and make mistakes and are evil at times. True. But it is not 100 percent purity that makes us good, it is the strength of the pull towards the higher. The stronger the sense of a draw to higher things, the safer we are from the corruptible, the more we raise ourselves into the incorruptible. Picture a good compass. It is good because it is free- moving. It can be bumped but always wants to return to true North. It has a strong desire to be oriented in that direction. Were it not free-moving, and therefore responsive to being knocked off the true, it could also not be free to continually adjust as the compass changes direction.
What makes the compass good is the persistence in returning to North, the strength that the pull of the North is felt. Someone evil may no longer respond to the call of the North, but do everything according to his own agenda. We cannot be mislead, though. When the pull of the spiritual is a compelling force in our lives, we are safe from any bump that life may throw our way.
By A. Trevor Barker
[From THE HILL OF DISCERNMENT, Theosophical University Press, 1941]
This title, "Spiritual Gifts and their Attainment," you may possibly be thinking -- and I am not at all sure that I would not agree with you -- is something of a misnomer directly we begin to examine its significance. However, the expression was used by William Q. Judge in an article that he published many years ago in his inspired magazine THE PATH. He there inquired into the question of spiritual gifts: as to whether there actually are such things as gifts of any kind that are bestowed upon any human being.
You remember, HPB in the first volume of THE SECRET DOCTIRNE laid it down as a fundamental principle of all spiritual effort, and an underlying law of our own being, that there are no special gifts or privileges that man is heir to. On the contrary, she said, every spiritual, intellectual, psychical or physical power that anyone is able to bring forth, manifest, and show to the world, any such power or faculty, has been developed by his own striving, by his own effort.
In what sense, therefore, can we understand this question of so-called spiritual gifts? I think it is true to say that our old friend St. Paul was responsible for the term "spiritual gifts"; and he included in the term such qualities as faith, vision, and the knowledge of the performance of feats which in those days were called miracles, such as healing; and likewise the performance of various other actions of a very good and spiritual character. Yet he pointed out in his EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS that, excellent as these things undoubtedly are, and useful in their proper place, nevertheless there were spiritual qualities that transcended all these, and that the gift of Charity (so translated in the Bible) -- which incidentally is the first of the Divine Paramitas of THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE -- was said to transcend all these. In fact that it was possible to have all these other gifts, and if they were not permeated and irradiated by Compassion, they were worth nothing. Therefore we have to come to the conclusion that spiritual gifts, if they mean anything, are those which are bestowed upon the human being who has given up his personal life; and they thereby become an instrument in the hands of his own inner and higher nature -- a channel in fact for the power of the Supreme Spirit to pour forth into the world. All mystics, all disciples, of all ages, have borne witness to the fact that, though they had given up everything that from a personal and worldly point of view might be considered to make life worth living, nevertheless they treasured above everything that power to do, to will, to know, and to serve their fellows. They entered into the purified Temple of their own being once they had passed through the experience of losing their physical lives, of giving up the things that prevented the light of the Supreme Spirit from flooding into the purified Temple of the body.
This is the subject of the whole discourse of THE BHAGAVAD-GITA. If you study carefully the first Discourse of this wonderful spiritual allegory you will find there the four characters that give us a clue to the symbols that are used throughout this great epic. First there is, of course, the Divine Teacher Krishna in the three or four aspects of the Supreme which he severally adopts and acts through in his instruction of Arjuna. Krishna is the symbol of the Supreme: he is the Paramatman, the Self: that Self which is the same in you, in me, and in all creatures everywhere; that Self which is the object of all our strivings, all our aspirations, all our searchings for Truth; our answer, once we have done the work that will enable us to perceive the precepts of gods and men in our own hearts. If we are searching for the true spiritual gifts, then we shall turn to THE BHAGAVAD-GITA and see whether we can kindle the lamp of spiritual knowledge through the fire that burns and glimmers through the pages of that ancient book.
Krishna is the first character then, whose words of instruction we shall listen to as he teaches his disciple Arjuna; and Arjuna is the symbol of the higher mind -- the Higher Manas, as we should say in our technical Theosophical language -- as he stands on the battlefield of his being, on the field of Kurukshetra. He stands, as all spiritual pilgrims do, upon the battlefield of his own being: the Higher Manas, the higher mind, the real individuality in you and in me.
Then you have the character of Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and you can regard him as the lower unpurified mind: the personality in all its unattractiveness. He is blind, he is unable to see a thing.
Finally you have the fourth character, Sanjaya, the Brahmin Teacher, who represents the voice of conscience, actually standing for the link between the Higher and the lower Manas in much the same way as Buddhi is the principle that unites the higher mind to the supreme spirit, Atman -- as those of you will recognize who are aware of our Theosophical arrangement of the inner nature, and the principles that go to make up man's constitution. Sanjaya, the voice of conscience, is that which enables the lower personal man to wake up and begin to listen to the first whisperings and promptings of his own higher nature.
And so we come to inquire as to what really is the nature of the work that we have to do on ourselves if we are going to succeed in developing the spiritual faculties that all men desire, and rightly desire, to find unfolding within themselves; for these are the powers and faculties that we can share with all men. This work and training take nothing from any human creature, but on the contrary, once this inner fire is kindled in the heart of any one of us, he becomes to a very small degree a channel through which spiritual and regenerating ideas flow to the world of men.
What, then, is the nature of this work? I will try to find language to give at least some ideas about it. First of all we shall not be interested in these subjects unless we have already come to the conclusion that there is a spiritual power that it is possible for us to contact; that there is something in the depths of the heart, or in the spiritual part of our being, that, if we could only learn how to reflect, to become, to manifest it, at least for a decent part of our waking life, would greatly benefit ourselves as individuals, and likewise those around us. We recognize that the spiritual power is there if we can only reach it; but according to the particular point in the ladder of evolution that we stand at, we are in the position of Dhritarashrta. We have a lower personality, a mind and emotions, that are more or less turbulent, more or less attached to the objects of the senses, to all that makes up the outward attractiveness of the earth or world. That personality is probably engaged in the struggle for existence; or, if born into circumstances where there is no such struggle, then it has a still harder time, for it has more to learn, more to give up, and less incentive to enter into the performance of action which calls forth capacity to attend to the daily duties and learn how to perform them in a way that will open up the possibility of knowing the true individuality -- something quite different from the consciousness for so long experienced in what is really and truly the tomb of personal life.
And so the individual, or rather the personal man, when he is awakened to the point where he recognizes the existence of the spiritual nature within, arises and sets forth to seek out the Ancient Teachers of the race. He aspires, and somewhere in the depths of his own being he begins to experience the promptings of conscience, to follow along and do certain simple, perhaps everyday, actions helpful to others, or to carry out some simple or more complex duties. Directly he begins to do that there come the whisperings of the Higher Manas to the personality; and then perhaps such a book as THE BHAGAVAD-GITA falls into his hands, and he begins to study. The lower mind begins to be purified, the emotions to be stirred, and as he goes on aspiring perhaps he is fortunate in the companionship of others engaged in a similar pursuit. Then one day comes that event when the aspiration of the lower man evokes an outpouring of divine life from the Buddhic splendor within him, the vehicle of that shoreless ocean of spiritual life which is frontierless and boundless, and which all men live in and are inspired by. He realizes that to take this Kingdom of Heaven by the force of his awakened spiritual will he must enter the Temple of the Heart. He must plunge deep within his own nature; and if he does this, there will come that flashing response which will mean that this personal man is no longer left as a more or less rudderless ship, but that the strength of his own true individuality descends into his own heart as a flame. From that moment onwards he has in a true sense set his feet upon the pathway that will carry him to the heart of being itself; will take him to the source from which all impulses of a spiritual kind flow into this universe.
The sublime possibilities for the human aspirant are so distant that in a sense they hardly act as an incentive to push forward. The man that enters upon this Pathway eventually becomes the Mahatma, the Great Soul; but he has his long, long pilgrimage to perform; and there has never been any secret made of it that this state is not achieved at a single bound in one short life, but demands steady, devoted, self-sacrificing effort toward one clear objective with all personal side-issues dropped.
Somehow, one feels that in these days when the stress and storm of world events touches us all so closely, men's minds are not so concerned with high metaphysics. They want to know what is their next step; they want to know what they have to do; and I believe that we shall meet with success in our Work to the extent that we can give a practical message. I do not mean in a material sense, but a practical spiritual message to those who are interested in spiritual things. There is nothing that any one of us has that we believe of value in the spiritual life that we cannot share with another. And so this matter of the first steps on the Pathway is being discussed designedly tonight. It is the things that WE CAN DO that are the most interesting for us; and we CAN take the first steps on the Pathway that will lead us to make use of the gifts of our spiritual nature.
QUESTION: What is the significance of Teachers for those who enter upon this search?
ANSWER: There are Teachers in the world that it is possible for you and me to reach. There are other Teachers that it may be possible for us to reach if we are successful in our search -- our inward search; if we are successful in accomplishing a few steps of what the alchemists of old called the Great Work. Our Teachers are necessary for us.
What function do they play in our own pilgrimage? Let us reflect on this fact: that it is very few -- probably it is true to say that no one comes into contact with this Movement who does not owe his knowledge of it to books or to other people who are engaged in the Movement; and all of these efforts, the literature, the teachings, are due to the sacrifice made by those who have given their lives to teach. It will be found that if we want to make progress in the real sense of the word we shall do well to seek out that company, and try to be in the company of what Mr. Judge described as "holy men."
And it should be remembered at this point that this does not mean that we are seeking out someone who shall do our work for us, because if we do that we shall be disappointed. That would merely be the eternal looking outside of ourselves for something that we would never find. We shall never find a true Teacher until we have found something within ourselves that will enable us to recognize the true Teacher when we come across him. The example of such a one, the spiritual and philosophical instruction, the inner spiritual stimulus, is such as to make him the real heart and head of a Movement such as ours. You cannot in a spiritual Movement expect that any real spiritual life will exist unless there is a consolidated community of individuals linked together by a common aspiration, a common purpose, with spiritual Leadership that they trust, and with a common teaching -- a teaching that is not only ethical, intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual, but also universal in character.
QUESTION: Should we seek after this union with our Higher Self? Is so much concentration on ourselves a spiritual selfishness?
ANSWER: I suppose everything can be a kind of selfishness. There are such beings as Pratyeka-Buddhas in our philosophy: those who seek their knowledge purely for themselves. Such beings exist: such a path exists, and I believe this path is called the Path of Liberation, a path that is followed by one who simply seeks knowledge for his own self-satisfaction. And yet this is not the path that the Teachers of mankind have indicated to us. They point to the fact that these spiritual beings do exist who are concentrated upon their own perfection; but that the true way is to be found by a dropping of interest in all personal ambition, all personal strivings for success, and living simply to be an instrument in the hands of the only one Teacher.
QUESTION: Is it always necessary to experience suffering in order to enter the Path?
ANSWER: There are many things that call forth the effort to spiritual striving, according to the nature of the man. Take the case of a scientist. I can conceive of a scientist, and even a great one, who from his early life became absorbed in the pursuit of knowledge, perhaps with the very highest ideal of offering up his knowledge on the altar of the service of his fellows. I can quite conceive that suffering as such may not touch his life for a long, long time. Are you going to tell me that such a man who truly follows his researches into the secrets of Mother Nature is not following a pathway of evolution suitable for him -- knowledge and service of the race having called forth his effort?
Then there are people who would listen to no appeal, and yet would be moved by the message contained in great art, in beauty. That has opened up some channel in their spiritual being; but sooner or later, if they progress upon the Pathway at all, suffering will come. It cannot be avoided and it is the greatest Teacher. That does not mean to say that you have to sit around with a moping expression waiting for this suffering to descend upon you. It will come in its own time, and it will unlock doors when it comes.
By Pam Giese
I recently watched a bit of the old Marilyn Monroe/Clark Gable movie "Misfits". It's one of my favorites. In many ways, it's a story of Roslyn's (Monroe's character) spiritual awakening -- throughout the movie she's asking the right questions, but to the wrong people at the wrong time, in the wrong context.
She's trying to see good and beauty and love but it keeps getting turned wrong on her. The people around her are running away from the very things that Roslyn wants to confront. She's a neophyte starting on the path with all the forces working against her. It's those final scenes out in the prairie where she painfully gets a view into the reality of things.
It's in the raw expansions of the prairie the characters are forced to confront the truth that in order to preserve the facade of their own freedom, they are destroying the very symbol of that freedom. Most people I know, hate this movie. I think it's because it makes the viewer confront much of the same pain as the characters.
I've known a lot of people like the cowboys in the movie -- people who live on the edge of society, existing by barter, poaching, and odd jobs but never really buying into the whole societal package.
The sun is just starting to rise here. I love to see the sunrise. It brings a sense of freshness and promise to the world. Even when I lived in the city, driving through some of the toughest parts of town, around sunrise, there was this sense of hope -- old men sweeping off their walks, women hustling children off to day care and school.
At sunset gangs roamed the same streets and were even known to block intersections. It always reminded me of the Egyptian myth -- Ra was born each day at sunrise and at that time he was young and strong; but as the day goes on, Ra grows old, until finally in his weakness, he is overrun by the power of darkness until he can be born again.
[reprinted with permission from Theosophy Magazine, Volume 24, Page 385 et seq.]
The great Theosophist of the first century B.C. was Jesus the Christ. The great Theosophist of the first century A.D. was Apollonius of Tyana. The lives of these two men are marked by striking similarities and by equally striking differences. The similarities are found in their aim, purpose, and teaching, and are explained by the fact that both were members of that great Fraternity of Perfected Men who stand behind the Theosophical Movement. The differences are found in their personal lives and in the way they presented their philosophy.
Jesus is not a historical character. The great historians of the first two centuries do not mention him. As Moncure D. Conway says in Modern Thought:
The world has been for a long time engaged in writing lives of Jesus. In the fourth gospel it is said:
There are also many other things that Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
The library of such books has grown since then. But when we come to examine them, one startling fact confronts us: all of these books relate to a personage concerning whom there does not exist a single scrap of contemporary information -- not one! By accepted tradition he was born in the reign of Augustus, the great literary age of the nation of which he was a subject. In the Augustan age historians flourished; poets, orators, critics, and travelers abounded. Yet not one mentions the name of Jesus Christ, much less any incident in his life.
Apollonius of Tyana was, on the contrary, a well-known historical figure. The parents of Jesus -- whoever they were -- were obscure and humble people. Apollonius belonged to a prominent and well-known family, whose ancestors had founded the city of Tyana where he was born.
The friends and disciples of Jesus were drawn from the poorer classes. Apollonius was the friend of Kings and Emperors. He was at one time the personal adviser of the Emperor Vespasian, and the great Emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius admitted that he owed his philosophy to Apollonius. Says Marcus Aurelius:
From Apollonius I have learned freedom of will and understanding, steadiness of purpose, and to look to nothing else, not even for a moment, except to reason.
Jesus was not one of the traveling Adepts. There is no record of his having been in any country save his own native Judea and Egypt. Apollonius was the most famous traveler of his day. He visited every country in the then known world with the exception of Britain, Germany, and China. He traveled extensively through Italy, Greece, Spain, Africa, Asia Minor, Persia, and India, teaching wherever he went.
In Athens, Apollonius taught from the same porch which had once echoed to the wisdom of Socrates. He lectured on the island of Samos, where Pythagoras had conducted his school. He spoke in the grounds where Plato's Academy had stood. He taught in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, above the entrance of which were engraved those immortal words: Man know thyself! He was teaching in Crete on the day of the great eruption of Vesuvius, when the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed. He taught in Italy, Spain, and northern Africa, which was then called Mauretania. He lived for a long time in the city of Alexandria, holding his classes in the Temple of Serapis. He went up the Nile as far as Thebes and Karnak. He celebrated the festival of Neith in the ancient city of Sais, where stands the ever-veiled statue of this goddess with its inscription: I am all that has been, and is, and shall be, and my veil no mortal has withdrawn. And all of these travels were carefully recorded and preserved.
Jesus left nothing in writing. Apollonius was the author of voluminous philosophical literature. All of his works were collected by the Emperor Hadrian, and preserved in his place at Antium. The records of Apollonius' life in Greece are so important that, were it not for the works of Apollonius and the books of Pausanius, we would have had no history of Greece between the year 52 B.C. and the fifth century A.D.
There is, unfortunately, no accurate record of Jesus' life. The one most commonly accepted is found in the four Gospels. But this record was not written by Jesus himself, nor by any of his immediate disciples. As Fauste, the great Manichean of the third century writes:
Everyone knows that the Evangeliums were written neither by Jesus nor his apostles, but long after their time by some unknown persons, who, judging well that they would hardly be believed when telling of things they had not seen themselves, headed their narratives with the names of the apostles or of disciples contemporaneous with the latter.
The record of Apollonius' life is, on the contrary, quite complete. It was written by a personal friend and devoted disciple of Apollonius who was his constant companion for more than fifty years, and who made a daily report of all that Apollonius did or said during that time. This record was transcribed and put into book form by one of the most famous historians of the day, and was published in the year 210 A.D. -- more than a hundred years before the Gospels appeared.
The compiler of this book was Philostratus, who is called the Talleyrand of the second century. He was a famous scholar, the author of a large number of philosophical and historical books, and the close friend of the Emperor Severus and his wife, Julia Domna. Severus was a Neo-Platonist and Julia Domna was one of the most famous women in history. She was a philosopher of note, and surrounded herself with the greatest intellects of the day. She also founded one of the great libraries of that age, which was subsequently "cleared of its philosophical chaff" by the Christian Emperor Justinian, and completely destroyed in the sixth century by Pope Gregory.
The Emperor Severus and his wife were great admirers of Apollonius, and it was at the Empress' request that Philostratus compiled his Life of Apollonius from the manuscripts which had been entrusted to her care. A copy of this work, written in Greek, may be found in the Library of Congress. No English translation appeared until the year 1809. In that year the Reverend Edward Berwick, Vicar of Leixlip, Ireland, published his own translation with profuse apologies to the Christian world for the similarities (which all would notice) between the life of Jesus and that of Apollonius.
The world today may be unaware of those similarities. The world of the second and third centuries was only too well aware of them. The Church of that day was basing its claim of Jesus' divinity upon the miracles that he is said to have performed. But Apollonius was performing the same miracles before their very eyes, and at the same time refusing to call them miracles, claiming them to be but expressions of natural law. One day Apollonius met a funeral procession, bearing the body of a young girl who had just died. He stopped the procession with these words:
Set down the bier, and I will dry the tears being shed for this maid.
In a few moments the maid arose and joined her friends. Apollonius was asked how such "miracles" were possible, and answered:
There is no death of anything save in appearance. That which passes over from essence to nature seems to be birth, and what passes over from nature to essence seems to be death. Nothing really is originated, and nothing ever perishes; but only now comes into sight and now vanishes. It appears by reason of the density of matter, and disappears by reason of the tenuity of essence. But it is always the same, differing only in motion and condition.
The "miracles" performed by Apollonius caused great consternation in the young Christian Church. Justin Martyr, the great Church Father of the second century, pertinently asked:
How is it that the talismans of Apollonius have power over certain members of creation, for they prevent, as we see, the fury of the waves, the violence of the winds, and the attacks of wild beasts? And whilst Our Lord's miracles are preserved by tradition alone, those of Apollonius are most numerous, and actually manifested in present facts, so as to lead astray all beholders?
Ralston Skinner, author of The Source of Measures, believes that this similarity "serves to explain why The Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus has been so carefully kept back from translation and popular reading." He says that those who have studied this work in the original are forced to the conclusion that either The Life of Apollonius has been taken from the New Testament, or the New Testament from Philostratus' work. As the New Testament did not appear until a hundred years after the publication of Philostratus' book, the reader is left to draw his own conclusions.
Philostratus probably knew the commotion his book would cause in the Christian world. Possibly he wrote it for that very reason. For he was a devoted admirer of Pythagoras, and as such must have taken pleasure in bringing into public notice the noble character of one who was a strict and zealous follower of the Pythagorean School. In defending the position of Apollonius, Philostratus says:
Some consider him as one of the Magi, because he conversed with the Magi of Babylon and the Brahmans of India and the Gymnosophists of Egypt. But even his wisdom is reviled as being acquired by the magic art, so erroneous are the opinions formed of him. Whereas Empedocles and Pythagoras and Democritus, though they conversed with the same Magi, and advanced many paradoxical sentiments, have not fallen under the like imputation. Even Plato, who traveled in Egypt, and blended with his doctrines many opinions collected there from the priests and prophets, incurred not such a suspicion, though envied above all men on account of his superior wisdom.
Philostratus, then, must be admired as one of those who called for a restitution of borrowed robes, and the vindication of calumniated, but glorious reputations. And in bringing certain parts of this old book -- now long out of print -- to the notice of Theosophical students, the same object is kept in view.
This book, like all others of a similar character, has both a literal and a symbolic meaning. If it is studied symbolically, it will be found to contain the whole of the Hermetic philosophy. Apollonius' journey to India represents the trials of a neophyte, and his conversations with the Sages of Kashmir would, if properly interpreted, give the esoteric catechism. Many of the secret dogmas of Hermes are explained in symbolical language by the great Adept Iarchas, and his words would disclose, if understood, some of the most important secrets of nature.
Apollonius was born in the year 1 A.D. in the Greek town of Tyana in Cappadocia. He came of an ancient and aristocratic line, and was brought up in wealth and luxury. His birth, like that of most great Teachers, was out of the ordinary,
Whilst his mother was of child with him, Proteus the Egyptian God appeared to her. The woman asked him what she should bring forth. To which he replied: "Thou shalt bring forth me!" This you may suppose excited her curiosity to ask again who he was, and he said he was the Egyptian God Proteus.
When his mother neared the time of her delivery, she was told to go to a certain meadow and gather flowers. When she approached the meadow, a flock of swans formed a circle around her, singing and clapping their wings. At the moment of Apollonius' birth, a thunderbolt came out of the sky, arose to heaven and disappeared in the blue.
The child Apollonius possessed great intelligence. At the age of fourteen he was sent to the city of Tarsus, then a place of great learning and culture. But Apollonius would not rest until he had gained his father's permission to leave Tarsus and go to Aegea, where he hoped to find a more congenial atmosphere and a greater opportunity for philosophical study. In Aegea he soon contacted disciples of the Pythagorean School, and at the age of sixteen he adopted the Pythagorean discipline. From that time on he ate no meat, drank no wine, wore clothes made entirely of plant fibers, and allowed his hair to grow long. There he entered the Temple of Aesculapius, was initiated by the priests, and learned the art of healing as Jesus had learned it with the Therapeutae in Egypt. Later he turned the Temple of Aesculapius into a Lyceum similar in character to the Lyceums founded by Pericles. Cicero, and Aristotle. Finally he took a vow of silence which lasted for five years, during which period he never uttered a word.
At the end of his stay in Aegea he went to Antioch, where he taught for many years. The platform of his work is described by one of his biographers, Daniel M. Tredwell.
He maintained that the only good was moral excellence, the only true satisfaction, independence of external circumstances, and consequently held that wealth was an obstacle to the development of virtue. The whole of his life was spent, the whole of his teachings are founded on the idea that all men are called to receive and practice truth. He speaks and acts as a reformer everywhere. He had no narrow notions of nationality, no local clique to serve. He came to no chosen people, but to all mankind.
All during those years his thoughts had been fixed on far off India where he had been told that those Mahatmas lived who stood nearest to the source of wisdom. During his stay in Antioch he had acquired seven disciples. But when he spoke of a journey to India, their enthusiasm waned. And so he finally set off on his journey accompanied only by two scribes, one of whom could write rapidly, the other beautifully. When he reached the city of Ninus, a young man by the name of Damis attached himself to Apollonius and accompanied him throughout all his subsequent wandering. It was Damis who wrote the account of Apollonius' travels which Philostratus compiled at the request of the Empress Julia Domna.
After all their arrangements had been completed, the wanderers set out upon their long journey, which would carry them into new and strange places and finally lead them into the presence of the Masters. Their first resting place was the city of Babylon, where Apollonius met the Magi and was initiated by them into the Chaldean Mysteries. The King of Babylon became his friend and furnished him with camels and a guide for his trip.
It was early spring when Apollonius and Damis began their long journey. We can see them, mounted upon their camels, crossing the desert wastes of Arabia, finally reaching the rose-scented land of Persia where Omar, a thousand years later, begged that he might be buried "so that roses might blow over his tomb." They were received everywhere with enthusiasm, for their caravan was headed by a camel wearing an ornament of gold, proclaiming to the world that friends of the King of Babylon were upon the road.
And all through the sultry days, lulled by the sleepy tinkle of the camel bells, Apollonius talked with his friend Damis. Sometimes they laughed and spoke of trivial things. But Apollonius always tried to bring the mind of his friend to the consideration of spiritual matters, using the commonplace to illustrate the divine. One day, shortly after they had begun their ascent of the Hindu Kush, Apollonius said to Damis:
"Pray tell me, Damis, where were we yesterday?"
"On the plain," answered Damis.
"And where are we today?"
"On the Calculus, if I am not mistaken."
"Then," said Apollonius, "yesterday we were below; today we are above. In what respect do these conditions differ?"
"In this," said Damis, "that yesterday's journey has been made by many travelers; but this day's journey has been made by the few."
And so, in this simple manner, Apollonius was able to call the attention of his friend to the Path and to the Few that find it.
On another day they were watching the great white eagles that soared majestically above their heads. And Apollonius used this occasion to tell his friend the story of Prometheus and how it symbolized the Egos who incarnated in men long, long ago. Then he explained the Indian origin of the Greek myths, and told Damis that:
The Greeks and Indians have different opinions about Bacchus. The Indians affirm that Bacchus was the son of the River Indus, and that the Theban Bacchus was his disciple.
At last they reached the city of Taxila, which lies near the modern city of Rawalpindi, close to the border of Kashmir. In front of the city walls stood a large Temple made of porphyry and enriched with ornaments of gold. There they rested until the King was ready to receive them, and there, Apollonius, speaking of the art of painting, told Damis how the mind itself paints indelible pictures on the astral light.
Apollonius found the King of Taxila a philosopher and a disciple of the very Mahatmas he was seeking. The King gave him the necessary requirements for one who wished to study with the Masters. He said:
A young man must go beyond the Hyphasis and see the men to whom you are going. When he comes into their presence, he must make a public declaration of studying philosophy. They have it in their power, if they think proper, to refuse admitting him to their society if he does not come pure. And when no stigma is discovered, the youth's character is then examined. Such information as relates to the candidates individually, is acquired by a minute investigation of their looks. Wise men, and such as are deep read in nature, see the tempers and dispositions of men just as they see objects in a mirror. In this country philosophy is deemed of such high price, and so honored by the Indians, that it is very necessary to have all examined who approach her.
When Apollonius and Damis took their departure, they carried with them a letter from the King of Taxila to the Sages of Kashmir:
King Phroates to Iarchas, his Master; and to the Wise Men with him -- health. Apollonius, a man famed for wisdom, thinks you have more knowledge than himself, and goes to be instructed in it. Send him away learned in all you know, and believe that nothing you teach him will be lost.
According to the description given by Philostratus, the travelers must have taken the same route across the mountains that goes from Rawalpindi at the present day. They must have followed the gorge of the Hyphasis (now the Jhelum river) and watched it foaming and swirling between its ochre banks. They traveled through the great deodar forests, and may have stopped for a moment at the spot where Vishnu is said to have rested after the Great Flood. They caught their first glimpse of the Valley of Kashmir in the late summer, when the roses and lotus are in full bloom. What they thought of this "emerald valley set in a rim of pearls," Damis does not say. His mind was occupied with the tales that Apollonius told him of the Dragons who lived in the hills. But the Theosophist knows that the Dragons that Apollonius was seeking were the Nagas, or Sages of Kashmir.
At last they reached the hill where the Wise Men lived. It rose majestically from the plain, defended on all sides by an immense pile of rocks. There was a Castle on the top of the hill. Apollonius could see the entrance to the Castle, but Damis could see only the cloud that enveloped it.
As soon as they had dismounted from their camels, a messenger from the Masters appeared, wearing a caduceus on his brow. He brought Apollonius a letter of welcome from the Wise Men on the Hill. When Apollonius was conducted into their presence, their Chief, Iarchas, addressed him in Greek, minutely describing the journey which had brought him to Kashmir. Apollonius, following the instructions given to him by the King of Taxila, asked Iarchas if he would instruct him in philosophy. Iarchas replied:
I will, with all my heart, for the communication of knowledge is much more becoming the character of philosophy than the concealment of what ought to be known.
Then Iarchas begged Apollonius to propose whatever questions he pleased, "for you know you speak with men who know all things." Remembering the inscription carved over the entrance of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Apollonius asked: "Do you know yourselves?" Iarchas answered:
"We know all things because we know ourselves. For there is not one among us who would have been admitted to the study of philosophy had he not had that previous knowledge."
Apollonius then asked: "As what, then, do you consider yourselves?"
"As Gods," Iarchas replied.
"And why Gods?" said Apollonius.
"Because we are good men," was the answer.
This conversation led naturally to a discussion of the Soul, and Apollonius inquired what their teaching was in regard to the Soul.
"The same," said Iarchas, "as was delivered to you by Pythagoras, and by us to the Egyptians."
This statement, so strange to modern ears, could not have been a surprise to Apollonius. For both Homer and Herodotus had spoken of that colony of dark-skinned Aryans, known as the Eastern Ethiopians, who had taken their civilization and their arts from India to Egypt in pre-Vedic days. Iarchas spoke at great length about these Eastern Ethiopians, saying:
There was a time when this country was inhabited by the Ethiopians, an Indian nation. Ethiopia did not then exist. Whilst the Ethiopians lived in this country now possessed by us, and were obedient to a sovereign named Ganges, they had all the productions of the earth in plenty.
Apollonius must have many opportunities, during his stay in Kashmir, to observe the relics of this ancient connection between Kashmir, Ceylon, and Egypt. For even today there is a little island in the very center of the Valley called Lanka, which is the ancient name of Ceylon. And the grand old mountain that stands like a sentinel overlooking the Valley is called Hari-mouk, the name under which the Egyptians once worshiped the Sphinx.
Iarchas told Apollonius many things about the state of the country when it was inhabited by the Eastern Ethiopians, and informed him that he was speaking from personal knowledge, as he himself had been this same King Ganges in a former incarnation. He then
... asked Apollonius if he could tell the last body in which he appeared, and in what condition of life he was before the one he was in at present. To this Apollonius replied: "As it was ignoble, I remember little of it?"
"What?" said Iarchas, "do you consider the being pilot of an Egyptian vessel as ignoble? For I know you were one!"
"You are right," said Apollonius, "I was."
Apollonius spent thirteen years with the Sages of Kashmir, and at the end of his visit Iarchas gave him seven rings, which he was told to wear alternately during the seven days of the week, according to the particular planet that gave its name to the day. When he was ready to depart, Iarchas furnished him with camels, and at the end of ten days he had reached the sea. From there he sent back a letter to Iarchas which read:
Apollonius to Iarchas and other sages -- health. I came to you by land; you have given me the sea. In communicating to me your wisdom, you have opened the road to heaven. I will remember this among the Greeks; I will continue to enjoy your conversation as if still with you, if I have not drunk of the cup of Tantalus in vain. Farewell, excellent philosophers.
That Apollonius did not "drink of the cup of Tantalus in vain" is witnessed by his later work. He brought the Wisdom-Religion back to Europe and laid down lines of force which were continued by his successor, Ammonius Saccas. He established an esoteric school in Ephesus, and is said by some of his biographers to have died at the age of a hundred years. By others it is claimed that he lived to the age of a hundred and thirty, and by still others that he did not "die" at all, but "disappeared from view."
In the very heart of the Valley of Kashmir there stands the little town of Srinagar, the home of Sri-Naga, the "Serpent-King." The present town was founded 300 B.C. by the great Buddhist King Asoka, and was therefore in existence when Apollonius was in Kashmir. There is a tradition among the inhabitants of this town that a great Adept came there from Europe in the first century, and that he died there.
A few miles beyond the outskirts of Srinagar are found the magnificent ruins of an ancient Temple of the Sun. It stands upon a high plateau facing the East, its trefoil arches forming graceful frames for the mighty panorama of the Himalayas beyond. So old is this Temple that the five Pandu brothers of Mahabharata fame are said to have worshiped there. Everywhere appears the figure of the triangle superimposed upon the square -- the ancient symbol of septenary man. Philostratus' description of the Temple of the Sun where Apollonius worshiped closely resembles this ancient Kashmiri Temple of Martand.
A two-week's journey on mule-back will take the traveler up the mountains into the little city of Lhadak, in Western Tibet. There he may have the good fortune to discover an ancient Buddhist monastery perched like an eagle's nest on the overhanging crags. There the monks may tell him (as they have told other travelers) of certain manuscripts in their possession which were left to them by the great European Adept of the first century when he passed through Lhadak. And on the other side of the Himalayas, in the sacred city of Lhasa, there are said to be other men who possess records of the Adept who taught in Europe during the first century, and came back "home" when his work was done.
Perhaps, after all, Apollonius did not die in Europe, but started out on a second journey to India, passing through all these places on his way "Home."