... in Tantrism the ordinary world of appearance is not unreal but the ultimate in a limited and restricted way, and thus a challenge to man to perfect and enhance it with beauty and value which is more than earthly ... Both ultimacy and semblance must coincide in a unitary experience or the goal lived in everyday life. Technically this is known as the coincidence of ultimate truth and relative truth.
-- Herbert Guenther, THE LIFE AND TEACHING OF NAROPA, pages 188-9.
By Gerald Schueler
[based upon a March 23, 1995 posting to email@example.com.]
Jesus' charge to us that we should not resist evil makes little sense until we arrive at the third level of moral development. Although I have already discussed this before, I hope readers will bear with me once again, and I will try to tie up some loose ends and put it all together. I will connect the three levels and seven stages of moral development given by Lawrence Kohlberg, the psychological pioneer of modern moral development theory, with the three stages or levels of moral development according to occultism.
Development of Morals and Ethics. This level is absolutely critical, and must be gone through in order for any lasting degree of spiritual progress. We simply must develop a moral sense, and a system of ethics and ethical behaviors. Virtually all religions agree to this. Level 1 is Kohlberg's Preconventional Level. It has two stages. The first stage is punishment and obedience, where rules are followed in order to avoid punishment. At this stage we do good in order to get into heaven after we die, or in order to obtain merit or good karma. Please take note: doing good to others in order to obtain good karma is the very first stage of moral development. In the second stage, "right" is defined in terms of satisfying one's own needs or attaining rewards. In the second stage, we will help others only in return for some favor or reward. Although occultism recognizes the importance of this level, it stresses the need to go on to Level 2.
Development of Compassion. After some degree of moral development has been attained we must start developing compassion and concern for others. This is Kohlberg's Conventional Level. In this level laws take precedence over the needs of individuals. It has two stages. In stage three, we do whatever pleases our friends in order to obtain their approval. In stage four "right" is seen as doing one's duty and we have the desire to show respect for authority. In level 2, we recognize others, and we begin to adapt our needs to those of other people. Occultism stresses the need for this level, because compassion and selflessness are absolutely essential to further progress on the Path without going down the slippery road to Black Magic. Black Magic, by most definitions, comes about when we develop psychically without a corresponding moral development. The Tibetans use the technique of Tonglen' to develop compassion (see THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING for an excellent description of Tonglen).
Letting Go of Right and Wrong. After developing morals and compassion, we are now in the position of letting our sense of right and wrong simply drop away. We must do this in order to act spontaneously. In this level, our spontaneous actions are always the "right" thing to do in any situation, because we have already gone through the first two levels. This is Kohlberg's Postconventional Level. Kohlberg gives three stages for this level. In stage five laws are seen to be beneficial to society and if they are unfair, they can be changed. In stage six "right" is seen according to self-chosen abstract ethical principles like the Golden Rule rather than specific ones like the ten commandments. In level seven "right" is defined in terms of cosmic unity. In this level we are letting go of specific laws or rules of conduct, and instead are adopting general ones. For example, if we really love people, then when a specific situation arises we will automatically do the "right" thing. The right thing for one instance may be wrong in another instance. So, in this level we develop what has been called situation ethics, which eventually leads to what can be called amorality in the sense that our actions are beyond any specific moral sense of mandatory rules and regulations. Love is seen to be a higher calling than man-made laws, for example.
Kohlberg generated his scale and his findings using males. Carol Gilligan has argued that women differ somewhat from men in their attitudes. For example, most 16-year-old boys score at stage 4 on Kohlbergs's scale, while most 16-year-old girls score at stage 3. Gilligan argues that girls care more about social responsibilities while boys care more about individual rights, and therefore girls are not really less moral than boys. Most psychologists today agree with Gilligan. So, while there is room to fudge a bit, the overall structure of moral development given by Kohlberg and occultism is a reasonably fixed one for most of us.
Theosophical Society note.
The Theosophical Societies agree with the importance of Levels 1 and 2. All T.S.'s emphasize the development of morals and compassion. An abundance of literature tells us to work on our karma and to make a better future life for ourselves (Stage 1 of Level 1). All T.S.'s emphasize the need for compassion, though seldom telling us why, other than pointing out that progress without compassion leads us down the road to the Black Brotherhood. There are other reasons; the main one having to do with crossing the Abyss, which none of the T.S.'s want to go into. No T.S., that I am aware of, emphasizes or even recognizes Level 3. Why? Probably because of the danger involved -- Level 3 only works if you have already successfully passed through the first two levels. In the old days, one would work under a guru or Teacher who would make the determination that one was ready for Level 3. Nowadays most of us must work for ourselves, or with books for guidance. When we say to ourselves "OK, I have developed a moral sense of right and wrong and I have compassion and concern for others, so now I am ready to drop what is right and wrong and to act spontaneously" how will we ever know if our ego is conning us or if we are really ready? I know of no easy answer to that one. Perhaps advancement to Level 3 should occur naturally and unconsciously?
Wherever we individually are on the moral scale of development, it is important as theosophists to be aware of all three levels. There is nothing wrong, per se, with doing good deeds in order to improve our karma and to get a better future life. But we should be aware that such motives place us at the first level of development, and that eventually we may want to broaden our motives to include others. At some point in our development we should be aware of the need to recognize that good and evil may be two sides of the same coin. After years, and even lifetimes, of grasping for the good and of resisting evil, we may recognize that we are, in effect, like a dog chasing after its own tail and that perhaps there is a better way. At that point, the thought may come to us that if we stop trying to be good and stop trying to avoid evil, and that if we just let both of them go from our thinking, we may be a lot better off. If we then carry this out, effortlessly, we just may find ourselves somewhere in Level 3. It is probably unnecessary for me to point out here that every true Adept has reached Level 3, but that reaching Level 3 does NOT automatically make one an Adept.
By Reed Carson
This month has been spent mostly on software development that, we think, adds significant value to the site.
1. We have started a Quote of the Day, QOD, service on the homepage that offers a new quote from the Secret Doctrine each day. The quotes start at the beginning of the SD and will be running sequentially to the end of the book. This series was started in early October. However, because we find the quotes have so much value, we will be restarting them on Nov 1, at the beginning of the SD so that all the members may follow them from the beginning.
2. We have added a provision on the homepage so that anyone can subscribe to the QOD and have it automatically mailed to them.
3. On Nov 1, we will be starting a discussion list called BN-study. It is intended to be a study class in THE SECRET DOCTRINE that starts at the beginning of the SD and proceeds sequentially. To stimulate the discussion and provide a focus, the members of the list will receive the QOD. Other appropriate subjects for the list are expected to be any other teaching of Theosophy as presented by Blavatsky (or Judge), or other material at this site.
4. Technical matters of BN-study: It is what is called an "unmoderated" list. That is -- all comments go directly to all participants without anyone first reading the comments for "suitability". This list is also technically called "closed" -- meaning, in this case, that it is restricted to members of BN and a person can be removed from the list. All members will initially be added to the list but will be able to easily remove themselves from the list. You will talk to the list by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will soon receive email from BN-study to start things off. There will be a digest form available that will accumulate the comments and send them to you less frequently if you prefer that. (See below for controlling that.)
5. Matters of tone: I hope BN-study will seem like a study class in the SD conducted in someone's private home -- just on an international basis. To achieve this, those coming only recently to the philosophy should feel able to freely speak up, ask beginners questions, or even just remark in a cordial environment of respectful study of the SD. Hopefully those who have studied longer will assist in responding to the comments of the newcomers. Also if anyone has a comment to make on any particular page that we are passing by in this "QOD method" it would be wonderful if they would share that. And -- if we should remain quiet, and all "lurk" simultaneously for a while, I think the quotes are of such value that it will still be a positive experience.
6. The rate of new members joining (about 3 per day now) has made it mandatory to create a member database. A first version of it is now mostly complete and you will probably be able to see the front door of it on Nov 1 by clicking on "membership" on the home page or looking at:
In this process we have wanted to offer some real value for members and we think the data base, as it has been constructed, does this. To get the best understanding of it, you can take a peek at the key form at
It has a section for you to control those features that you receive automatically. That is: a) the QOD, b) the home study course, c) this monthly news letter, d) participation in BN-study, e) the digest form of BN-study.
It provides a personal profile in which you can enter information describing yourself that you can also choose to make available to other members. The objective here is to help people meet people -- to extend the reach and appreciation of Theosophy. One item here, we think, is particularly significant. You can indicate if you are interested in a) talking with others about Theosophy, b) possibly attending a study class c) possibly leading a study class, d) possibly giving a presentation on Theosophy. Along with this you can give as much or as little info about where you live as you choose. The idea is that as time goes on, there will be more and more people registered and revealing something about their geographical area and interests. One of the possibilities is that study classes may come to arise spontaneously. Also many may come to meet others with this same interest in Theosophy. This would help put the "Net" in "Blavatsky Net".
We anticipate the features of this data base coming online during the first week of November. We will appreciate your patience during this time. After the database is installed, the existing members must be moved over to the new one, a tricky matter. We will be sending you another email on how you will be able to access your information with a private password (and how you can retrieve your password if you forget it).
7. There is now a Portuguese page at BN that is being developed by Marly Winckler. It now contains some articles of Blavatsky that she has translated into Portuguese. We are working on getting the QOD to work on that page as some of the quotes have already been translated into Portuguese. You can reach it at
8. Finally, there is a magazine section on the Roadmap page.
By Judith Tyberg
[This is the introduction to a book originally published in 1940. It is currently available from Point Loma Publications. For more information, see "http://www.znet.com/~cinco5/index.html".]
Students of Theosophical and Occult literature often complain of the frequent use of Sanskrit words, and ask: "Cannot Theosophy be explained without these unfamiliar terms?" The answer is, "Yes, it can be done, but this method has many drawbacks." For not only are many of our English words so weighty with false and dogmatic beliefs that a Theosophist prefers not to use them, but our language is poor in words dealing with the inner mysteries of the soul and spirit, with the many after-death states, with the origin and destiny of worlds and men, with human psychology, and with the glorious hierarchies of compassionate beings above the human stage. The Sanskrit language has words for all these higher teachings, words which have been used for millenniums by Panditas, Brahmanas, Rishis, and Mahatmas of India, and which can be found in all the Sanskrit scriptures available to our Western civilization. Neither the English language, nor any other modern European language, possesses the niceties of expression that such subjects demand; whereas the Sanskrit language is a storehouse of philosophical and religious terms; for the history of the development of Sanskrit was contemporaneous with that great event of which Occult History tells -- the bringing of profound universal truths to the mankind of the early Fifth Race by compassionate hearted god-men, who had already evolved through the human stage. (See THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A. P. SINNETT, p. 41.)
The following quotations from THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A. P. SINNETT demonstrate the difficulty, which even the Masters have, in explaining in English the archaic and yet universal Truths of the East:
First of all and again I will draw your attention to the tremendous difficulty of finding appropriate terms in English which would convey to the educated European mind even an approximately correct notion about the various subjects we will have to treat upon. To illustrate my meaning I'll underline in red the technical words adopted and used by your men of Science and which withal are absolutely misleading not only when applied to such transcendental subjects as on hand but even when used by themselves in their own system of thought.
-- page 60
Our mystic terms in their clumsy retranslation from the Sanskrit into English are as confusing to us as they are to you -- especially to "M" unless in writing to you one of us takes his pen AS AN ADEPT and uses it from the first word to the last, in this capacity he is quite as liable to "slip" as any other man.
-- page 84
Indeed -- no adequate words to express the difference between a state of mind on earth, and one outside of its sphere of action; no English terms in existence, equivalent to ours; NOTHING -- but unavoidable (as due to early Western education) preconceptions, hence -- lines of thought in a wrong direction in the learner's mind to help us in this inoculation of entirely new thoughts!
-- page 192
Even our sciences of today, astronomy, astrology, botany, geology, mathematics, and medicine, etc., have adopted words from the Latin and Greek in order to express more clearly their conceptions. Why have they done this? Because modern languages are inadequate. The Latin and Greek languages already possessed appropriate roots and expressions for these ideas. The initial difficulty of learning the technical scientific terms is nothing compared to the vast field of information open to us once we have mastered the technical terminology of these sciences. So it is with Theosophy -- the effort spent in mastering the Sanskrit mystical terms and their meanings will be repaid a thousandfold by the greater enlightenment that will come with an ever increasing intuitive faculty as a result of being able to delve deeper into the wisdom-treasury of the gods.
Just as English words live for you and have certain connotations and bring to mind certain pictures, so will a study of this book make Sanskrit terms live for you, and lead you into fascinating realms of thought, and bring about a more profound understanding of the deep significance of every moment of life, for these Sanskrit terms are fraught with cosmic verities.
We are told that a thought about a star touches that star and affects it in some manner. Though the vibrational contact may be infinitesimal in degree, the distant star responds and returns the call. So with these Sanskrit words. Call on them, try to understand them, and they will return with a whole series of philosophical and religious inspirations. Every term is a living symbol of one of the secret laws of nature. Here is an opportunity to tune into the hearts and minds of the great Seers of the Past.
In fact in the preparation of the present book many of the sources consulted themselves are derived from direct inspiration or instruction from adepts in the wisdom of old. The written and spoken words of H. P. Blavatsky, W. Q. Judge, and G. de Purucker, three of the leaders of the Theosophical Society, have given illuminating information in regard to the true and original interpretation of these Sanskrit terms. Some of their well-known works which offer enlightening hints along this line are: THE SECRET DOCTRINE, ISIS UNVEILED, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, and THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, by H. P. Blavatsky; THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY, ECHOES FROM THE ORIENT, and LETTERS THAT HAVE HELPED ME, by W. Q. Judge; THE ESOTERIC TRADITION, FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, THEOSOPHY AND MODERN SCIENCE, GOLDEN PRECEPTS OF ESOTERICISM, and THE OCCULT GLOSSARY, by G. de Purucker.
In certain cases I have used the familiar phraseology of these standard Theosophical writings because these phrases have proved through many years to have conveyed most successfully the essential meaning of the terms defined. In many places these have been inserted in single quotation-marks though direct references have not been given. A deeper study of the Theosophical literature will familiarize the student with the almost innumerable passages in which these phrases occur. Attention is here called to the List of Further References to be found at the end of this book.
When giving forth a presentation of these age-old teachings placed in their sacred charge, the Theosophical leaders have often said by way of introduction, as did all the sages and scribes of ancient India, ITI MAYA SHRUTAM, "Thus have I heard." Thus they claim naught as their own but reverently pay tribute to those sages whose sacred trust it was to pass on the eternal truths of the Universe. So do I place before each chapter on Theosophical Terms this phrase, ITI MAYA SHRUTAM, for in my small way I am only passing on what I have learned from these Theosophical teachers, and from the Sanskrit literature of old.
I might mention here that there is in preparation at Theosophical University an Encyclopedic Glossary of Theosophical Terms under the direction and editorship of Dr. de Purucker. The volumes of this work are vast in their scope, and will include hundreds of terms from many languages including some sixteen hundred Sanskrit words that are used by H. P. Blavatsky in her SECRET DOCTRINE and ISIS UNVEILED. The Sanskrit terms are explained in much fuller detail and on a greater scale in this Encyclopedic Glossary than they have been in this small volume of SANSKRIT KEYS TO THE WISDOM RELIGION. Therefore the student who masters the lessons offered in this book will be better prepared to appreciate the mine of gathered wisdom in store for him in this Encyclopedic Glossary.
The lessons in this present book are arranged to facilitate the study and mastery of those Sanskrit terms which the average student will meet most frequently in Theosophical literature. Each Chapter of Lessons is devoted to the study of one of four Theosophical books which are unusually full of Sanskrit terms. At the end of each of these Chapters is an Index of the words used therein. Opposite each noun is placed its Sanskrit gender. The abbreviation M. is used for masculine, F. for feminine, and N. for neuter. When the word is a Sanskrit adjective, the abbreviation ADJ. has been placed opposite; when an anglicized Sanskrit adjective, the abbreviation A. ADJ. will be found. These indexes may be used for testing oneself. For instance, take each word in the Index and express in your own words the philosophical teaching that it contains. If you cannot remember the meaning turn back to its explanation and study it carefully. When the first Index is thus mastered then start to read and study the next Chapter.
Each new chapter will be better understood if the previous chapters have been learned. The terms explained in one chapter are not taken up again in another, even though those terms are found in the Theosophical book to which the chapter is devoted. However, when these terms have a slightly different use in the second book, they receive further explanation. Thus it will be found that though practically all the terms in the first three Chapters of Lessons occur also in THE SECRET DOCTRINE, they are not treated in the SECRET DOCTRINE Chapter, but new ones are explained.
The Indexes at the end of each of the four Chapters on Sanskrit terms may also be used for Spelling Tests. If you want to be an accurate Sanskrit speller, practice placing all the signs and dots above and under the letters. If you were going to study the Sanskrit language itself, you would understand more fully the value of this advice. Sanskrit spelling is not difficult if one learns the correct pronunciation first. Therefore, with every lesson the Chapter on Rules of Pronunciation should be studied.
After each chapter is placed a blank page on which the student may make notes or write in correspondences. Some of these Sanskrit terms have equivalent terms in the religions and philosophies of other nations, and one may find it helpful to remember the meaning of a word by relating it to some more familiar term in another language. For instance the word Aditi could be explained thus:
Vedanata = Mulaprakriti Zohar = Highest Sephirah Gnostic = Sophia-Achamoth Egyptian = Isis
The series of Reading Lessons in Chapter VII should not only be helpful for practice in correct pronunciation, but also for the study of the use of these terms in sentences, and for making the simplest, however incomplete, English translation of the Sanskrit terms. After you have studied these two together, the Sanskrit Reading and its English translation, test yourself and see if you can translate into English the Sanskrit Reading without referring to the translation.
A chapter on Lessons in the Writing of Devanagari has been included in this book because there are many who wish to familiarize themselves with the Sanskrit script, even though they have no inclination to study the grammar of Sanskrit. For those who wish to go more deeply into the study of Sanskrit this chapter should be very helpful as an introduction.
Before the complete Index at the end of the book, comes the special list of references to books and magazines where further information on some of the Sanskrit terms may be found. The study of this material will add much to a fuller understanding of the profound teachings embodied in these terms.
Five hundred Sanskrit Keys to the Wisdom-Religion are in your hands. Who can tell what doors they may open for you?
By John Patrick Deveney
This is to announce the publication of CYRIL SCOTT AND A HIDDEN SCHOOL: TOWARDS THE PEELING OF AN ONION, Theosophical History Occasional Paper No. VII by Jean Overton Fuller. (ISBN 1-883279-07-0, about 55 pages)
For the musical world, Cyril Scott is a composer, but for Theosophists he is the author of the three "Initiate" books: THE INITIATE, THE INITIATE IN THE NEW WORLD, and THE INITIATE IN THE DARK CYCLE. Originally signed "by His Pupil" and only later identified as Scott, the question remained, had Scott really met a Master, Sir Thomas, or was the whole story fictitious?
Jean Overton Fuller's investigations have led her to the house where Scott really received his teachings -- not in the West country but in Sussex. There it was that he was given the instruction to marry Rose -- the Viola of his books -- though it was given in the name of one of Blavatsky's teachers.
Who was he told that she and he had been in their immediately past life? Why had they spent seven years hesitating as to whether they should marry? Rose wrote a book, DESPISED AND REJECTED, which was the object of a prosecution, and banned. That was known. But Jean Overton Fuller has discovered that Scott also wrote a book that was banned. This banned autobiography and Rose's novels in a labyrinthine way point up incidents and situations in their own lives and those of their associates.
After the death of their link with their Teacher, they became fascinated by the astrology of David Anrias, who unfortunately put them against Krishnamurti. But H.K. Challoner, author of THE WHEEL OF REBIRTH, comes into it too, as we glimpse principally through Rose's novels, each one a layer of an onion, to be peeled off to reveal another layer of mystery beneath.
For further information, see the THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY webpage at:
To order in U.S. dollars, send a check or international money order payable to Theosophical History to the following address. The price is $23 (plus $3.50 for airmail for the first and $2.00 for airmail for each additional copy). California residents please add 7.75% sales tax ($1.77).
James Santucci Department of Comparative Religion, California State University, P.O. Box 6868, Fullerton, California 92834-6868)
To order in British sterling, make payment to the following address. The price is 16.00 (plus 2.50 for airmail for the first and 1.35 for airmail for each additional copy).
Dr. Joscelyn Godwin C/O the Department of Music Colgate University Hamilton, New York 13346-1398
Purchase of five or more copies receive a 20 percent discount.
There are a multitude of metaphysical, New Age, and religious websites on the Internet. For theosophical students, it's encouraging to see another site based upon original Theosophy. The wisdom world site can be found at:
It is an independent project, not sponsored nor directed by any organization, managed by a long-time student of the philosophy.
On the site will appear a series entitled "This Way to the Promised Land." Topics listed on the site include Great Theosophists, Ancient Landmarks, Karma and Reincarnation, Science, Education, Economics, and Race Relations.
Also listed are three new online theosophical magazines: (1) THE WISDOM WORLD, reserved, it says, for the exclusive use of the Editors of and Contributors to THEOSOPHY MAGAZINE. (2) WORLD PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS, reserved for the exclusive use of the other worldwide educational Movement that the website sponsors, an economic movement to better the world. (3) THE PEOPLE'S VOICE, reserved for the exclusive use of Wisdom World, Inc., the nonprofit educational corporation founded to support the activities represented by the website.
(Note that THEOSOPHY MAGAZINE is published by the United Lodge of Theosophists, or rather the publishing company that prints their books and literature -- Theosophy Company -- out of Los Angeles, California. This magazine is online, its past year's issues may be read at:
On the site's home page, we read:
This site ... points to two separate and distinct Teachings. The primary teaching is Theosophy, which has always been the eternal and universal source of Truth regarding science, religion, philosophy, ethics and education on our planet. The second teaching is specifically about the most important economic information that humanity needs to know about. Like thousands of other teachings and movements to uplift humanity in some way, it is actually a partial expression of Theosophy.
By Gerald Schueler
[based upon a March 30, 1995 posting to email@example.com.]
Consider this thought: "My world, inner and outer, is mine, and I make it what I will. You make yours what you will. Perhaps the only truly universal law is 'Do What Thou Wilt?'"
This thought is borrowed from A. Crowley. But I suppose that it is ok, because he borrowed the phrase himself. As you say, it goes back to Augustine, although the ancient Egyptians also had the idea ("see yourself as one who comes forth into light, and come forth to take your every pleasure upon the Earth among the living" -- last sentence on Stele of Revealing, my own trans. in my Egyptian Magick p 168. The phrase "take your every pleasure" could also be "do your every will" or simply "do what you will").
This universal law, which Crowley adopted and many good folks have thus ignored, seems a bit selfish or harsh on the surface. In fact, modern Wiccans have changed it to "an' in harm none, do what thou wilt" so folks won't get the wrong idea. Actually, the "an' it harm none" is implied in the law itself once you understand exactly what the "thou" is -- it is not the personality or ego. The "thou" refers to the Self in the Jungian sense of the total psyche, or to the theosophical idea of Ego (cap E) or higher self, which magic calls the True Self and Enochian Magic calls the Holy Guardian Angel (a poetic term that is so outlandishly childish that it serves to shake the mind out of its normal grooves and reminds us that it is, after all, but a name, which is better than a lot of other names which all too often give us a false impression of knowing what the name refers to. But, I am digressing, and the occult theory of names is another story).
The four words of this law, rather like the four letters of the Hebrew tetragammaton, are a condensation of an entire worldview. According to this worldview, life is rather like a joyous and fun game, an exciting adventure, a 'lila' or dance (almost in the spirit of Shakespear's "all life's a stage" etc).
This worldview says that we are not here to learn anything because we are already perfect and eternal in our essence, and that consciousness descends to the lower planes of manifestation in order to express itself in space-time, rather like an artist painting a picture (I hope Keith notes my reference to art here).
Our spiritual ascent is one of going back to our original spirituality (our original face, as Zen has it), a return to the point where we left off, and the idea of spiraling forever upward (and thus growing spiritually forever) is silly nonsense because one can only 'grow' by definition in space-time (all growth or progress is, by definition, a process over time, and without time such concepts are meaningless).
Spirituality is beyond or outside of any space-time continuum, and according to this worldview,
Although this worldview is somewhat difficult to phrase properly (I am trying my best) it has been shared, at least in part, by virtually all mystics throughout history.
The Zen Master D.T. Suzuki once said that when we do return to our spiritual essence after countless lifetimes in the lower planes, or when we recover our original face, we will be a victim of the great Cosmic Joke -- the realization that we never really went anywhere after all. In this worldview, God not only plays dice (sorry Einstein) but is a true gamester at heart. This mystical worldview really has to be seen or experienced before it can be adopted. It is one that our human minds will rebuke as illogical without a direct perception of some kind (it is the kind of worldview that inspires flames on a network, for example).
So, if we have this very esoteric (because it is so devilishly hard to put into words) worldview, we will tend to act accordingly. By this I mean that, if we are here to express something within us, then it becomes imperative for us to find out exactly what that is, and then set about expressing it.
Some who have done this, for example, discover that they are messengers of the Lodge, and then they must start teaching. Some become writers, and some poets. Some serve in charitable organizations. Everyone is different. But, until we know what the impulse was that brought us into birth at this point in space-time, we are simply whistling in the wind, so to speak; that is, our actions and words will not be authentic.
A person who is authentic, knows exactly what they are doing. Such a person will have no regrets or guilt about how their lives went when they face their own death, and they usually die with a very contented smile. Do What Thou Wilt thus means that you should express whatever the impulse was that brought you into this life and damn the consequences (e.g., the hatred, rebuke, and condemnation that you are likely to receive from those you are trying to help).
By Jean Gullo
[This letter by the President of the Theosophical Order of Service was recently mailed out to friends and supporters of the organization. The TOS is located at Post Office Box 41584, Tucson AZ 85717, USA.]
Once again, we wish to thank all of you who have supported the Theosophical Order of Service with your donations. We wish also to thank the Kern Foundation which continues their offer of a challenge grant that gives us one dollar for every two we receive in donations. This challenge is not an outright gift but is contingent wholly on your support.
We are a nonpolitical, nonprofit organization that aims to bring about changes in the world in the most positive, favorable ways and with the greater understanding which theosophy gives us of the universe and of evolution.
TOS is staffed by unpaid volunteer workers, which insures that all funds you send us go to the work of our various departments and toward the publication of our informative magazine FOR THE LOVE OF LIFE. The US Postal Service is not donated, of course, nor is the 800 number telephone line for our very popular healing service. Other expenditures such as printing and office supplies are a regular occurrence.
Donations are welcome in any amount and will give you membership for a year. Fifteen dollars of your donation will bring you our magazine three times a year. Donations above that amount go toward the expenses of the various departments.
Our departments are: Animal Welfare, Arts and Music, Ecology, Family, Healing, Peace and Social Service. Each brings you the latest news and views on current needs and problems and suggest how you may take action from a theosophical point of view.
We are interested in knowing what service you are doing in your community. Won't you join us and support the work of service in the spirit of Theosophy?
Our active TOS departments are:
ANIMAL WELFARE: Supporting and advocating all public and governmental involvement which protect the animals of our planet whether or not they are endangered species. In other words, all life forms. The special publication from this department is ALL CREATION and is available free of charge from the Animal Welfare Department.
ARTS AND MUSIC: Exploring the occult use of the arts and music for healing, inspiration and inner growth; rescue of the planet's atmosphere; and understanding the serious part the arts play in our evolution.
ECOLOGY: Informing members of further abuses against the planet and its physical atmosphere and advocating those moves which will help to heal our earth.
HEALING: The latest on occult healing and natural methods from many cultures as well as an active healing network in which members may take part and send patients names to the director of the network.
FAMILY: Outlining occult and natural methods of pregnancy, birthing and the philosophical/theosophical ways in which children may be helped to grow into goal-oriented useful adults.
PEACE: Forming "Circles for Peace" through the US and 30 foreign countries, sharing meditations and contacts. The "Peace Action Network" informs us of moves and legislation needing letters and petitions.
SOCIAL SERVICE: Revealing social inequities in government and society; and indicating how various problems should be humanly handled.
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By Metta Zetty
You are invited to join in exploring the nature of Reality and the experience of Realization through a new web site and ezine. These two unique on-line publications are dedicated to exploring our deepest intuitive and spiritual potential....
Based upon an extraordinary experience of spontaneous "awakening" -- a sudden, direct insight into the non-dual nature of Reality -- the Awakening into Awareness web site and ezine (email newsletter) are dedicated to the Realization of the fundamental, essential nature of Reality.
Described by Vedantists as "Advaita" ("not-two") and by Tibetan Buddhists as "Dzogchen" ("The Natural Great Perfection"), the essence of Reality is revealed within the timeless moment of Realization:
Wonder of wonders! This very enlightenment is the nature of all beings, and yet they are unhappy for lack of it!
-- The Buddha's exclamation at the moment of his Awakening
There is no greater mystery than this, that we keep seeking reality though in fact we are reality. We think that there is something hiding reality and that this must be destroyed before reality is gained. How ridiculous! A day will dawn when you will laugh at all your past efforts. That which will be the day you laugh is also here and now.
-- Ramana Maharshi
The "Awakening into Awareness" web site and ezine are a celebration of this remarkable experience of Awakening.
All AIA ezine issues are distributed free of charge, on an occasional basis, and will include: (1) Reflections on reality and the experience of Realization, (2) Wisdom and insight from Awakening-related texts, and (3) Q&A exchanges about the experience of Awakening.
The first issue of the ezine will be released later this month and will include:
* "So Who Are You?" by Ken Wilber, an essay/excerpt from his upcoming book, ONE TASTE.
* Excerpts from correspondence with an AIA reader about: Spiritual Evolution, Doing Nothing, Fascination with the "Fireworks," and "Those who know do not say...."
* Insight from Brian Swimme about "allurement" from his book, _The Universe is a Green Dragon_.
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By John Patrick Deveney
The Theosophical History Webpage --
-- has been updated and enlarged. There is a review of the Theosophical History conference held in Edmonton, Canada, and a notice of the discovery of George Henry Felt's Preface to his long-sought "The Kabbalah of the Egyptians and Canon of Proportions of the Greeks."
We are also very pleased to announce the forthcoming appearance in the January issue of Theosophical History of "The Theosophical Current: A Periodization" by Antoine Faivre. This is an extremely important publishing event and we hope the article will be widely read and commented upon. Those interested can special order the issue for $10 plus postage. Upcoming Publications.
By Gyanendra N Chakravarti
[Pages 18-23 of proceedings of the Theosophical Congress held at the Parliament of Religions, at Chicago, Illinois, September 15-17, 1893.]
The theosophical doctrine of the unity of all spiritual beings; the eternal unity of spirit and matter as taught in the Brahmanical Scriptures.
Nayamatma pravachanen labhyas na medhya na bahuna srutena yamebaishavrinute ten labhyas tasyaiva atma vrinute tanum swam.
This is a sloka from one of the most sacred of the world's sacred literature. It is from one of the most sublime books of India's bibliography, a book which was ever the guiding star of the life of one of the greatest of Europe's thinkers -- Schopenhauer -- I mean the Upanishads of the Hindus. It means that the Atma, the Spirit, is something which cannot be understood either by words or by hearing or by intellect. They alone who resort to the spirit have the light of the spirit brought to their own spirit. This being the view of things, and the Theosophic spirit in the West being but another name for the Atma of the Vedas, the high essence of spirit, I need not tell you that this is something which cannot be brought down on the plane of a speech, or even on the plane of the intellect.
True Theosophy in its esoteric aspect is the eternal, the undying truth, the sun of that permanent verity which shines always, from the beginning of things to the end of things, and from the end of things again to the beginning of things. True it is that in different ages and in different times men of high spiritual culture, born with a mission in their breasts, have taught this truth on the plane of intellect, but the spirit, as the verse of the Upanishads says, can be cognized only by the spirit. Once in the plane of intellect, it ceases to be spirit.
The different religions of the world, the various teachings which now supply the spiritual pabulum to the world, are not the sun of which I have talked to you. The religions represent one ray of but one aspect of that sun of truth, passed through the lenses of several glasses, and having thus the light more or less destroyed in passing to the plane of the intellect, the plane of thought and the plane of words. The different teachers of the world, according to the necessities of the times, according to the conditions of life with which they are surrounded, according to the light which glows in them, have given to the world but one side of the truth, a mere signpost leading one on the path at the end of which alone you can find the eternal truth. In the East, in the West, and all over the world such men have been born. Call them by whatsoever name you choose, prophets and seers, martyrs and saints, Buddhas and Rishis have lived in this world to give expression to this truth, goaded on, impelled by something within them to leave some material representation of that which cannot be represented, to serve as a help for men to get behind the physical universe.
Theosophy, then, in its highest aspect cannot be represented; it is ineffable, and can be realized by the spirit alone, not by mind or thought. And yet the fact remains that Theosophy is today a living thing, a thing that is now sinking into and permeating the most advanced thought both in the East and West. What is that Theosophy, then? It is again an attempt made to bring that truth in some form down to the plane of intellect, the attempt of modern Theosophy, and a most glorious attempt in my opinion it is, to once more bring home to the minds of the people that behind the more or less translucent veils of every religion shines the glorious sun of truth. It is attempted once more to make the followers of every denomination of religion to realize and feel that spiritual knowledge as spiritual composition, as spiritual inspiration, as spiritual revelation, is not the birthright of one particular set of people, of one particular part of the earth's surface.
And need I tell you that if Theosophy has stopped at this very point, if it stops merely with the formulation of this one doctrine, its aim would be as grand as can be conceived. Why, look only at the reddened pages of history, how religious warfare has marred and stained the history of mankind because of the non-realization and non-perception of this one grand truth. Religions which are supposed to teach charity, brotherliness, divine love, have been set one against the other like the roaming fierce tigers of the jungle. They have pounced upon one another. Instead of extending love, they have torn men to pieces. Bear in mind what history shows you, what misfortune has been wrought by the elimination of this principle, and you will cease to wonder when I claim for Theosophy that even if it stopped at the initiation of this one principle, it is entitled to the admiration and to the reverence of the whole world.
But it does not stop there. It does not stop merely by laying down an axiom as to which you may inquire and inquire rightly: where is the true evidence? It tries to give to the world certain methods by which they can more or less rend asunder the veil in their own religion which hides that eternal light; it serves as a pioneer to persons treading the dreary path of life, telling them that below these many colored superficial strata of their own religions, which may differ in external composition, if they dig deep enough they will find the living waters of truth. And it does more. It teaches you how to dig; it supplies you with the axe and spade with which you can cut the surface of every religion and see yourselves and show the world at large that the living waters are no fiction; they are a reality, having in them the power and capacity to quench the thirst of the human race. It thus not only gives you an axiomatic truth, but puts forward a body of doctrines, in an imperfect way it may be, because all on the plane of intellectualism which will make you see your own religion offers to you the same fundamental truths which you can find in every religion in the world. This, I say, is one of the important factors of the Theosophical organization.
Theosophy is following the time-honored and the most sublime doctrines of the Brahmans of India, who, as you know, have never from the very dawn of their ancient religion tried to persuade men and the followers of any religion to give up their own and take up another. Brahmanism today stands as it did thousands, millions of years ago, the only religion in the world that does not proselytize. It does not try to bring men away from the paths which have been indicated by the sages that have been born among them; it does not try to draw them away from the principles which have been enunciated for the particular benefit of particular countries and particular surroundings. It says that in your own religion, if you dig deep enough, you will find the truth. And it is laid down most emphatically in one of the most sacred works of the Hindus that:
Swadharme nidhanam sreya paradharma bhayavaha
-- which says in Sanskrit: "It is best to die in one's own faith; the faith of another is full of dangers."
Starting, then, with this principle of exoteric and esoteric Theosophy, you will understand that Theosophy is at once a religion and not a religion. In its higher aspect, as I have just now defined it, it is at once the final source of all religions. In its lower and popular aspect, it is no religion at all, because it is the congeries of all religions, It shows, as I have told you, that every religion has its place in the universe and every religion has its particular functions to perform. This view of religion is almost a necessary consequence of some of the fundamental doctrines which Theosophy tries to press forward on the views of the world.
You are aware, very likely, that the first principle of Theosophy, or, at least, the first rule which every brother is bound to be guided by in the organization of the Theosophical Society, is the principle of Universal Brotherhood. Why Theosophy requires that each man stands to every other man, never mind where his home may be, across oceans and continents, it may be, still distance is nothing to spirit; each man stands to every other man in the relation of a brother, tied together by a common chain of gold, coming out of one eternal spiritual source, working hand in hand and side by side through the course of evolution, and finally returning hand in hand again, to that eternal source from which he came.
Nor does the idea of brotherhood restrict itself to the human kingdom alone. Theosophy extends its idea of brotherhood very much further. It teaches that in every animal, from the very highly developed organism to the merest protoplasm in which the current of life is just starting, which is just emerging from the state of vegetation, that there is the ineffable, the all-pervading spirit which beats in the breast of every man. It regards every animal that walks the jungles or adorns the domestic hearth as one which is merely waiting its time to reach the same amount of advancement and progress that has been made by the paragon of animals -- the human being. Nay, it goes farther -- that every animal is a candidate for those diviner perfections, for those higher states of existence, to which humanity has not yet attained to. This law proclaims to you that to you every animal is a brother pilgrim, belated, behind, it is true, but deserving of greater pity, greater consideration from the mere fact of its being an animal.
One step further and where do you go? There are no walls hiding the spirit of brotherhood and Theosophy. The walls that exist in art, in science, in society are all down; the spirit of love expands, and where does it go, think you? Why, it pervades the universe, becomes coextensive with every atom that you can or cannot see, every insect that breathes, and beyond. Where is the importance of that grand doctrine which has been taught from time immemorial in the East to man: Man, thou art not alone, thou art one of the several thousands of millions of beings coexisting, one with them, because thou art God and they are God. God pervades the whole universe, and the universe itself is God. That is the doctrine which Theosophy teaches, that is the doctrine of the glorious teachers which I stand here today to bring to you, to the Western homes of the people.
The principle of evolution, according to the Indian Shastras, is that there is but one eternal reality, one out-breathing spirit, from which all that exists has come and into which all that exists will go back. At the beginning of time, forth from the bosom of Parabrahm, which, according to our notions, is the highest spirit, came two different aspects -- the Purusha and the Prakriti. Purusha is the name of spirit, and Prakriti is the name of matter. We Hindus recognize no difference between spirit and matter; we regard them as but two different facets of the one which alone exists behind all illusions; we regard them as two poles of the same magnet; we regard them as two points of electricity -- that electricity that America revels in today -- the electricity of the positive field and the electricity of the negative field. Both are electricity, but exhibiting different functions. One attracts the other, and then from the point of contact passes the spark. There is Purusha exhibiting one kind of electricity, the positive, and there is Prakriti exhibiting another kind of electricity, the negative. Attraction issues between these two lo! forth comes the spark of the universe.
That is the theory of evolution according to our Shastras. These are the two male and female principles which have been recognized in every old system of religion, wheresoever it may have flourished; this is the doctrine that is represented in the various symbols that you see everywhere in the world; and I venture to say, although it may not be believed in the West, that your cross upon which the divine Jesus is said to have been crucified represents that very truth, the pole of the spirit acting on the pole of matter, giving rise to the universe.
The Egyptian tau, the cross on which is represented the serpent, represents the same truth; it represents the evolution of the universe in transit, of which the snake is a representation. And this doctrine is the foundation of the whole structure of Brahmanism, which I am here today to represent on the platform of the Parliament of Religions. Thousands of thousands of pages I could quote for proving the soundness of my position, but it is for evident reasons perfectly useless. I will quote only one, again from the Upanishads, which will show that what I have been stating to you is really the sound position.
Anoraneean mahatomaheean atmasya juntor nihita guhayam tum akartu pasyati vitsokah dhatu prasadan mahimanatmanah.
This spirit of which I have been talking, the smallest within the smallest atom, is greater than the greatest universe. It is, it is said, in the heart, in the nervous center of every man and of every animal. This spirit is revealed to him who, having subdued the passions of the flesh, seeks to stand in its light. This, I think, will prove to you the soundness of my proposition.
And now I pass on to give you a beautiful illustration from one of our sacred works. It may be said by some of those who are present here, or by those who may read what I have said: " Why, you have been quoting this doctrine from the Upanishads, admittedly the most sacred of your books, and it may be that this is only an isolated gem in the vast rubbish of your theological literature. I am now going to relate to you a story from the Puranas, which are regarded by others than Hindus as mere theological twaddle, the source of nursery tales and fables concocted in the brains of the baby race of humanity. Yes, I am going to quote to you a story from one of these Puranas, which are composed, as I conceive, to represent the same truths which are in the Vedas and Upanishads, but clothed in separate garb, in allegories which are meant for the people, which gives them attraction and impels the people to listen to them and thus follow those truths.
In the old times there was a great Adwaita king. By this Adwaita is personated materiality. This king, from wealth and luxury and pride, had forgotten there was any spiritual being greater than he was himself. He had, by the strange irony of fate, also explained in the Puranas, a son who, as chance or fate may have it, was a very devoted follower and worshiper of the god Vishnu. What an irony! A being in the home of a monster of infidelity and crime, a saint, this ornament of the Hindu world; on the heap of ashes and rubbish around him shines forth a diamond of unparalleled luster.
From the very beginning this divine being lisps his first syllables in grammar in the name of Hari. The father learns of it and gets angry; he calls his son's teachers to him and says: "How dare you teach my son this blasphemy? How dare you tell him of any being with a power greater than I? Dare you destroy my own idol and tear it from his heart, and set up there someone else?" They swore they had done nothing of the sort; the boy was the most peculiar in the world; they wanted him to recite syllables from the grammar for pronunciation and accent, but, inattentive and deaf to all their training, he would again recite the name of his very beloved Hari, the god whom he so loved.
By his persistence in repeating the sacred name in the presence of his father, who could not bear that sound to be spoken in his presence, he got the boy hurled from the top of a precipice. Down he went from the precipice with a joyous heart, faith in his eternal Hari and -- lo! -- he was in the lap of his god, not a scratch on his skin, safe and sound he sat at the bottom. Other means were tried. He was taken in front of a mad elephant, with the object that the huge animal would make short work of him and tear him from flesh to bone. But the mad, ravenous elephant acted mildly with the devoted boy. It put forth its trunk, wrapped it around him, raised him and placed him upon his back, whereupon he rode triumphantly upon the back of the elephant. Various devices were tried to kill this infant son of this wicked king, but firm as the rock of India did he remain. Never for a moment did fear enter his heart; his faith was unflinching, his devotion warm and firm; and who could destroy a boy like that?
Finally, driven to the last resources by his anger, the father got the boy to stand in his presence and said: "It is all an illusion; it is all untrue. Where is your Hari? If there is that Hari, can you show him?"
The boy replied: "Yes, I can, even before you, although you have defiled his holy blessings and his great name"
The king said: "Well, if Hari can come, I want him to come forth from this stone pillar here," and -- lo and behold! -- with a crash of thunder, the stone, unshaken and immovable, was rent in twain, giving way, and out leaped forth, in form majestic, the god Hari, before whom the whole world bows down.
Now, I ask you, brothers and sisters, if you really regard this story as a necessary emanation of idolaters, as some would have you believe? Does it not convey even to your minds a truth which, though clothed in fable, it may be, still is burning in its vigor and in its energy? And, ladies and gentlemen, here I stand today to talk to you, drawing from our matchless manuscripts in which is found the basis of religion, craving justice at your hands. I know you are liberal, you sons of America, sons of the land of freedom, the land of liberalism, the land of justice! I crave no indulgence on the score of the religion's being old; I crave no charity! All I want is that you should not allow your minds to be prejudiced, to be poisoned and abused by the thousands of defamations and slanders that are cast at our religion. Let your own mind work, and then pronounce your dictum. I am here today to abide by it.
By Eldon B. Tucker
[based upon a January 31, 1995 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Should we talk about our mystical experiences? The answer lies in a combination of common sense and looking at the example of the great Teachers of the world.
There is really two senses of talking about the experiences. In one case, we are with an individual in private, or before a specific group of people. In this case, we see their reaction and can adjust what we say, or do not say, to how they respond to us. In the other case, we are writing for people in general, with no direct interaction with the reader, and no way to adjust what we say to their reactions. In this case, we would speak with greater reserve.
How do the great Teachers express their understanding and experiences? Publicly, they speak in allegory, using symbols rather than plain speech, veiling what they would say. They do not write plainly, nor go as far as they could in speaking of higher things. Often, a simple, plain description is used to hide a deeper meaning from all but those who know what to look for.
How do they communicate in private? In a very direct, personal way, needing to hide nothing, but still responsive to the people they are with. The occult truths, though, are not readily communicated by simply talking about them; an inner readiness, an inner ripeness is needed in the student in order to understand what he is taught.
Speaking of us, now, as theosophical students, these rules also apply. We speak with care publicly, and may have to veil what we say; privately, we may be more open in talking one-on-one with others.
What is it that we can communicate? Some experiences are too new, too foreign to us, insufficiently understood and integrated in our lives for us to be ready to share them. Others are solidly a part of our lives, and can be shared; these bear the ring of truth, a sense of genuineness that others readily detect.
We cannot easily separate understandings from experiences. An experience is not truly part of our lives until it is clearly understood. And an idea is not real, not a genuine part of us until it is experienced. The two -- understanding and experience -- go hand in hand.
We may have visions, dramatic events in our lives that are almost initiatory in nature. There is a sense of magic as we are born into some new area of life. These experiences, though, are not the important ones. They dazzle us, but they are insufficient for us to go out into the world and be and do something new.
The real types of experiences that lead to Wisdom that we can share come slowly. They grow on one over time. There is no dramatic sense of their arrival; rather, they introduce themselves quietly, in the background, like an acorn slowly growing to become a giant tree. These experiences build up in us skills of the spirit, training in the Hierarchy of Compassion.
Picture the acorn, first poking its green shoot above the ground. This is a dramatic event! Something new exists where nothing was before. But the long, slow growth of that green shoot into a giant tree happens slowly, imperceptibly, without dramatic fanfare. The green shoot is not ready to share, but the giant tree certainly is!
Considering our inner experiences, they enter into our lives, go through an embryonic stage, then finally reach the point where they are ready to be born into the world. It is in the embryonic stage that we take the new contents of consciousness and make them a real, solid part of our lives, something worthy of sharing.
In a broader sense, we find the same process described in terms of a study of Theosophy itself. With the first Initiation, we have come to an intellectual exposure to the Teachings, to the dead-letter books and the ideas that we quickly learn to parrot. With the second Initiation, we dive beyond the printed words, going deeply within, partaking of Mahat, and have an inner font of learning, though still needing to keep our lips sealed. And finally with the third Initiation, we have solidified our relationship to the Teachings to the point where they are a living part of our lives, and we can start to share them in a genuine way. We have then become, in some small degree, spiritual teachers ourselves.
By Christine M. Hanson
[based upon an October 30, 1998 posting to email@example.com.]
I feel a real mission for the future of the theosophical movement is called for, one that is inspiring and renewing -- dare I say it: a vision for the (drum roll...) New (ew ew ew) Millennium (ium ium ium) [echo]. [Virtual sound effects!]
Let's not focus solely on what we want to avoid -- let's focus on where we want to go and who we want to be as a society in the next hundred years. I think the founders anticipated the globalization that is now becoming a reality. They were WAY ahead of their time.
This is a revolutionary, exciting time in human history, folks, and a wonderful time to be alive -- and we are lucky to be participating in and observing it! How many of us had e-mail or Web-surfing capacity even five or ten years ago? It was not so long ago that I was ecstatic because my thermal paper typewriter could remember seven characters! And now I'm on the Info Superhighway, and people from the far corners of the earth are sending me e-mail!
Think about it! Global awareness is not even an ideology anymore -- e.g., you're for it or against it -- it's simply a reality, and if you look at it logically, it will only grow. Theosophy as a philosophy has always been way ahead of its time, and we can be proud of that heritage, and we can take whatever next steps are appropriate.
Let's take the high road and be on the cutting edge, not stuck running in place fighting petty battles while the world moves on, with or without us. [Wow, that's a wonderful string of cliches, no?] What a shame it would be to lose that marvelous place theosophy has occupied in human history. I love the story from the 1800's, for example, where theosophists were the first to bring Asian and Buddhist ideas to America. God bless 'em!
And let's not knock the increase in members-at-large of the Theosophical Society (says this one). I think with the advent of the Internet, we will become more participatory and involved -- which I assume is the problem -- correct me if I'm wrong.
I know that I have become much more interested and involved since joining the e-mail lists -- interested in the workings of the actual Theosophical Society, not only in the theoretical ideas. I'm just not much of a groupie by nature, so I don't regularly hang around my local lodge (50 lashes to the naked eyeball with a wet noodle) -- but theosophical mailing lists give me the opportunity to participate in a community of minds that I might otherwise never get the chance to experience.
By W. Emmett Small
[This article appeared under the pen name Ardath Droon in the May/June, 1930 issue of LUCIFER, THE LIGHT-BRINGER.]
I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch where through Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades Forever and forever when I move.
-- Tennyson's ULYSSES
Each man chooses his own background. He fashions it himself through ages of physical, intellectual, psychic and spiritual experience. It is his past thought and acts in a sweep of sky, as it were, against which all his present thought and acts are cast. His present thinking is his foreground, which perhaps may be a temple, a rose-bloom, a clothes-line, or a spiny cactus; but its true value is derived largely from the background against which these are viewed ... I walk beneath Roman porticoes when Night is full, and against its blue-black bloom stare at pillars exquisitely white. It is the pillars, I am led to think, that make me pause to catch my breath, forgetful that it is the blackness of Night that has thrown them into my consciousness. Were the Night white I should see no pillars. I sit on a back porch of a run-down lodging, and look upon a clothes-line naked, bereft of garments and with only a few pegs lonesomely starting up from the line; but behind burns the tourmaline of a February sunset.
We can understand the relationship between foreground and background if we can understand the paradox of not having absolute control over material circumstances, and yet of having absolute control in our power to determine how to deal with them. If trial and hardship burden our days, realizing some latent responsibility yet unfulfilled and having a knowledge of good handiwork performed in the past, we can bear it -- clothespins against sunset-wonder; if beauty and peace fill our moments, knowing of this same background we ourselves have fashioned, we can understand: white pillars against the bloom of Night. Understanding of a conscious fashioning in our past from life to life brings increase of understanding of the present, for our past leaps to meet us through vast back-stretches of lives, and is impact in the embrace of the present moment.
No art is expressive until the artist through much thinking, brooding, and hard work in the sincerity of painstaking effort, has created a background. The artist seeking expression through the form of his especial art, be it words or color, music, or marble or design, is not worthy of attention until his recognition of this basic artistic requirement is almost subconscious. Rebirth is the test: not until our thoughts are born again within us can we give them out. Not until by devoted concentration thoughts are reawakened and we gain understanding of our background, finding reason and meaning and beauty and urge in what we desire to express, should we seek embodiment for our art. All knowledge, says the Greek Teacher Plato, is remembrance.
With the writer there is often a difficulty to make this contact. He writes pages, which later he will destroy; and then suddenly as the pounding of ten thousand chargers comes a thundering at the portals of his brain, and with the tang and the sparkle and the delight of inspiration, from behind doors of back-infinity, the thought for which he began, perhaps unknowingly, to write has hurled itself -- forgetful of dignity or politic introduction. Perhaps his first thoughts lessened pressure on barriers imprisoning this ray of energized understanding, and were necessary nuncios whose duty it was to clear the way. Now, communicant with his own store of experience and knowledge, he can begin to express himself: wisdom, thus unchained, can flow through, cleansing his writing of the impurities of the obvious and commonplace.
But even with the artist, vision varies with the strength and training of the eye. What is the beyond to me is perhaps the foreground to a more far-seeing eye. Response to what lies before us varies with each individuality. For comfort's sake often we protect ourselves from too overwhelming a view. The great sweep of ocean and the beauty of sunsets are wonderful and awe-inspiring: too much so almost for comfort; and we drop down the canyon-side to throw a little hill against that great glory of sky and ocean: and then that hill comes tapping at our heart. Catch it -- canyon-top, furrow of new-tilled soil, eucalyptus tree, or sumac bush -- against the fire of sunset: then it becomes alive, vibrant with meaning and companionship. Or if our home for the moment is on the desert and the land is flat, we walk behind a shanty and, limning that against the background of glory, it creeps within our understanding, bringing near the beyond-beauty so that it can flow through to overpour into our heart. It is the alembic through which brighter vision is received. And no matter how mean the vessel used, it is glorified by the wonder that flows through it.
So it is in human life. Nature is a constant expression of universal knowledge: instinctively we learn from her. The great backgrounds of Reality overpower us with too sublime a glory and illumination. We throw, without knowing why we do so, something between on which we can rest and which acts as a funnel through which we can receive; and then thus protected from an overdose of Truth we receive our own just measure.
Were we to look on the machinery of the universe, in its awful justice and unerring rectitude, I think we might go mad. For the sublimity of it would be too much for our present poorly developed instruments, wonderful as they are; the balance would be upset and we should succumb. For very virtue of life the mind would crash the gates of Oblivion. Most of us, however, err in the other extreme; and it is well sometimes to ponder on the magnitude of the Spaces. Instinctively we do not seek too overpowering a knowledge: we know intuitively our limitations, and we hesitate to overbalance them. But that does not mean that there is not that which is far greater than we can understand or cast our eyes on. We are not too stupid to know that there is always a greatness beyond the greatness we may comprehend.
Should I lie on the ground here the grasses at my feet would be waving against green and sienna-tipped eucalyptus trees a mile away; against these would be hunched the purple mountains, clear-lined against the blue sky; and beyond the sky would be the Mystery of Space; and beyond Space such as we can picture, a greater Background our thoughts cannot even imagine.
Pondering this we perceive a natural law working through all Nature: we comprehend the greater by knowledge of the great: we learn the value of the far by an understanding of the near. In our educational systems, for instance, the younger boys and girls learn from the school teacher, the older students from the college professor: through the alembic of greater minds they receive knowledge.
It is but a step further to recognize and accept the beautiful teaching of Theosophy: of the Great Men, the evolved Souls, the Mahatmas, they who through lives of patient study and spiritual effort and control have attained knowledge and control of all the laws of Nature; who know of the inhabitants not only on this planet, but of other planets; who know of this solar system and solar systems beyond our comprehension. From out of the Backgrounds of our backgrounds, these chosen Messengers come and serve as channels, so to say, for the outpouring of Light and Knowledge from a source of overwhelming radiance; and thus we, who would be overpowered by the imminence of too great glory, are able to receive wisdom, which if given direct from the Fountainhead would dazzle us to a swift and blackening blindness. But through these men who are more highly evolved than ourselves, who are able to pass on to us authentic knowledge, we can learn. We receive, let us remind ourselves, no more than we ourselves demand and in what measure we intuitively feel we can hold.
The destiny of man from out backgrounds of unending farness unrolls through ever becoming foregrounds into stretches of future without frontier. On the brink of the Present tremble the colors that shall go to fashioning the backgrounds of the Future. That sweep of sky -- when we see the foregrounds of future aeons against it -- shall be of our doing. The colors tremble before us. We choose.
By A. Trevor Barker
[From THE HILL OF DISCERNMENT, Theosophical University Press, 1941, pages 167-76.]
Before we can answer this question at all satisfactorily and present reasons as to why we should study Theosophy, we naturally ask ourselves, "What is Theosophy?"
Theosophy is not something new; it is not the invention of one or two men or women, either modern or ancient; it is not a progressive system which is subject to change from day to day, following upon experiments in the realm of science, where any morning we may wake up to find that that which we had thought to be Truth has actually had to be changed, modified, or altered. This is the difference between the Ancient Wisdom and scientific methods.
A passage from our teachings will show you in language much better than I could employ, just where Theosophy comes from:
Theosophy is the Primeval One Truth taught Humanity in the infancy of its Races by every First Messenger -- the Planetary Spirit whose remembrance lingers in the memory of man as Elu of the Chaldees, Osiris the Egyptian, Vishnu and the first Buddhas -- for there was a primeval revelation and it still exists; nor will it ever be lost to the world but will reappear. The Wisdom religion has been Esoteric in all ages; it was ever One and the same and being the last word of possible human knowledge was therefore carefully preserved. It is the substratum and basis of all the world-religions and philosophies -- but its doctrines are the exclusive possession of none of them. They are the birthright of every human soul and pertain exclusively to man's knowledge of his own nature and the higher life of the soul. It was the universally diffused religion of the Ancient and prehistoric world. Proof of its diffusion, authentic records of its history, a complete chain of documents, showing its character and presence in every land, together with the teaching of its great Adepts, exist to this day in the secret crypts and libraries belonging to the Occult Fraternity.
This Ancient Wisdom, which was preserved by the elect of mankind literally from the birth of humanity on this planet, has been restated for us by one of that Brotherhood who was sent to the Western world, and whom we know as H. P. Blavatsky. It was she who founded the Theosophical Society and gave Theosophy to us. Now this does not mean that Theosophy is limited to the writings of Blavatsky. That is not true. You will find the literary records of Theosophy spread everywhere. For example, you will find traces of Theosophy amongst the writings of the early Christian Fathers; you will find it in the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament; you will find it in the Egyptian "Book of the Dead," and in the teachings, literally, of all the great Sages and Seers that the world has ever known. Take the teachings of Gautama-Buddha, for example. From our point of view as Theosophists, there is no difference between the teachings of the Buddha and the teachings of Theosophy, though I must enter one little word of warning in case the record of what the Buddha taught may not be exactly as he gave it in all respects, any more than the record of the teachings of Christ is exactly as he gave them. Nevertheless, whatever we have of the real teachings of these great Masters of Life and Wisdom is Theosophy.
You will find Theosophy in the Upanishads of ancient India; you will find it in The Bhagavad-Gita; and in the writings of Confucius and Lao-Tse. So it is no narrow, sectarian idea of some kind of religious philosophy, but it is literally the essence, both ethical and philosophical, of all the world-religions.
And yet, strange as they may appear, the writings of Blavatsky were not the mere synthesis, if you understand me, of what those different religions contained -- and this is a very important point. If that were so, then you or I, if we had had the brains, could have merely gone through these different records and books and put them together in some kind of fashion, and said: "There, that is your Theosophy!" It would have contained possibly a great deal of Theosophy, but it nevertheless would not be the real thing. That is why I say that Theosophy is the mother-root, the essence, of all these great religions. It is the mother-root from which these great teachings originally came. I want to emphasize this because Theosophy is the Esoteric Doctrine, the real truth about man and the universe; the real truth about the human soul and its pilgrimage, and what we are here for, and what the whole universe is about. These Truths are preserved by a living Brotherhood of Holy Men, and it was that Brotherhood from whom the Great Teachers came. It is that Brotherhood which is the root from which all the great religions sprang -- a root imbedded in the consciousness of living man.
What is the great need of man today? It is not -- mind you -- something that is exclusively a need of our own times but it is particularly emphasized in this moment of the world's history. Every man sooner or later asks himself the question as to the nature of the universe. He comes in conflict with his environment, and he seeks an explanation -- as a rule outside of himself first of all, because we seem to be built that way. If we suffer, we tend to think that the world around us must be wrong, and therefore when faced with problems which to us are unfair, or which seem at a given moment to be insoluble, we start to ask ourselves about the universe!
Therefore the first great reason why we study Theosophy is because it gives us an explanation of the universe around us, an explanation that you will find nowhere else in modern literature. It gives us an explanation of the origin not only of our planet, but of the solar system of which the planet is a part -- aye, and the universe, which is full of solar systems. And by extending, as it does inevitably, our vision of the universe in which we live and move and have our being, we come -- as it were -- out of the little tight box in which -- we recognize after the event -- we were confined, all our life, up to that moment. That is why honestly I can sincerely envy the man or woman to whom at any moment -- perhaps the present -- Theosophy comes for the first time; because I remember what it meant for me when as a very sick man during the Great War. I was in the situation where, suffering very much in all sorts of ways, I sought an answer to the problems of my own life. Sooner or later I believe we all get into this position. Life drives us until we come up against some great enigma, then, if our longing is sincere and true enough, we find Theosophy. It comes as a revelation to the mind, as if one's whole soul were opened to the sunlight for the first time. The effect of this upon me was to get me in touch with the nearest Theosophical library, and no power on earth could have stopped me from taking an armful of books away, and then reading till I had dragged the inside out of them, and absorbed them. That is a wonderful experience, and any one of us can have it. It is part of the work of the Theosophical Society -- in fact, the main part of our work -- to bring to others these truths which have meant so much to us, and to ask them to take them in their turn to still others.
It is quite obvious that we cannot pass on these truths unless we know something about them ourselves. But one of the beautiful things about Theosophy is that one who hears its teachings for the first time reflects upon what he has heard; and then he starts to read for himself a few relatively simple manuals or books, and immediately the mind becomes quickened; the hunger for truth is aroused. The next step is that the longing which is bound to be present in a man or woman who is ready for these teachings must be satisfied, the longing to help all those around him who also are perplexed with the enigma of life, who suffer.
This is the background of experience, therefore, which every server in the Theosophic Cause goes through; because the way for the individual and the race to acquire this knowledge opens only when the human soul has been brought by suffering to the point where the teaching is received as a trust, as something more precious than earthly gold or jewels, something which is to him literally the breath of life. Every one of us has received these teachings from the work and efforts of others, and as we receive them we make of ourselves a chalice into which gradually the outpouring of the Life of the Spirit flows. But our life obviously has to be cleansed of its material propensities; we have to empty ourselves; the vessel in which we would hold the waters of life and give them to others must be made a clean vessel -- otherwise, we cannot give clean water to those who seek it.
One of the great reasons for the study of Theosophy is that in the process, in the effort -- and it demands an effort -- the psycho-mental, emotional, passional part of man's organization and being begins to be purified. You cannot study this philosophy unless in the process the mind becomes gradually purified of its dross. Then, like a bird, it begins to soar: rising out of the mire of the lower personal life, often indeed to sink down again into the mud, but nevertheless feeling its wings, rising with aspiration and devotion and hope. Little by little the doors of the soul are opened. As the student acquires a grasp of the whole religious, philosophic, and scientific range of thought that this wonderful teaching reveals to his vision, he finds that he no longer is dependent to the same degree upon the books from which he first started his studies. At a certain stage, if the metaphysical and ethical truths are allowed to enter his heart as well as his head, he will begin to find that he has a perpetual fountain of truth welling up from within, that literally enables him to give something unusual, if it is only an illuminated thought, to everyone that he contacts.
It is stated -- and here is another reason for the study of Theosophy -- that even one who is confined in a prison-cell could be a worker for Theosophy if he had the knowledge; for one of its great teachings is that the mind of man is linked by the dynamic quality of thought with every part of the boundless universe itself. And so we are united one with another. We see evidence of it around us today, brought to our attention by the great discoveries of modern science: how the universe or the planet on which we live daily becomes smaller, from the point of view of the speed with which we can travel through the air, or hear through the spaces by means of telephones and wireless operations, and so on. So that we realize today in a much easier fashion than was possible in the dark Middle Ages, that the peoples of other nations are very little different from our own people; that, for example, the so-called 'barbarian' is not so essentially different from us -- shocking as the thought may appear to some stiff-necked Europeans! They are human souls; they are here to make the same pilgrimage as we are. Therefore, we are indissolubly united into one living, breathing whole. This is the main principle of the structure upon which the whole Theosophical Movement is based. We have to come to an understanding, a realization, of what is meant by Universal Brotherhood. It is the sole prerequisite to becoming an Associate of the Theosophical Society. You do not have to accept any other principle, but it is a principle that is pregnant and significant.
It is a perfectly true thing to say that there is only one real Brotherhood on earth. We all know that the human family is one great Brotherhood and linked to it are all the kingdoms of nature higher and lower. But do we realize it? Obviously not. Otherwise, we would act brotherly. But what prevents such action by us? Simply this: there is a tremendous duality existing in nature, and particularly in man. When he comes into contact with the life-giving waters of Theosophy, if he is serious, sooner or later he will find that within him there is a beneficent force which is seeking entrance into his life, in the light of which he can love and serve his fellows. There is also a maleficent force, its direct antithesis. Man is really crucified between these two forces. If he follows the light, if he follows the higher dictates of his own soul and conscience, if he follows the way the ancient Teachings show, he will be the recipient of no other force in the universe than the one that flows from the Supreme Itself. But man does not. It is not that he cannot, but that he does not live on the heights all the time. When he stumbles and falls, then is the moment that the teachings of Theosophy are needed to explain his psychological and intellectual, his physical and spiritual, constitution.
We are very complex beings, and often what we feel and believe sincerely to be the reason why we behave in any given way, is not the reason that is hidden deep in some interior part of our psychological nature. Deep and mysterious is the nature of man, and nothing other than a study of the teachings of Theosophy will show you what this nature is. Actually Theosophical teaching tells you that the nature of man is sevenfold. That will show you that already you have seven great divisions or parts of your nature -- not divided into boxes, but rather inter-blending, interpenetrating, the different parts of your being. The simplest division of this sevenfold nature is the threefold one that St. Paul uses in the New Testament. He described it as spirit, soul, and body. You are the soul -- man, the Thinker, who has to win his immortality. It would be equally true to say that he is a divine, immortal entity, and that he always was, and that he is rooted in the great Universal Soul as an integral part of it.
Thus we get another of the great reasons why we study Theosophy: at first we seek the explanation of the universe; second, we seek a knowledge of our own being, because very soon we discover that knowing about the universe is not quite enough. No; it is not the universe that is wrong: we find that it is we ourselves who are wrong, and only a knowledge of our own being enables us little by little to adjust ourselves to the Universal Harmony. In the process of discovering ourselves we necessarily discover that at the root of our being is a Divinity, a God. The source from which flow those things in. our lives which are sweet and beautiful, those thoughts and dreams of a higher life, the love which we bear to our fellows, all aspirations that encourage one to lead a different kind of life, all deeds that are helpful in character and of a truly spiritual and divine nature: all that is eternal in our being -- these qualities flow from this Divine part of us. But, having discovered the existence of this spiritual pole of our being, we want to know how we are going to strengthen the Divine and vanquish the lower. That gives us another reason for the study of Theosophy: to find the way of life -- the ethics of conduct in our daily lives. We know in a vague sort of way what we ought to do. We have heard from our childhood the golden rule of not doing to others what we would not have them do to us -- a summing up of the ethics of all the great Teachers; but still we need something further.
Let me put it to you from another angle: what are you going to study if you do not study Theosophy? For example, you have the Christian Churches. There are some 320 varieties of Christian sects and what not. Why do so many people find that they still have an unsatisfied need and hunger? One of the reasons is that although the New Testament has sublime ethics -- you cannot find a better ethical standard anywhere than in the "Sermon on the Mount" -- what it lacks is philosophy. Men and women in these days want a reason why they should be better and do better. They are no longer satisfied with being told "Be good and you will be happy," even if you have a dull time of it! No, they want to know why they are here, where they came from, where they are going, and what it feels like to be in that state that all men must come to when their earthly life is finished. Have we not all asked ourselves these questions? And was there any orthodox religion in the world, with the noble exception of Buddhism, and to some extent Hinduism, that could answer you? I do not believe so.
You will find, in the teachings of Theosophy, once you understand them correctly, food of a religious nature for the spiritual part of your being; philosophy for your aspiring intellect; and a code of ethics for living your daily life.
You mentioned, in your article "Why Study Theosophy," that Theosophy was the basis of many religions. The majority of these believe in the existence of a personal God. Can you suggest the origin of the idea?
The origin of the idea of a personal God is a long story. It is stated in Theosophical teachings that this idea is not an innate one. The real origin of the personal God idea is found in the tendency of ignorant man to build a conception of Deity in terms of his own personal self, which is all he knows, and which is necessarily limited. So he merely builds a big idea of himself and calls that "God." The personal God means, according to our European conceptions, an extra-cosmic Deity -- that is to say, a being somehow outside of his universe (that is this universe), because he is said to be infinite, boundless, omnipresent, and at the same time somebody who can be prayed to, supplicated to save us from the effects of all the silly things that we have done in our lives.
I have always thought that the translation of the Latin word "persona," meaning a mask, is something that helps us particularly to understand our own -- what we call -- personality, the lower part of ourselves, that which hides the light. It is the external part which is the personality according to the Theosophical teaching, not the higher part, which is real; this lower, material part is the mayavic, the illusory part; and it may be helpful to some to look upon the personal God idea as essentially an illusory concept.
This personal God idea is one that the Theosophist does not countenance at all. I should make it clear that it is the limited, dogmatic concept, which gives such a very false idea of Deity, and which exhorts men and women to look outside of themselves for the source of their salvation. But the Theosophist comes in and directs men's attention to the Divinity within him, which in very truth is a personal divinity for each man; and whilst he takes away with one hand, he gives you something which is really far more sublime; for Theosophy teaches self-dependence; it follows the teaching of the Christian Avatara: that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you. It is to that Deity that we appeal in every man. But this "personal" God that we aspire toward, and whose light radiates in the heart of every man, this Immortal entity, collectively the aggregate of all the Divinities in our Solar System or our Universal Cosmos together, makes up what is called the Universal World-Soul, and all men are rooted in That, have their being in That, and sooner or later can consciously raise themselves by their unity with that which It represents.