Now all the gods of Olympus, as well as those of the Hindu Pantheon and the Rishis, were the septiform personations: (1) of the NOUMENA of the intelligent Powers of nature; (2) of Cosmic Forces; (3) of celestial bodies; (4) of gods or Dhyani-Chohans; (5) of psychic and spiritual powers; (6) of divine kings on earth (or the incartations of the gods); and (7) of terrestrial heroes or men. The knowledge how to discern among these seven forms the one that is meant, belonged at all times to the Initiates, whose earliest predecessors had created this symbolical and allegorical system.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 765
By Eldon B. Tucker
[from the November/December 1999 issue of THE QUEST.]
With each new generation of members in the Theosophical Society, we find the same questions being asked. New members wonder just what this Theosophy is that they're being told about. Is it true? Was it made up by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and her followers? What does it really say? With conflicting texts and a diversity of dissenting views among members, newcomers can be left bewildered, perhaps giving up and moving on to other groups without finding spiritual satisfaction. How did we let them down?
The spiritual effort initiated by Blavatsky and her teachers includes much more that just the Theosophical Society. There are numerous theosophical and related groups that have branched off from the initial Society. Countless individuals and organizations have been affected for the better and may still feel an influence. Looking into the future, perhaps a century or two, we may find still other specializations of theosophical work. Those specializations result from the many possible uses for the theosophical treasury of ideas by groups with differing approaches.
One specialization is the formalization of Theosophy as a well-defined system of thought, a philosophy, with distinctive terminology. This Theosophy has become an intellectual tradition that can be taught and understood by people regardless of their backgrounds. It might be called tip-of-the-iceberg Theosophy, since only the surface meanings can be studied and passed on. The heart of Theosophy requires a spiritual awakening in an individual in order to be understood, and so in this intellectual Theosophy, it may be lost. There are several variations or flavors of this formalized philosophy: (a) Blavatsky-Judge Theosophy, (b) Purucker Theosophy, and (c) Besant-Leadbeater Theosophy. The materials for any of those variations can be carefully compiled and organized, as was done by A. E. Powell for Besant and Leadbeater's materials.
The second specialization is the combination of theosophical ideas with popular thought in various ways. Huston Smith in his books on world religions shows how various systems of thought have arisen to meet the spiritual needs of their times, to revive the heart-life and compassion and the quest for wisdom of a complacent or even decadent people. When we take theosophical ideas and combine them with other ideas, relating them to the way of thinking of various peoples, we are making progress in this direction.
It doesn't take a Krishna to appear and dramatically do all the work for us. We can participate in this effort too, altering the thought and life of those around us. New religions and philosophies can arise either from an evolution of existing systems of thought or from the creation of something completely new. We can help with either of those developments. For such use of the theosophical philosophy, "purity" of the ideas is not important. The important thing is to make something new and useful. The final product -- a belief system with a code of life -- may not be "perfect" from our point of view, and may even be inaccurate or wrong when considered in terms of the Mystery Teachings, but it may still be a great boon to society. If the effect of a new movement is to better the life of people, leading them back to the path of compassion and the great spiritual quest, then this second specialization of Theosophy has done well.
The third specialization of Theosophy is along the line of a junior school to the Mysteries. It would be somewhat akin to the various Esoteric Schools associated with the existing theosophical groups. These future groups may evolve from the existing ones or be newly founded at some point. With these groups, the emphasis is on keeping the philosophy pure, on depth of understanding, on a living oral tradition of learning and study, by which advanced students train and pass on their knowledge to each succeeding generation. Some groups may be akin to spiritual colleges, training chelas, but not involved in public work, like Theravada Buddhism, the Buddhism of the Elders. Others may take on the trappings of exoteric religions, stress public works, and be like Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddhism that stresses extroverted compassion.
It may take a few generations for the theosophical movement to differentiate or specialize into these different efforts to improve the lot of humanity. Meanwhile, there may be growing tension in theosophical groups over the future direction of the groups. The existing groups appear already to have started on these specializations. The United Lodge of Theosophists seems to have made a good start at promoting a formalized intellectual theosophical philosophy. The Adyar Theosophical Society (ours) seems to have made a good start at melding theosophical ideas with popular thought and thereby planting the seeds for future religious directions. The Pasadena Theosophical Society seems to have made a good start at being a spiritual-training group. All of those groups are, to be sure, more complex and diverse than this generalization.
A key idea with theosophical groups is the freedom of belief that members enjoy. Because of that freedom, it is possible for the membership to entertain many different ideas about the nature of Theosophy and what should be done with it. This freedom is fine for one's personal study, but it can create problems at the organizational level. The way any organization operates and its resources are used depends on the ideas one has about its nature and goal.
Can theosophical groups be democratic? Democratic procedures in arriving at decisions can be healthy and good, just as freedom of belief and expression is also desirable. But for both there must be limits, as expressed in a mission statement, a purpose for the Society. Some members may want to carry forward that purpose and so become workers; other members not in accord with that purpose can find other avenues of expression. As the theosophical movement continues to develop specializations, the selection of groups to belong to and the materials to study will multiply. There will be places where we feel strongly "at home," and other places where we may feel like aliens or outsiders.
A theosophical group is not true to its mission if a surge of new members can vote to throw overboard the old purpose and to do something entirely different. There is plenty of opportunity to found other groups and efforts, and to work side-by-side with other groups, so redirecting existing groups is unnecessary and counterproductive to the work.
This is not to say that existing groups are doing everything they could or are doing things in the best way. There is room for improvement, but that improvement should be evolutionary, not revolutionary.
What is it that is the purpose of our Theosophical Society? The three objects -- brotherhood, study of comparative religions, and investigation of the unexplained and latent -- fall somewhere between the extremes of a pro-Krishnamurti anarchism where all spiritual authorities (except himself) are rejected and a dead-letter worship of the writings of Blavatsky that would make fundamentalist Christians seem liberal by comparison.
If I could define Theosophy for the Theosophical Society, I'd say that it is a distinct body of esoteric doctrines derived from the Mahatmas, given to us by Blavatsky and perhaps a few other initiates. These doctrines are subject to human error in expression, but are more accurate than the ideas of the homegrown philosophies of those who are uninitiated in the Mysteries. We should teach, promote, and have as a significant goal the keeping of these original fragments of Mystery teachings in their pristine, untainted form. I'd want any theosophical group I join and support to affirm this viewpoint.
The Theosophical Society in America has a large turnover in membership. Is that because people are sampling it and deciding it's not right for them, or because we're doing something wrong, and need to change our approach? From the standpoint of the specialization of the theosophical movement, I'd say that we just need to find something good to do for the world, as a Society, and do it the best we can, and leave it to others to serve the many other needs that the world has.
The Internet is something new. People working with computers, or in college, have had the opportunity to learn about and use it. Others are left wondering what it's all about. It will be helpful in the future to have show-and-tell presentations of what's out there and how people can benefit from it. Even without a computer of one's own, it's still possible to get free e-mail and use a computer at many public libraries, if one is aware of what's available.
There are a number of uses of the Internet that could be looked into. There could be more online publications. There could be an online news-only mailing list, perhaps moderated, with timely information without the high volume of chat and less-nice traffic of typical mailing lists that leads people to unsubscribe. There could be online audio theosophical lectures (using the Real audio encoder program). It's even possible to make online slide-show presentations of Theosophy with associated sound tracks.
Any changes that are made in our Society, I think, should be gradual, evolutionary, arising out of cooperative projects where we all get together to promote Theosophy or better the world. Increased communication among members would arise through a day-to-day interaction, through doing things together, through working for a common purpose. No grand plan, petition, document, constitution, or finished product of thought will evolve the organization. The coming together of members in mind and heart would arise because everyone would be helping formulate, organize, and carry out the work of the Society, rather than in imposing their approach on others, requiring others to do work someone else's way.
Do we want to change the Society? Do we want to work for the philosophy in and through the Society? Then we need to start doing our work, building bridges of cooperation between ourselves and others in the Theosophical Society. There's bountiful work to be done, both in and outside of the Society. Let's simply find something good to do and get going!
By Reed Carson
Blavatsky Net has little news to report for February 2000. Six more articles by William Q. Judge went online. Membership continues to grow at a healthy pace.
Details are now avalable on the EZTV project. It's now found on the "meetings" page with the schedule of topics for filming through the January 2001 meeting. It's of interest to note that:
The first Saturday in August was chosen to avoid a date similar to the Sixth Brookings [Oregon] Get-Together which ocurs August 11-13. That will be filmed also and many of us plan to attend.
By A. Trevor Barker
[From THE HILL OF DISCERNMENT, Theosophical University Press, 1941, pages 246-54.]
If you search Theosophical literature you will come to realize probably, as I have, that it is very difficult to find much teaching or information upon the general question of Faith. In fact one is rather astonished to discover that in the index to ISIS UNVEILED, HPB describes Faith as one of the pillars of the devil. It is rather that attitude to faith that seems to pervade theosophical literature, for some reason. That is why we chose for our evening's reading that wonderful discourse from Chapter XII of THE BHAGAVAD GITA, "Devotion by means of Faith," from which it is immediately clear that the most enlightened spiritual instructors are quite agreed that faith in that spiritual sense of the term is a sine qua non for the success of the Arjuna who sets out toward the goal of reaching Yoga, or union with the Supreme.
How are we to understand the Divine faith then from the Theosophists' point of view, and just what are they getting at when they throw cold water upon what the ordinary man and woman are accustomed to regard as faith? Is it a great desire to hurt, and to treat with contempt the religious views of other people? Because if so it is a denial, right at the outset, of the fundamental principle upon which our Movement is based. It may appear to be so, but if we look a little deeper we see that all the aspersions are cast, not upon Faith in its higher spiritual meaning, but upon that shadow of real faith which in two words may be summed up as blind belief, or credulity -- credulity, the tendency to swallow open-mouthed any glamourous, marvelous idea that passes for truth and philosophy. There is an abundance of credulity in the world today. We all, I suppose, at some time in our lives are unduly credulous. We place our faith and trust in things and people that are not really worthy of it; but is that true faith, or is it blind belief and credulity? Obviously the latter. It is that looking outside of oneself with credulity which is verily the "pillar of the devil" that HPB speaks of. It takes from man his only hope of any illumination, because he is all the time looking outward, looking for props to lean upon. True faith must be something that is rooted in the eternal and indestructible part of a man's being. It must be something which is based upon recognition of the omnipotence of man's immortal spirit.
The whole of the Theosophical philosophy tends toward a greater and greater understanding and realization of this higher nature in man. I venture to say that there is no faith for an individual in the sense in which Paul the Initiate uses the term, except in so far as he has had at least a glimpse within himself of the light of the higher nature. For all Truth, all Wisdom, Love, and true Knowledge flow from the higher part of our being.
Faith is the knowledge that Truth exists; it is the knowledge that there are men in the world who know that Truth; it is the certainty that if we aspire rightly and live our lives in terms of that search for the higher realities, we can know with a knowledge which is beyond any possibility of doubt. That is why I have sometimes described faith as knowledge based upon experience -- experience, that is, of the higher truths and the higher realities. If we take this view of faith, is it not obvious that the title of our study tonight, "Faith versus Wisdom," is a bit of an anomaly? I deny that Faith can ever be set against Wisdom, for faith in the true sense of the word is an indispensable part of Wisdom. Only those who have Wisdom will have Faith, and vice versa to some extent.
Yet there is another aspect of this problem: there are many men and women who may truly be said to possess faith; and yet from the Theosophical point of view have they Wisdom? This is a more difficult problem to answer. They have faith in the sense in which I have been trying to speak of it, and this means necessarily that they have a shadow of inner illumination; but on the other hand they lack something, and that something it is which the great Theosophical Movement has come into the world to bring to men. There is nothing that is of more value to any human soul than that inner feeling of quiet, the certitude that there is a beneficent, protecting influence at the root of his being, and overshadowing, as it were, all his effort on this plane: that certainty, found in so many so-called ordinary men and women of the world, which guides them on their life's Pathway. It comes, as HPB described it, from the fact that in these people the higher nature already predominates over the lower. In fact, that is how she defined a Theosophist. Whether he has ever heard the word or not, whether he has ever seen the literature or not, if the higher nature in him predominates over the lower, that man is a Theosophist.
We believe, however, that Wisdom is something more than this, because it implies the completeness, the wholeness, of one who has balanced his nature, who has achieved unity of spirit, soul, and body; and brought them into such harmony and such union with the higher pole of his being that he can at will identify himself with the Universal Mind, the Universal Soul of nature itself. But that is necessarily an exalted state of being. Wisdom, as you will find in ISIS UNVEILED and elsewhere, from a Theosophical point of view means the esoteric teaching as a whole. That teaching, it is true, can be found in books; however, will you have Wisdom if you know all that there is in the books? The answer is No. Books are but a means to collect the fuel, as it were, which, truly kindled by the fire of the Spirit, may one of these days burst into the flame of Wisdom.
Wisdom is an interior quality, but it does imply knowledge, as distinct from a kind of subjective certainty or faith. There are many mystical people in the world who feel truth intuitively, and yet who would be sorely put to it to explain the reason, the laws, underlying the truth that they dimly perceive intuitively; and this is what the Theosophist means when he distinguishes between Faith and Wisdom. Picture a Mahatma, for example. You cannot conceive of any instance in which he would not be able to supply you with the reasons underlying the situation in which you find yourself, and in which mankind finds itself at any moment in time. He understands the laws -- spiritual, intellectual, psychical, cosmical -- underlying the evolution of all the kingdoms of nature, and man's relation to them, and to the planet in which he lives. He understands these laws because of his unveiled inner spiritual perception. Because of it he is able to relate any part of his own consciousness with the corresponding part of nature from which the essence of that principle was originally drawn. But for all that, will the Mahatma be an individual who because of his Wisdom is without Faith? On the contrary, he is one who KNOWS with absolute certainty, and therefore expectancy, that when he sets his will in motion with a clear-cut picture in his mind, he will achieve that which he wills to achieve. He has absolute faith, because he has absolute knowledge in the unerring infallibility of the result that he will bring about.
I will read you a passage from the Preface of ISIS UNVEILED, I, vi, which rather sums up these ideas and shows the Theosophists' attitude thereto:
When, years ago, we first traveled over the East, exploring the penetralia of its deserted sanctuaries, two saddening and ever-recurring questions oppressed our thoughts: "Where, Who, What is GOD? Who ever saw the IMMORTAL SPIRIT of man, so as to be able to assure himself of man's immortality?"
It was while most anxious to solve these perplexing problems that we came into contact with certain men, endowed with such mysterious powers and such profound knowledge that we may truly designate them as the sages of the Orient. To their instructions we lent a ready ear. They showed us that by combining science with religion, the existence of God and immortality of man's spirit may be demonstrated like a problem of Euclid. For the first time we received the assurance that the Oriental philosophy has room for no other faith than an absolute and immovable faith in the omnipotence of man's own immortal self. We were taught that this omnipotence comes from the kinship of man's spirit with the Universal Soul -- God! The latter, they said, can never be demonstrated but by the former. Man-spirit proves God-spirit, as the one drop of water proves a source from which it must have come.. Tell one who had never seen water, that there is an ocean of water, and he must accept it on faith or reject it altogether. But let one drop fall upon his hand, and he then has the fact from which all the rest may be inferred. After that he could by degrees understand that a boundless and fathomless ocean of water exists. Blind faith would no longer be necessary; he would have supplanted it with KNOWLEDGE. When one sees mortal man displaying tremendous capabilities, controlling the forces of nature and opening up to view the world of spirit, the reflective mind is overwhelmed with the conviction that if one man's spiritual Ego can do this much, the capabilities of the FATHER SPIRIT must be relatively as much vaster as the whole ocean surpasses the single drop in volume and potency. EX NIHILO NIHIL FIT; prove the soul of man by its wondrous powers -- you have proved God!
QUESTION: What can you say to a person who says, "I have no faith in anyone"?
I should like to suggest this: that such a person in almost every case that I can think of, has almost certainly never come across the literature of occultism and Theosophy; and it is possible to arouse his interest and to stimulate his zeal to enter upon an experimental research for himself. Look into this literature and see if there is not a message for him there which will change that negative and destructive point of view. To believe in nothing and nobody spells ultimate death; it means that such an individual has no sure hold upon the rudder of the boat of life. But I suppose the thing that will help that person most is the perception, in regard to the one who is trying to help him: "Here is somebody who seems to have a certain inner peace, knowledge, certainty, who has certain spiritual qualities of life." Then he will necessarily begin to wonder where these things come from, and how they can be gained for himself. Perhaps others can give a more illuminating reply.
QUESTION: I have heard that if you want a thing very much and have faith that it will come, and work for it, eventually it comes. How far are we justified in wishing for a thing and trusting that it will come -- because it may not be good for us?
Nevertheless it is this engine, this machinery, that makes the world go round; it is this that we are doing every moment of the day; it is this mechanism, or this law, which enables us, when we so decide, to walk out of this room and down into the street. How far are we justified in desiring, hoping, willing and having faith that our objectives will one day be achieved? I say -- at least I believe -- that we have every justification for the use of this faculty and power. If I were to say the contrary it might mean, for myself and for others, that we would lose the ability to act at all. If we did not feel and believe and KNOW that some day, somewhere, sooner or later we should achieve that upon which we had set our heart's desire, we would never lift a finger, we would never move a step; and therefore the problem is not as to the means, but rather as to the MOTIVE, and the ends that we have set our hearts upon. It is certain we shall achieve what we want to achieve if we just concentrate enough on it.
We have all had proof of it in our own lives: that often the thing that we thought desirable, and wished to achieve, did not come to us perhaps for many years -- but it came! And when it eventually came, you remembered how you set out to get that thing many years ago. Is not this the meaning of that passage in THE BHAGAVAD GITA, where it is pointed out that the ways and objectives of worldly men are manifold, that they have hundreds of objectives; and therefore they only reach these objectives in a scattered kind of way? They achieve some of them, but not all of them, probably because they do not put sufficient concentration and energy into the pursuit of them. "But my devotee," says Krishna, "has only one objective," and that is the finding of union with Him; and in that pursuit, in that concentrated upward aspiration, all other objectives and pursuits eventually become merged. "For," as he says in one of the Discourses, "when one is concentrated in devotion to me, I take the responsibility for the happiness of that individual." It is just a parallel of the other statement in the New Testament of seeking the kingdom of Heaven, and all the other lower things that one needs in life will be added to them. But the great safeguard in the choice of the objectives that we pursue is always and all the time to seek the light of the Inner Self upon that which we wish to achieve. What is the meaning of the Gayatri if not just that: praying that the fire of the Supreme Will shall illumine our hearts and minds, that we may see the direct Pathway before our feet: that it will show us the pitfalls that we are about to stumble into if we set our wills upon achieving such and such a thing. But if in truth we-are seeking the spiritual things, then we are always prepared to renounce as unimportant those things that do not fit in with the promoting of the Spirit; for we find that the Spirit is always pushing us in the direction where our true heart is set.
QUESTION: Is it true that when that position is reached, there is no renunciation and no self-sacrifice, because one realizes that one is doing just the thing one should do?
I think it is true; but at the same time the human nature of the individual aspirant is often, in fact in many cases, probably sufficiently active at times to feel the pull of having to give up personal opinion to impersonal and Inner leading as it were. There are many instances in the New Testament and elsewhere of that struggle of the individual aspirant. Nevertheless the law of it all is that if he receives the Inner guidance, then he has at all costs to follow it lest he lose it; and once it is experienced, then that is at once the most valuable and precious of all possessions.
QUESTION: Is intellectual knowledge a hindrance towards gaining true Wisdom?
We should say that it depends very largely upon the type of individual concerned. You know there is the type sometimes described as "stupid saint"; to such a one, some intellectual knowledge would be very valuable, because it would round out and supply the missing link in that individual! You would find that he never thinks at all, that he lives in the realms of sentiment and emotion largely -- "feeling" would be a better expression; and some good, sound, healthy philosophy would be invaluable to that individual. But to the type of person who readily reads vast quantities of literature and who becomes the armchair-philosopher, and never translates it into action, more intellectual study becomes a hindrance; and to such a person the more mystical and devotional kinds of Yoga, as set forth in such a book as THE BHAGAVAD GITA would tend to round out the unbalanced nature.
QUESTION: While it is a good thing to have faith, to take what we are told by a Teacher we trust, should we not always have a sort of "divine discontent," and always an urge to get something more -- a feeling that that is not the end?
I think we should be in a very happy situation, if we realized -- which I imagine we should -- if we felt we had a Teacher, any of us individually, who had given us so much that it was impossible to want any more. But I venture to say that there is no aspirant or disciple who has not that feeling of what the questioner calls "divine discontent," always urging him forward and upward, always to seek and penetrate farther and farther into the depths of his own being. It must be so, because if we become completely satisfied, Nature won't let us stay there so very long. We have to go forward and upward again. If we did not feel the need of any further progress, we should stay where we are and not do very much about it!
By Kenneth Morris
[This first appeared in THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, September 1946, pages 396-410, and is a reprint from THE PITH AND MARROW OF SOME SACRED WRITINGS, Script No. 11.]
To speak of the Druids and not to refer to the cyclopean stone monuments commonly associated with their name would be impossible, but as far as we have any evidence -- or the lack of it -- these were put up long before the few centuries B.C. commonly called the Druidical period, and by Initiates of far greater wisdom and power than the leaders of the Celtic tribes. The origin of the "Druidic" remains is even a more puzzling problem than that of the mysterious Irish Round Towers, of which nothing certain is known. No doubt the Druids UTILIZED the stone circles and other cyclopean monuments; but as similar remains are found scattered over many other parts of the globe, the presumption is against their Druidic origin, especially as the Druids never appear to have claimed credit for building them. H. P. Blavatsky gives a few sidelights upon the subject in THE SECRET DOCTRINE, from which the following quotations are taken:
And yet there are records which show Egyptian priests -- Initiates -- journeying in a North-Westerly direction, BY LAND, VIA what became later the Straits of Gibraltar ... until reaching Carnac (Morbihan) they turned to the West again and arrived, STILL TRAVELING BY LAND, on the northwestern promontory of the New Continent.
What was the object of their long journey? And how far back must we place the date of such visits? The archaic records show the Initiates of the Second Sub-race of the Aryan family moving from one land to the other for the purpose of supervising the building of MENHIRS and dolmens, of colossal Zodiacs in stone, and places of sepulcher to serve as receptacles for the ashes of generations to come. When was it? The fact of their crossing from France to Great Britain BY LAND may give an idea of the date when such a journey could have been performed on TERRA FIRMA ...
The modern archaeologist, though speculating AD INFINITUM upon the dolmens and their builders, knows, in fact, nothing of them or their origin. Yet, these weird and often colossal monuments of unhewn stones -- which consist generally, of four or seven gigantic blocks placed together -- are strewn over Asia, Europe, America and Africa, in groups or rows ...
There is no country from which they are absent ...
It is with the so-called Druidical remains, such as Camac in Brittany and Stonehenge in Great Britain, that the traveling Initiates above alluded to had to do. And these gigantic monuments are all symbolic records of the World's history. They are NOT Druidical, but UNIVERSAL. Nor did the Druids build them, for they were only the heirs to the cyclopaean lore left to them, by generations of mighty builders and -- "magicians," both good and bad.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 750-54
A type of monument consisting of twelve upright stones surrounding a central one is common in Ireland, etc. At Magh Slaght, the "Plain of Adoration" there was once a golden image, probably of a Sun-god, surrounded by twelve stones. This reminds us of the thirteen Snake or Wisdom gods of the ancient Mexicans, particularly when we recollect that the serpent symbol was held in particular respect among the Druids generally. They wore a snake-stone amulet, and called themselves snakes, saying, "I am a serpent, I am a Druid." It is clear what was meant by the legend of Patrick driving the "snakes" out of Ireland. The existing name of the village nearest to the most extraordinary collection of prehistoric remains in Brittany is Carnac, which means the Serpents' Mount, and which is identical with the greatest center of Egyptian Temple ruins -- Karnak! The enormous Alligator and Serpent Mounds in Ohio and the similar Serpent Mound in the Scottish Hebrides are of immense interest in this connection. Both the American and the Scottish serpents are represented swallowing an egg. H.P. Blavatsky says:
Why are they [the colossal monuments] all connected with Serpents and Dragons, with Alligators and Crocodiles? ...
Like the Hindus, the Greeks and Romans (we speak of the Initiates), the Chaldees and the Egyptians, the Druids believed in the doctrine of a succession of worlds, as also in that of seven "creations" (of new continents) and transformations of the face of the earth, and a sevenfold night and day for each earth or globe. Wherever the Serpent with the egg is found, there this tenet was surely present. Their DRACONTIA are a proof of it. This belief was so universal that, if we seek for it in the esotericism of various religions, we will discover it in all.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 756
There was a time when the four parts of the world were covered with the temples sacred to the Sun and the Dragon inn ... In the gods of Stonehenge we recognize the divinities of Delphi and Babylon ...
We find (a) the priests assuming the name of the gods they served; (b) the "Dragons" held throughout all antiquity as the symbols of Immortality and Wisdom, of secret Knowledge and of Eternity; and (c) the hierophants of Egypt, of Babylon, and India, styling themselves generally the "Sons of the Dragon" and' "Serpents"; thus the teachings of the Secret Doctrine are thereby corroborated ...
It was there [in the Theban SERPENT's catacombs] that were performed the sacred mysteries of the KULOS ANAGKES, the "Unavoidable Cycle," more generally known as "the circle of necessity"; the inexorable doom imposed upon every soul after the bodily death, and when it has been judged in the Amenthian region.
In de Bourbourg's book, VOTAN, the Mexican demigod, in narrating his expedition, describes a subterranean passage which ran underground and terminated at the root of the heavens, adding that this passage was a snake's hole, "un agujero de colubra"; and that he was admitted to it because he was himself a "son of the snakes," or a serpent. (DIE PHONIZIER 70.)
This is, indeed, very suggestive; for his description of the SNAKE'S HOLE is that of the ancient Egyptian crypt, as above mentioned. The hierophants, moreover, of Egypt, as of Babylon generally styled themselves the "Sons of the Serpent god," or "Sons of the Dragon," during the mysteries ...
Furthermore, the "War in Heaven" is shown, in one of its significations, to have meant and referred to those terrible struggles in store for the candidate for adeptship, between himself and his (by magic) personified human passion, when the INNER enlightened man had to either slay them or fail. In the former case he became the "Dragon-Slayer," as having happily overcome all the temptations; and a "Son of the Serpent" and a Serpent himself, having cast off his old skin and being born in a NEW body, becoming a Son of Wisdom and Immortality in Eternity.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 378-80
H.P. Blavatsky gives many pages to the full discussion of the subject which is no mere outworn superstition. The exhortation of Jesus, "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves," shows that the meaning of the symbol was well understood in his time and that he did not scorn to use it.
Stonehenge, the finest prehistoric monument in England and one of the most remarkable in the world, is now calculated on astronomical grounds to have been erected not later than B.C. sixteen hundred or so, and to have been used for sun-worship long before the time attributed to the Druids. But, like the great great Pyramid, it may have been built one or two whole precessional cycles before that date, and still retain the same relative position to the sunrise at the summer solstice, so there is at present no means known to science of fixing the date accurately. Near Stonehenge there are the extensive stone circles and avenues of Avebury which display a serpentine plan in part, but whose individual stones are much smaller than the giant monoliths of Stonehenge. Great Britain, Ireland, and Brittany are extremely rich in the mysterious dolmens, some of which may be graves.
In connection with Druidism there have been many speculations as to the age and utility of the tall Round Towers of which Ireland possesses one hundred and eighteen and Scotland three, but nothing has been conclusively proved. They are found near churches, sometimes even attached to the edifice, but though their style of architecture seldom, if ever, harmonizes with that of the ecclesiastical buildings, the opinion of archaeologists is generally in favor of their Christian origin. Some authorities believe they were lookout towers from which warnings of danger could be given. William Q. Judge suggests guardedly that this theory contains a partial hint of the truth, but he distinctly says that such towers were used in really ancient times by the wise teachers for their own special purposes. A curious suggestion is made by one archaeologist to the effect that some of the towers bear traces of Buddhistic influence. It is generally believed that Buddhist missionaries once reached Ireland, and there is no impossibility in the suggestion that some of the towers may have preceded Christianity while others were built later, and used as refuges against the marauding Danes. But as there is no documentary proof, and inscriptions are wanting, the question is still an open one, and we cannot connect them definitely with the Druids.
The peoples of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, are temperamentally different from the Anglo-Saxon type, and there are still many persons in the so-called Celtic countries who bear witness to the reality of an inner, and perhaps more real, world than this material shadow. They say very little about their deeper feelings and yearnings, but if the veil of cautious reticence be lifted by a sympathetic hand, the conviction is found that a more spiritual condition of living prevailed in simpler times before the world was dominated by the selfish materialism of these days. The poetical and musical gifts possessed by the Celtic peoples, and the legendary lore of fairy and magic, still more than: half believed, show that the old joyous spirit is not quite dead which makes the Seer perceive more in a tree than a mere chemical formula of oxygen, carbon, etc., combining and dissipating according to mechanical laws. The fairy bells are still to be heard chiming on the Irish hills, and stories of mysterious jeweled queens dimly seen in the twilight are not all relegated to the limbo of "scientific folklore": the Highlanders of Scotland still possess the "second-sight" to some degree.
In connection with this indestructible ancient spirit it is worth knowing that there was in Brittany, until lately at least, a remarkable survival of the Druidic sentiment. Miss M. Betham-Edwards, a most careful observer, says in her latest work on France, that as recently as twenty-five years ago, she saw a body of fine-looking women, alleged Druidesses, at Mass in a church on the Ile de Batz, near St. Pol de Leon, Brittany, who, while outwardly conforming to the rites of the Roman Church, were supposed to hold to an older faith. Another writer speaks of "Les Adeptes de la Religion Blanche," or modern Druids, a few of which are said to be found in the Bourgogne department of Saone-et-Loire as well as in Brittany. They are reputed to celebrate simple and beautiful religious rites in the solemn silence of the night, shrouded by the friendly trees, and are supposed to be chiefly, but not entirely, of the peasant class. They lead exemplary lives, and make no attempt to proselytize, but regard other religions with respect as partial expositions of the truth -- a truly Theosophical attitude.
Isolated and unexplained as the position of the Druids has been generally regarded, to the student of Theosophy it takes a natural place in the general scheme of the world's history. No country has been without representatives of the ancient Wisdom Religion we call Theosophy today, and the real Teachers who were the inspiring force of Druidism had that inner perception of the mysteries and that intuitive knowledge of human nature and its needs, that marks the Master-builder. All who have reached a plane higher than that of the ordinary egotistical mind, all who have seen the gleam of the "Gates of Gold" leading out into freedom from desire, have found evidence of that united Body, which has, from time to time, revealed what was comprehensible to the intellect and elevating to the life of the people of the day. So we find in Ireland, as everywhere, that the bewildering confusion of myth and legend which has come down in most imperfect form, clears up considerably in the light of Theosophy. For instance, the most noticeable thing in Irish folklore is the familiar story of the "Golden Age," the reign of the gods -- the Tuatha De Danann "the folk of the god whose mother is called Dana" -- which was succeeded by darker times when the gods had to withdraw and could only appear occasionally to help, and finally by these latter days when absorption in material concerns has become so intense that scarcely a vestige of the former beauty and spirituality is left. The tricky little elemental "good people," whatever they may be, alone are left to give a hint of something behind the veil.
As we have no original documents or monumental inscriptions of importance, the Druidic Mythology is very confusing, and a complete unraveling seems an impossibility. Attempts were made by the Romans to identify the Gaulish deities with their own. In Ireland and in Wales the imagination of the people has modified the characters of the gods of Continental mythology so much as to render a parallelism difficult to draw. But we are on fairly safe ground in a few cases, and the following extract from the great work of the very careful scholar, M. de Jubainville, Professor of Celtic at the College of France, will serve to show students of Theosophy how much of the esoteric teachings must be concealed within the strange legends which until lately have been practically unknown to the educated world. Speaking of the godlike race of the Tuatha De Danann he says:
Dana ... is elsewhere called Brigit; she is the mother of the gods of art and literature ... Brigit, the goddess of the Pagan Irish, was supplanted in Christian times by St. Brigit, and the medieval Irish in some measure transferred to her the cult their pagan ancestors had rendered to the goddess Brigit.
The cult of Brigit was not unknown in Great Britain. Four votive inscriptions dating back to the Roman occupation have been found there ... The name seems to be derived from the present participle of the root BARGH, in Sanskrit BRIGH, "to increase, to strengthen, to raise" ... The Irish adjective BRIG, "strong, powerful," comes from the same root ...
In medieval Ireland Brigit had a second name, Dana, or Dona, genitive Dann, Donand. She is the daughter of the supreme head of the gods of Day, Light, and Life, and is herself the mother of three gods belonging to the same divine group who are called, after their mother, the gods of Dana. But in this triad we have in reality but three aspects of one god Brian, who is the first of the three, and of whom the other two are in some sort merely counterparts.
-- THE IRISH MYTHOLOGICAL CYCLE, 82
In the legends we find a confused account of early racial development under various allegories of the struggles of the Tuatha with the Fomorians, the "men from under the sea," and of the latter with the Firbolgs, the Nemedians and others. De Jubainville says of these:
In Ireland, the Tuatha De Danann, together with Partholan and Nemed, who on some points are the counterparts of the Tuatha De Danann, have as their rivals the Fomorians. Dagda (DAGO-DEVO-S, "Good God") king of the Tuatha De Danann, is the Zeus, or Ormazd, of Irish Mythology; the Tuatha De Danann, or "folk of the god (DEVI) (son) of Dana," are none other than the Devas of India, the gods of Day, of Light, and of Life. The Fomore, or Fomorians, who are the adversaries of the Tuatha De Danann, represent in Ireland a mythical group corresponding to the Indian Asura, and the Greek Titans.
-- THE IRISH MYTHOLOGICAL CYCLE, 9
After the tremendous struggles of these early periods, which correspond to what in the Theosophical teachings are called the First, Second, and Third periods of the evolutionary process, things settled down, the earth itself -- which till then had not been completely formed -- is finished, the Golden Age arrived and all was peace and joy until the coming of the sons of Mile. The tradition of this Golden Age is clearly a reminiscence of the simple and pure condition of the early Aryan Races combined with records of the state of humanity ages before the destruction of the lost continent of Atlantis. As the cycle declined from the spiritual towards the material, the Tuatha De Danann lost their vigor, and were attacked by the Milesians from "Spain" or the "Land of the Dead" oversea, who conquered them and reigned in their stead. Mile, the ancestor of the modern Irish people, otherwise known as the Goidels or Scots, was the son of Bile or Belius, the god of Death, and his arrival is put at about one thousand B.C. This may have been the time of the last invasion of settlers and of the end of A Golden Age, but not of the greater periods of peace and wisdom to which we have referred. The vanquished Tuatha De Danann retired into the underworld and the caves and have become invisible to most ordinary folk, but they still exercise some power over the destiny of mortals and we hear of them reappearing at critical times to help, and sometimes to hinder. The Greeks had precisely the same conception of the fate of the demigods of their Golden Race upon their departure. Hesiod says:
But when the earth had covered this race, they were transformed by almighty Zeus into beneficent daemons, whose dwelling is the earth; and they are the guardians of mortal men, whose actions, both good and bad, they observe. And they go to and fro over the earth, invisible in the air, which serves them for a vesture, distributing riches; for this is the kingly function to which they have attained.
-- WORKS AND DAYS, 120-26
This is a plain allegory of the Higher Ego's experiences. It has had to withdraw into the inner life-world during the present age of materiality, leaving its shadow or representative, the lower mind, usually dominated by passion and desire, in the outer world. But the Higher Ego is ever vigilant and sleepless and ready to answer the call of the Lower Emanation from itself. It is willing to be the guide and warrior if we will have trust and faith. H.P. Blavatsky (quoting in THE SECRET DOCTRINE from Gerald Massey) says the Druids well knew the Theosophical teaching of the Seven Principles of Man which is found more or less plainly revealed in every ancient scripture. Some of the ideographs of New Grange, etc., are almost conclusive proofs of this to the well-informed Theosophist, and even the archaeologists have pretty well decided that the great Tumuli on the Boyne were built long before the coming of the Goidels or Milesians.
Throughout all we know of Druidism there runs a wonderful spirit of kinship between man and nature, a sense of space and unity which is lacking in our townbred civilization of today. Amairgen, the first philosopher who came to Ireland with the Milesians, according to the legend, sings:
I am the wind which blows over the sea; I am a wave of the Ocean; I am the murmur of the billows; I am the ox of the seven combats; I am the vulture upon the rock; I am a tear of the sun; I am the fairest of plants; I am a wild boar in valor; I am a salmon in the water; I am a lake in the plain; . . . . . . . I am a word of science; I am the spear-point that gives battle; I am the god who creates or forms in the head the fire; Who is it that enlightens the assembly upon the mountains (if not I)? Who telleth the ages of the moon (if not I)? Who showeth the place where the sun goes to rest (if not I)?
-- From THE BOOKS OF LEINSTER, BALLYMOTE, etc.
A slight variation of the same poem is found in Wales, attributed to Taliesin. To students of mystic symbolism there is a more subtle meaning plainly concealed behind the superficial one, something besides the identification of the singer with the soul of the universe. The "assembly upon the mountain," for instance, is an idea frequently used by mystical writers to convey a suggestion of the sacramental union of the Higher and Lower natures of man after the latter -- the ordinary personality -- has become absolutely purified in the fires of experience; and there are other allusions in the poem whose significance can only be understood by advanced students of Theosophy.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From pages 1 to 7 of a booklet published by Theosophical University Press in 1943, with materials based upon MAN IN EVOLUTION by G. de Purucker.]
Question: Does Theosophy teach evolution?
Yes; Theosophy teaches that evolution is a universal process, nay, that it is THE one universal process of change and growth. Theosophy is at one with science in seeking to show the uniformity of nature; but Theosophy extends this principle to a far greater scope than that taken in by science.
Question: What is evolution, according to Theosophy?
It is that process of change whereby something that is latent and sleeping is brought into manifestation and activity. To understand this we must postulate two factors -- a spirit or soul which is seeking expression, and a form or body wherein the spirit or soul expresses itself. Or we may express the idea by saying that growth is caused by the involution of spirit into matter and the consequent evolution of matter into more elaborate forms.
Question: Wherein has science in general failed in this respect?
In failing to make the necessary distinction between that which is involving and that which is being evolved. Science has regarded only the evolving forms of the creatures, and has made no distinction between the creature itself and the body in which it is clothed. But such a distinction is a logical necessity. The attempt to evade it has resulted in a number of difficult hypotheses which are in reality but subterfuges.
Question: Please explain this point further.
Science has usually studied evolution on the basis of the materialistic or, as some have called it, the atomo-mechanical, theory of the universe. By this theory, physical matter is made the essential reality, and other things are regarded as attributes of matter or as functions of the molecular movements in matter.
Question: What does this view of the universe entail as regards evolution?
That, in order to account for the changes and growing which obviously take place in nature, we must posit some power or intelligence to take the place of the spiritual or divine forces which we have denied; and thus we have invented such ideas as chance, inherent properties, laws of nature, affinity, attraction, and the like. But these terms do not denote actual causes but are merely expressions which generalize or formulate certain results.
Question: How does Theosophy overcome these difficulties?
By recognizing the universe for what it is -- a vast host of living intelligent beings, each and all of whom are accomplishing their own particular line of evolution, all on the same general plan, at various stages of their journey, but all working in harmony with each other and the whole.
Question: Do you mean to say that matter is alive and intelligent?
I say that, if matter is analyzed to its ultimate basis, we will find nothing else but living intelligent beings. The physical universe is that part of nature which we can perceive with our bodily senses and handle with our bodily organs. It is but a small portion of the actual universe, and is like a screen which at once hides and reveals nature. I may remind you that science has recently probed deeply into the constitution of physical matter, and has not been able to discover any fixed physical basis, but, on the contrary, only manifestations of life and energy.
Question: Is there, then, no such thing as matter or substance?
Force and matter are the same in essence, but different and contrasted in aspect. They are two aspects of the same thing. The universal life always presents itself to our apprehension as a duality, of which one member is active, the other passive. The active aspect of life is what we call force, energy, or some such name; the passive aspect we call matter, or mass, or inertia. But physical science now recognizes that the distinction between energy and mass is relative, not fundamental.
Question: What do you mean by the Universal Life?
There is but one life pervading the whole universe; but, though it is everywhere one and the same, it manifests itself in an infinite variety of modes, according to the particular vehicle through which it may be working, or, to use another expression, according to the plane on which it is acting.
Question: What is this one universal life?
We cannot find words to define the ineffable, and must needs content us with approximations. The one ultimate cause of all things, the One Self, the Universal Spirit, or whatever name you may choose to call it, must be thought of as consciousness, life, spirit, matter, all in one. It pervades and energizes the whole universe, being at once in relation to and the directing intelligence of every part. We recognize it under the twin aspects of spirit and matter, or force and matter, or will and idea; these being more or less inadequate words by which we seek to define the dual aspect of the universal spirit as manifested on various planes of manifestation.
Question: What is the doctrine of the One and the Many?
The one universal Spirit-Life-Mind acts everywhere through what we may call sparks of itself; and these sparks we call monads.
Question: What is a monad?
Monads are spiritual-substantial entities, self-motivated, self-impelled, self-conscious, in infinitely varying degrees, the ultimate elements of the universe. These monads engender other monads as one seed will produce multitudes of other seeds; so up from each such monad springs a host of living entities in the course of illimitable time, each such monad being the fountainhead or parent, in which all the others are involved, and from which they spring.
Question: How are monads related to the Universal Life?
Each monad contains within itself the entire potentiality of its parent source; each is a copy in miniature of its divine parent.
Question: What bearing has this fact on evolution?
Every monad is a seed, wherein the sum-total of powers appertaining to its divine origin are latent, that is to say, unmanifested. Evolution consists in the growth and fructification of all these seeds or monads, whereby the universal life expresses itself in innumerable beings.
Question: What is the end and purpose of this vast evolutionary process?
The attainment of self-conscious godhead. Each monad enters upon its course of evolution as an unselfconscious god-spark, and, passing on an agelong pilgrimage through all the different stages and grades of living beings, it eventually attains to self-consciousness in the human kingdom, and achieves full self-conscious godhead in stages of evolution higher than man as he is today.
Question: Then is the Darwinian hypothesis right in saying that man has evolved from the animals and thus from the kingdoms below the animals?
We must answer, No; because an affirmative answer would commit us to a serious error in regard to what is known as the Darwinian theory. Yet an absolute negative would also be misleading. Darwinians have confused the organism with the monad which tenants it; they have supposed that the physical organisms have sprung, the one from the other, in a single upward evolution. This is not the case, nor do the facts observed by science support it. It is the monads which evolve; and this they do by inhabiting a series of organisms of increasing complexity, as a climber might mount by ascending a series of steps. The climber advances, but the steps remain fixed.
Question: What is meant by the evolution of worlds?
That not only living beings, but also the worlds which they inhabit, are continually evolving. Yet even this expression is a concession to conventional habits of thought; for the worlds themselves are also living beings, both in their entirety and in each of their innumerable parts. The observations and inferences of astronomers and geologists have furnished us with considerable evidence of the evolution of worlds; and have also familiarized our minds with vast figures in the reckoning of time.
Question: Is it possible to assign any limits of duration to the evolutionary process?
Our minds, though unable to conceive infinitude, refuse to recognize any limits. The process of evolution is beginningless and endless; yet, if we are to discuss it, we must do so within the compass of certain chosen limits. The esoteric teachings recognize certain periods called Globe-Rounds or Tidal Waves of Life. Each such wave lasts on our earth for scores of millions of years -- a figure that need cause no concern to geologists, surely -- and, during the course of its activity, gives new birth to numerous stocks of beings, ranging from those elemental kingdoms that are below the mineral kingdom, up to man and the quasi-divine beings beyond man.
Question: What preceded the Globe-Round or evolutionary cycle in which we now are?
Other such cycles; and so the scale rises. Though we will confine ourselves mainly to the present Globe-Round, it may be necessary sometimes to mention preceding ones, since they were the theater of events having a causal and precedent relation to events taking place in the present Globe-Round.
Question: What is man?
Man is, like all other beings, down to the smallest atom, a manifestation of the Universal Consciousness-Life-Spirit. For purposes of mental comprehension it is necessary to adopt some principle of analysis and classification, so that we may obtain some conception of man as a group of interrelated parts composing a whole. Neither Theosophist nor man of science would hamper his ideas by attaching an absolute value to any system of classification; the elements of any complex are subject to different groupings, according to the aspect from which we regard it, or the convenience of our temporary purpose. With this reservation, we propose to consider man as a fivefold entity.
Question: What are these five divisions?
(1) The Divine Monad. It is (on its own plane) a self-conscious god, a spark of the Universal Life.
(2) The spiritual soul, through which the Divine Monad manifests itself. It was built by the Monad, is the child of the Monad, and is itself destined, in the course of its evolution, to become a Monad.
(3) The spiritual soul, together with its divinity, the Monad, in its turn works through another sheath inferior to it, which is its child. This is called the human soul.
(4) The human soul in its turn is enshrined within another sheath still lower, but necessary in order that the human soul may work on lower planes of nature. This sheath is called the animal-soul, or the vital-astral soul.
(5) Still lower, and serving as a vehicle for the above, is the physical body, an organism which the higher principles have built up for themselves in order to be able to work in physical matter.
Question: What are the respective spheres of operation of these several principles?
The first has the range of our home-universe or galactic system; the second, the solar system; the third, the earth-chain of globes (which includes our physical earth and the other nonphysical globes belonging to its chain); while numbers four and five are concerned with the limitations of a single lifetime on earth.
Question: How does the above analysis of man apply to other beings?
Each and all of them are similarly constituted; in each are all the five factors enumerated above. The difference between the various orders of beings lies in the extent to which the constituent factors are either latent or active, unmanifest or manifest.
Question: What is an animal?
An animal is a manifestation of the Universal Life, standing a stage farther back in evolution than man. Though there are within the animal all the capacities which man has, and even higher powers which are not yet manifest in the ordinary man of today, yet some of these powers, which are active in man, are latent in the animal. The animal has not the human self-conscious mind; this faculty is yet latent. It will be acquired at a later stage of evolution; in a following Globe-Round, not in this. And again we say that this does not imply anything like the Darwinian idea of an actual transformation of a physical animal into a physical man.
Question: And what of the kingdoms lower than the animals?
These likewise contain all the potentialities of the original Divine Monad which is the core of each of them. In the plant these potentialities are less awakened than in the animal; and so on through the lower kingdoms. The smallest atomic speck is a seed containing all things in germ. Thus we can trace throughout the universe a uniform plan of evolution and place all beings in the same general category, while conceding to each its own particular place in the scale.
Question: What is an Atom?
"Atoms are called 'Vibrations' in Occultism," says H. P. Blavatsky (THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 633); a statement which will be of interest to those who are seeking to reconcile the undulatory and the emission theories of radiation. They are omnipresent units of Life, which fill the immensity of space, and their continuous vibration constitutes that omnipresent motion which is the root of all force and life.
To quote from the same place:
As described by Seers -- those who can see the motion of the interstellar shoals, and follow them in their evolution clairvoyantly -- they are dazzling, like specks of virgin snow in radiant sunlight. Their velocity is swifter than thought, quicker than any mortal physical eye could follow, and, as well as can be judged from the tremendous rapidity of their course, the motion is circular ... Standing on an open plain, on a mountain summit especially, and gazing into the vast vault above and the spatial infinitude around, the whole atmosphere seems ablaze with them, the air soaked through with these dazzling coruscations. At times, the intensity of their motion produces flashes like the Northern lights during the Aurora Borealis. The sight is so marvelous that as the Seer gazes into this inner world, and feels the scintillating points shoot past him, he is filled with awe at the thought of other, still greater mysteries, that lie beyond, and within, this radiant ocean.
Question: State some further facts about the atoms.
Each atom is the vehicle of its own monad. Here we have a type of the universal plan of a living spirit working through, or clothed with, an organic form. Such a duality is essential to our thinking upon any subject. Yet it must be borne in mind that the form itself -- in this case the atom -- is itself built up of other monads. This distinction which we make between force and form, or between spirit and matter, or between the living entity and its vehicle, is not absolute and fundamental, but dependent on their relation to each other. The process of analysis into spirit and matter can be carried on indefinitely; just as, in geometry, we can go on indefinitely dividing a triangle into a triangle and a quadrilateral.
By Rodolfo Don
Last December I had the privilege of attending the "Parliament of the World's Religions" in the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa. This is a summary of my trip to that city, and the trip that immediately followed to Adyar, India.
I first heard about the 1999 Parliament in 1998 when I received a newsletter from its office in Chicago. In that communication they announced a 1999 Parliament in Cape Town. In the newsletter they also invited all participants to present papers, gifts of service, etc. Presenters to the Parliament didn't need to be religious leaders in order to bring ideas and make a contribution to the Parliament. I decided to attend.
I had attended the Parliament in Chicago in 1993, and when that event closed I had my own idea of what it meant to me. It wasn't that different from what the Theosophical Society was trying to achieve: To form a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.
Even though the Parliament began for me in Chicago in 1993, it began for the world in 1893. That was the first time in History that all religions decided to meet together in harmony and goodwill. That meeting that took place in Chicago was really remarkable, considering world history with its record of religious intolerance and wars.
Following the 1993 Parliament in Chicago the Directors decided not to wait for another one hundred years to reconvene the Parliament. But to meet sooner and more often and each time in a different part of the world. They consulted the Dalai Lama to see what he thought about the idea. Since he had been an important endorser of the 1993 Parliament the organizers of the next Parliament decided to go to him for advice. The answer from the Dalai Lama was a short one: "Do it!." That was how the 1999 Parliament in Cape Town began.
Soon after that I started working on the paper that I had decided to present. I knew what I decided to talk about, but I needed to put it together. The idea that I was working on began to surface in my mind in 1995 during my last visit to Adyar. It had to do with Krishnamurti's writings and the concept of Truth, or rather, the difference between Truth and belief.
The founders of the Theosophical Society had chosen as the motto of the Society: "There is no religion higher than Truth." Did that mean that all theosophical writings could be taken as Truth? If that were the case, the road to immortality was very simple: just become a member of the Theosophical Society, learn what it teaches, and say with certainty that one possesses the Truth. However, what about all the religions that claim the same thing, that claim that they possess the Truth. Is there anything that makes our theosophical beliefs any different from any other religious beliefs? Is it possible for anybody or any group to possess Truth? Those ideas were the core of my future presentation.
I began to put my ideas in writing and soon realized that I was going to need somebody to help me put them together in a cohesive way. I asked my friend Dallas TenBroeck for assistance. Soon we were working together.
Finally, the date of the trip to the Parliament arrived. We flew from San Francisco to Miami, and there we boarded a South African Airways 747 and flew non-stop all the way to Cape Town.
Some of us had booked different types of accommodations. Gene and I decided to stay at the UCT campus (University of Cape Town). We never regretted it. Even though it was cheaper to stay at UCT than at any of the hotels that were available, in my opinion, staying at UCT was the best choice.
Every day we had breakfast in a beautiful and very traditional dining room. There we met fellow parliamentarians that came from every corner of the world, and soon we became friends. It was during breakfast that we decided which Parliament sessions that we were going to attend. On several occasions we heard from somebody at our table that there was going to be a meeting on a subject in which I was interested.
The breakfast menu every day consisted of fruit juice, coffee, tea, milk, bread, cheese, yogurt. There were five or six different kinds of cereal. Fresh fruit included oranges, bananas, apples, different kinds of melon, papaya, pineapple -- as soon as we emptied a tray, a full tray replaced it. There were also cooked items like eggs, bacon, fish, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, etc., anything you could think of. It was a daily banquet.
The first day of the Parliament we attended a gathering at a park in Company Gardens in the Government district in central Cape Town where they were showing the AIDS "Quilt". It was a gathering to raise awareness about AIDS. HIV infection is wide spread among South Africans, and a great deal of education is needed to reduce the rate of infection. From the park we all went in a parade for several blocks to the District Six section of Cape Town. I noticed the South African theosophists holding a banner, and we joined them in the parade. Included in the parade were native Zulu dancers in their native customs and playing drums. After walking in the hot sun we finally reached a museum that is a historical landmark in the struggle against apartheid. The parade dissolved at that point. That evening we attended the Parliament opening ceremonies at "The Good Hope Center."
Work sessions for the Parliament were held in several places. The majority of them were held at the Technikon. Every evening we also had Plenary sessions that took place at "The Good Hope Center," a large auditorium not far from the Technikon. The organizers had arranged a line of shuttle busses available to all of us. They transported us from our accommodations, to all the events.
Next to the Technikon there was a small Christian church which was exhibiting a famous painting that was created during the times of apartheid. It portrayed a black Christ on the cross. The 2 Roman centurions had the faces of the South African minister of justice, and the president of the country. When government officials heard about the painting and saw it, they had the artist who painted it arrested. They tried to convince him to destroy his painting and when he refused, they put him in prison. In the mean time, in order to protect and safeguard the painting, brave South Africans hid it in a house and finally took it out of the country. They transported it to Great Britain, where they used it to raise funds to fight apartheid. Once the political situation changed in South Africa, the black Christ was returned to its original home in Cape Town.
Every morning we had breakfast at 7 AM. The bus picked us up at eight and drove us to the Technikon. It was a very pleasant drive, and some day, when we drove by an area very close to Table Mountain, we could see zebras, buffaloes, ostriches and other animals grazing very peacefully. Once at the Technikon, we were in walking distance to all the events. Sessions began at 9 AM and continued all day with a short break for lunch.
I gave my presentation at the Parliament on Saturday at 4 PM. The title was: "There is no religion higher than Truth." There were a few theosophists from the United States, from the Pasadena Theosophical Society and a few South African theosophists.
After my presentation I invited the audience to ask questions or make any comments. There were about twenty people in the room. The first one to make a comment was a Sikh gentleman. He said that in the Sikh scriptures it says that Truth is higher than God, but still higher than Truth is "living the Truth". Then he asked for my opinion of what I thought "living Truth" meant to me. There were other opinions given by other individuals, and they were not as supportive. They were defensive of their old belief systems. But, overall I think it was a good meeting.
Later on I had the opportunity to bring up my ideas about Truth and beliefs during another meeting. In that occasion several individuals participated in the discussion, and the room became very lively. Most of the participants seemed to support my views. There was one exception. This was a man who began to quote the scriptures of his religion to try to make a point and prove that Truth was God. I said that God has a face. Every time that somebody refers to God, he gives God not only a face, but a number of attributes also, because "God" is a belief. Every person has a different image and opinion of his God, regardless of reality. Even if there is a large number of people who believe in one God, that one God is different for each one of them. Besides, you can either believe or not believe in the existence of God. On the other hand, we know that there is Truth. And as long as we keep "Truth" pure, uncontaminated by any belief, prejudice, or assumption, we can relate to Truth.
The Parliament lasted eight days and we had an opportunity to listen to many lectures, conferences, symposiums and video presentations. It was a spiritual marathon. We were also able to meet and talk to many South Africans who were serving as volunteers at the Parliament, and listen to what that event meant to them. They were very excited about receiving all the participants in their beautiful city of Cape Town.
I'd like to invite readers to share in my trip. I've created a web page for the Parliament with links to Mandela's speech at the Parliament, and a summary of what the Dalai Lama said in the closing ceremonies.
By Herbert Coryn
[Part I from THE THEOSOPHIC ISIS, February 1, 1896, pages 45-51, then continued from March 15, 1896, pages 59-62]
Let us say at once that if THE SECRET DOCTRINE is to be studied to profit, it must be regarded as a book of Divination in the highest sense of that word. That is, it is a book which, in supplying the intellectual consciousness a stream of pictures and thoughts floating down from many a field, tempts, so to speak, the upper synthesizing light of the soul to descend among and make them live in one whole of knowledge.
As the dwelling upon some low mental picture lends to it gradually and surely the life-light, so that it flames up in conscious desire and prompts to act, to waste creative power and its many forms of energy and potency, so the dwelling upon other and higher pictures or thoughts, such as concern the composition and destiny of the soul of man and the world, will waken these pictures also into the fire of action, outer action and more potent inner action.
Deep meditation is an intense creative activity. That which it creates lives thereafter to some extent in every other man and thing, elevating all the worlds in proportion to its power, because it is an opening of a channel to the one power in its proper purity.
In the upper regions of the soul of every man resides knowledge (by reason of identity) of the great forces that have brought forth, sustain, direct, and will one day destroy this mortal universe. In the lower regions is the reflection of the flow of matter and of the play of its properties under our human eyes. In both regions are what might be called pictures. In the lower there are pictures derived from association with the outer world of nature, the growing of the tree, the roll of the waves, and so only dead pictures. In the inner or upper soul is the picture of the inner intense life in nature, the thoughts and powers of nature's inherent soul, these latter symbolized by the planets, stars, and gods of mythology.
The two regions may be almost unrelated, perhaps are quite so in the unthinking man, though in him we see many blind efforts to relate them. And even in some who think there is a need to impress the fact that the two regions are not brought any the more into relation (and thus no true knowledge obtained) because through the study of "science" more of the properties of matter are viewed in the flow of the river, for though more and ever more, it is the same plane, the lowest, the plane of the husks. Neither will their relation be the closer after the psychic vision, pretending to aid the physical, has opened another plane. They are husk-facts only, both of them.
We have read of a crude form of divination in which the words of a question whose answer is sought are split into their composing letters and the latter thrown into an unsorted heap. The wandering eye presently constructs a sentence out of the confusion and that sentence is taken somehow for the answer.
In THE SECRET DOCTRINE the eye wanders over the ruins of ancient mythologies, the pattern-less heaps accumulated by the sciences, scattered fragments of antique lore. Is there nothing else? We FELT there was something else; we felt dimly that there was an underlying order, an attempt to show it to us, to teach us, to unveil great truths, to crack for us the crust of matter that hems us in. And it seemed little reasonable that MASTERS should write one more of the many books of mythology, one more of the many criticisms of materialistic science.
So we awaited an Index. The index was to be the magician that should bring an orderly cosmos out of this chaos. He arrived, but with him came no cosmos. Chaos still reigned, and though never so diligently we collated Capricorn on this page with Capricorn on that, no light broke upon the troubled gloom. The legends that the "fancy of mankind" had woven about those stars remained but ghosts in a lampless vacuity.
True we had learned, or rather read, that the Pitris produced the first humanity, and they the second, and these the third, and that upon this third descended the "Lords of Mind"; from the third came the fourth, followed by our fifth. But WHAT are the Pitris, WHAT the "Lords of Mind"; what relation either of them to us, living, vivid selves of today; of what nearer interest that the story of how Hydrogen grew in the eons out of Protyle, perchance grows yet? We can watch the actors on a stage, feeling with them the parts they play; but this other? As it stands it is but a shadow of a drama, dim, unreal, unhuman, unrealizable, improbable, unprovable; it is like the history of a dead language, a Barmecide feast wherefrom the guests go hungry for the wisdom of life.
Well, then, either our ways of study need amendment, or some other and more leisured lifetime will do for its commencement. For about us are the pressure and strain of life, all men searching for something to relieve and help; whilst we, who talk of brotherhood, are speculating whether "man comes from the monkeys," or whether, with THE SECRET DOCTRINE, it was the monkey who came from man. Has that book been written to mock humanity?
But the volumes contain far more than this thin thread of human evolution; about it is gathered a baffling tangle of mythologies and legends, woven inextricably, beginningless, endless, making the mind faint with fruitless attempts to find and follow some clue. But there is something in common in all these mythologies, and that common something affords a moment's rest, and in a sort of objective way helps to a view of a pattern in the maze. The sun, the moon, the planets, the zodiacal constellations, all these under many names, singly and collectively, are presently seen to be mutely moving in the mythological dance. All the nations have spent their "youth" in symbolizing these, making them strange names, humanizing them into heroes of epic tales, asserting them to be the colleagues of man, to be man himself or his rulers, his friends, his enemies; placing them in a thousand relations to each other and to humanity, the sun, the planets, the stars. Sometimes swayed by passions, sometimes the passions themselves, sometimes they project the forces which in man become passions. They are the winds, the ether, the water, earth, fire, space; again they are process, the rising, the setting, creation, preservation, destruction.
They are even time, times, and eternity. Thus we have many correspondent groups, corresponding downwards and sideways; planets, the signs, the elements, cycles, the generations, human races simultaneous and successive, the hierarchies, the powers of man and nature, the human passions, faculties and consciousness. And with it all, in all the nations, the "trees" and "serpents" of mythology. This much we get in THE SECRET DOCTRINE; but it is surely more than a book of comparative mythology, or else any other of equal range would serve the same purpose. Where is its secret? WHO is its secret? What can we divine from it?
There is a sort of dogma which is common to the scientific student of mythology and to the Occultist, but the community ends with the statement. This dogma is that all mythologies are diverse expressions, in different times and peoples, of the same fact or set of facts. What is that? To the scientific mythologist, that is, to the man who regards the study of mythology as the study of the workings of the futile -- because infant -- mind of humanity, the root facts in all mythology are the natural phenomena of the movement of the stars, the progress of the seasons, the alteration of day to night and of night to day, the gathering and the dispersing of storms; all these personalized and tricked out with a mass of poetic imagery and epic detail, and all moreover worked into further confusion by the infusion of half-legendary reminiscences of human heroes and bygone races.
But to the Occultist the study of mythology is of widely other interest. For to him the myths are triple: nucleolus, nucleus, body. The nucleolus, the hidden light in every myth, is a truth concerning the consciousness of man and nature as a manifested activity; the sheathing nucleus is a description of this under the form of fable or epic incident, primarily constructed for the teaching of the people by a man who knew the ultimate fact thus expressed. About this gather the gross glosses and turgid variants of the miscomprehending populace.
Is there any way of getting at this central truth concerning consciousness? We seem to know ourselves pretty well; commonplace men doing our business from day to day; yet in this book we are quietly told that each of us is a sublime light, an incarnate wisdom, a mind that has grown in depth and splendor and power throughout uncounted ages past; that we are here in this commonplace way for a few lifetimes to correct some little errors and failures, and then forward once more into a delayed but allworthy heritage. We were not aware of all that wisdom and power; how shall we be made so?
THE SECRET DOCTRINE has been written by occultists who know the central truth, and in one of its aspects it is a collation of the myths of humanity, stripped of their nonessentials, paralleled, and presented in such a form as to tempt the intuition (Buddhi) of the student toward the apprehension of the truth concerning the powers, history, and faculties of his conscious being, and the relation of those to similar and parent qualities of universal mind (Mahat) whilst his BRAIN is occupied with the garb under which that truth is presented.
Thus it is a book for the training and exercise of the brooding or intuitive faculties, properly in the highest sense a book of divination. And it is a book of ethical training, since an ethically lived life results from a blending of the upper and lower lights of consciousness.
The lower light is our conscious mind on earth, which to itself is commonplace and holds no mystery; neither, alone, can it have any real knowledge of its own origin in the field of time (verbal nor intellectual knowledge not being real or realized) nor, ordinarily, any wish to partake of the greater forces. So to itself it is a commonplace, aware of no mysteries, aware of no life save the ordinary. It CAN penetrate, it CAN look into itself and find a certain Path. If in brooding, self-searching, it finds that, life is a new possession.
"Finding the Way." Much is said of that, and we read piously, with an undersense of unreality. But let us remember the keynotes that arise in the searching mind, the sense of inexplicability, of mystery, of something beyond. That comes first, the first message from the upper. After awhile the message clears, and may even, if we strain attention, take concrete form in words. "Thou hast not yet attuned thy heart, chamber for chamber, unto mine" is the burden, and thereafter we live strenuously, trying to affect that inner attunement.
That is the one task of the lower light. But the upper light -- from which the lower hangs as a spark from a flame -- is in and of the central fire. If the mythologies of nations, stripped, as in THE SECRET DOCTRINE, of their rind, are held in some aspect in the mind, still, in "faith," brooding, something from the upper light of consciousness will be let down, illuminating.
Take at first no wide area; begin with some one myth, as that of Prometheus, some one deity, as Ra, the sun in all his aspects, and take as many quotations as you can. And in the lower consciousness the effect will be at first a sense of some mystery therein contained, for the sense of mystery is the beginning of illumination, the commencing responsiveness of the soul on earth to its upper light, the dawn of wisdom, the perfecting of life. In this brooding study the sense of mystery may suddenly dissolve into a flash of knowledge, soon, or after many trials. Once that has happened there is nothing for it, but to go on, for the way to the way is found. For a single moment we have felt the secret, felt something as a fact which as yet the brain cannot understand.
That is a great thing; let the brain take care of itself, go on with that feeling, keep searching to reproduce it. The brain will slowly refine its texture, answer better and better to the light above; in time it will learn to think REAL TRUTHS; in time too, we will learn less and less to fear death, less and less to identify ourselves with the perishing body; we will become less and less personal, feel at last in high moments that we ARE that higher light registering the history of a tremendous past. The sense of powerless limitation will vanish bit by bit. Power will come, as in degree it does come to every Theosophist, lining and energizing our words and acts, so that when we speak of karma and rebirth, it will carry more, and more the effect of shock and conviction. We are really throughout this work learning to guide the currents of general thought.
Our study of THE SECRET DOCTRINE then, if it is to be anything but the emptiest intellectualism, must be something more than study in the ordinary sense of that word; it IS an intellectual study, but illuminated by intuition.
He who understands THE SECRET DOCTRINE the most, will not necessarily have its lines and phrases most perfectly at his tongue's end, nor have perhaps the most impressively weighty notebooks. For the notebook is often the substitute for the synthesizing flash of intuition. We are NOT therefore saying that this magic energizing of our powers comes from study of THE SECRET DOCTRINE, but from the higher brooding which that should inspire.
This brooding is a gathering silently together of all the powers of the soul, a descent into the lower of the energy of the higher, so that we act and speak with tenfold power. We call it brooding, for it is a stopping by will of concrete reasoning from fact to fact, and the holding of the mind onto one conception.
[At this point the text continues from THE THEOSOPHIC ISIS, March 15, 1896, pages 59-62]
We read all about the mythological doings of the Sun, of Ra, of Surya, of Marttanda, and now we pause. Who IS he, the Sun, that does all these many things, that rises, that sets, that rules, that throws forth energy, that knows himself, that shines at first alone all resplendently in the egg of being, that creates and destroys by fire, that nourishes, that is wise? We let the mind hang over all that till we feel who in the mind's septenate is the Sun, the Self. Thereafter we think ourselves no more the mind, but the mind's Sun, becoming the drivers of force, but the force driven, and we make each force energize through its correspondences.
Every part of the consciousness of man presents a flashing stream of eternally flowing activities. The discrete sparks of thought stream up from below and take form about a center. The understanding of THE SECRET DOCTRINE is the same as the final understanding of life, and is birth into wisdom. It is the synthesizing of all thoughts under one final truth, and that thought is not something known as outside things are known, but is the knowing of oneself by oneself.
Everything in THE SECRET DOCTRINE applies to us as living persons, cycles, gods, and forces, and the study of it is a finding of the Light, or one of the ways thereto. Whilst giving the intellect matter to work on, the book arouses the higher consciousness. And it is the higher consciousness alone that can feel and know the needs of men and can emit the measured and adapted force, to teach, heal, and convince, the force of the Sun in the heart.
HPB said that in the next century THE SECRET DOCTRINE would be studied as it is not in this one. That study we must not leave for the general public to begin and carry on. We must help, strike the keynotes of method, set flowing out from ourselves as centers the currents that will stimulate.
But before we study we must get some clear ideas as to what will come of it. As we study now, so will the public of the next century. And as the public as yet know little or nothing, and as they must learn front us of the very existence of the book, so they must make their acquaintance with it at our hands not as a mere criticism of scientific methods, not as a mere summary of mythologies, not as a fantastic fable extracted from the vagaries of the Puranas, but as the living history of the living soul, the anatomy of its powers.
There is a method, oftener practiced than recognized, of energizing words by a power effluent from the heart, started by the will. That power, on the physiological plane we can make to heal, on the mental plane we can make our ideas strong and fruitful in others, on the spiritual plane we can use it to raise men to high thought, emotion and action. It is creative power and is attained by brooding, meditation, and abstracted "prayer."
But if that "prayer" is to be anything beyond emotional gush, or anything beyond a mere set of statements or requests with the eyes shut and the knees at a right angle, it must be a strong search into the recesses of Self for the Light. And we will UNDERSTAND AS WELL AS BE UPLIFTED by the Light when it comes, if we have made an intellectual framework by the study of Occultism. Many by strong search find the Light along the simplest path, and finding, benefit themselves and many others, but to him who has also the intellectual basis of Occultism, they are as the untrained to the trained athlete.
Let us come closer to the matter and see what may be expected to happen. We all know that in the course of reading the two volumes, one fact or process in each volume stands out most clearly, and as we read we will become aware that in ourselves a third fact of a similar nature presently comes into consciousness.
In the first volume is described the formation of a solar system. In the second volume we see and try to realize the formation of thinking humanity by the incarnation in each man of the ray from the Kumaras. For ourselves, as the third volume, something similar may happen. In all three, what happens which is comparable to the influence of a magnet on a heap of iron filings. Till that moment lying unsorted and without arrangement, they take definite position in lines about the poles of the magnet.
It is the same with our study of anything. Such casual facts as we knew before fall into a clear arrangement about a principle. But when the study is ourselves, and the facts are such few casual things as we had observed in ourselves, the central principle about which those few facts now arrange themselves is the thinking and observing self of the student. He becomes a sun, and attracts about himself into a closed and compact system the wandering bodies which are henceforth defined planets.
In the study of THE SECRET DOCTRINE and in the study of ourselves, when we undertake that study along the lines of most current philosophy, we are apt to lose ourselves in the objectivity of the description, and to forget the subjective realization. We apply to both the same mental process -- a process of mere picturing -- that we apply to ordinary science. Let us take a closer grip and work it out within, for THE SECRET DOCTRINE contains all the formulas of consciousness.
Nothing valuable can come from the study of that book unless from line to line we try and refer it to ourselves, try to find out how "the moon is the deity of the mind" and who the moon is. And we must work with no discouragement, always searching about with the inquiring consciousness, being always sure that, unobserved by us, SOMETHING from what we read is getting into the inner nature. The writers of it are saying three things and also only one. There is the plain tale of the text; there is what they would say, but must not openly in this age; there is what they would say but cannot, for it will not go into any words.
Not much should be read at one time, is the first rule of study. It is good to get by heart the stanzas and the italicized extracts from the ancient commentaries and the letters quoted verbatim. When this is done and the historical part of each volume (the first third) lightly read, then settle to work on real study. It is soon noted that not much is said of anything in but one place: all that is said on any topic is scattered all through both volumes, in text and footnotes. It is usually necessary to stop frequently, sometimes every few lines, and feel about in consciousness for the inner meaning.
That the moon ran away with Jupiter's wife and that war ensued is a statement that does not glow with easy and immediate meaning. Taken literally it is childish nonsense; it is less so childish when we have found whom Jupiter is and who the moon. So a few minutes reading provides us with food for much meditation, and at every such attempt SOMETHING is gained, SOME sharpening of intuition. In the end the somethings will cohere.
The mechanic sits in his study and ponders his problem. He thinks from fact to fact and no light comes; one fact leads only to another. He wants with gathered brow and hot brain to reach some principle of construction, and the scattered facts do not seem to help. He knew them all, this long while; it is something else be wants.
Presently, tired with his thinking, he leaves off, and as he rises from his seat like an unstrung bow, a light which is not in the facts flashes in amongst them and his problem is solved. It comes with a sense of effortlessness, following upon, by not among the number of, his effort. Not itself a fact, it makes the facts fall into a pattern. It comes when lie has taken off the tension, for it is not HE that brought it but he who by his hot thinking at once kept it back and prepared the way for it.
Whence comes it, and whose was the creative effort that threw it out into the confusion? A sudden force has entered his consciousness; he is more positive, more magnetic to others. He can inspire others with enthusiasm for his scheme, so that they will even lay their money at his disposal, and that too without comprehension of what he is saying.