All those who sought to give a name to the incognizable Principle have simply degraded it. Even to speak of Cosmic Ideation -- save in its PHENOMENAL apsect -- is like trying to bottle up primordial Chaos, or to put a printed label on ETERNITY.
H.P. Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, page 330.
By B.P. Wadia
[From THUS HAVE I HEARD, pages 38-40.]
There is no companionship with a fool.
-- THE DHAMMAPADA, Verse 61
Let him keep noble friends whose lives are pure and who are not slothful. (Verse 376)
Such is the advice of the great Tathagata. Though the Master uttered it for his monks, it is useful for all who are striving for self-improvement.
There are other verses in THE DHAMMAPADA on the subject of Satsang or Good Company. No one doubts the truth of the homely adages that "Birds of a feather flock together," and "A man is known by the company he keeps." There are aspects of the subject that are very little understood.
The Master Gautama's implications are numerous and some of them are worth reflecting on.
His words may be taken as referring also to the companionship of ideas, and so, nowadays, of books. Having instructed us to abjure the company of evildoers, and to have for friends the best of men, in Verse 79 he adds:
He who drinks in the Law lives happily, with a serene mind; the wise man ever rejoices in the Law as taught by the Ariyas.
This means the companionship of great and good ideas. If one does not desire the company of a fool, he must grant that the wise and the holy do not desire his company. Even though he wishes to be with them, they do not desire his company unless he has striven for knowledge and piety. A man is made of his thoughts. As he thinks, so he acts and so he is. It is evident that one's outer companions are people whose mind content and mind action are consubstantial with one's own.
Two other forthright verses convey the truth about companionship:
If a fool be associated with a Pandit, even all his life, he will perceive the truth as little as a spoon tastes the soup.
A keen-witted man who waits on a Pandit for one minute only will soon perceive the truth as the tongue tastes the soup.
-- Verses 64-65
Only the mating of consubstantial hearts and minds forges the bonds of friendship. Between casual acquaintances and lasting friends, the difference is due to the similarity or the lack of similarity of mental and moral substances. The substantial aspect of our psychic nature is little known. Through electro-magnetic matter, psychic as well as noetic action takes place. The part that this matter plays in human relationships is not understood, because it is invisible and subtle (sukshma). Its existence is not suspected, so it is ignored.
The principle of consubstantiality is at work among real friends, not only that of coadunation. The spoon and the soup are in coadunation but are not cosubstantial. The tongue and the soup are in coadunation and further are consubstantial.
The Nectar of the Saints and of the Sages is for living men, not for passion-fraught "iron" men. The very existence of the Nectar is not suspected by the ambitious and the greedy. They are like spoons -- very close to the soup but unable to taste it.
It is a sign of the Dark Age, that Truth and Peace, although near at hand, are not perceived by the mortal minds of this cycle. In the Chinese version of THE DHAMMAPADA, this story is appended to the verses about tongue, spoon, and soup:
"On a certain occasion, the Master came to know of an 80-year-old neighbor in Saravasti who had just built for himself a large house. Ananda was sent to enquire and to instruct the old gentleman in the certainty of death and the impermanence of things. After a few days, the old man suddenly "fell dead from a stroke received as he walked." Such was the news the Master received, whereupon He spoke the verses about the spoon, the tongue, and the soup.
How can we make ourselves worthy of the company of the godly? The Master says that even the sight of Sadhus, Noble Ones, is good and that to abide with them is blessedness. (Verse 206) How can we become alive to the taste of Amrita? How shall we recognize the virtuous and the holy? Appearances deceive and the claimants are many. What can a Sadhu, an Arhat of today, teach but what Sadhus and Arhats of all times have recorded? If Teachings are true, they must be universal. The first qualification of a true teacher is that he teaches nothing new, but only what has been experienced in realization by a long line of perfected Sadhus and Arhats. He uses new words clothing old ideas, adding only "Thus have I heard."
By Wesley Amerman
[Following are a few notes to readers and friends on changes to THEOSOPHY Magazine.]
When we inaugurated THEOSOPHY as a monthly journal in 1912, one of our first undertakings was to reprint the periodical literature written by H.P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge. This essential component of the modern theosophical message had all but fallen out of print. Eventually, students gathered these articles and made them readily available in pamphlets and book form.
With the passing years, we gave greater prominence to student articles and collations in our pages. As a study aid, we usually gave key references from the original writings, which remain an important feature to this day. To meet the needs of diverse readers, we added departments devoted to current events, such as "On the Lookout," and to differing perspectives on issues, like "Facets of Inquiry." A new department, "Educating Our Youth: Reports and Discoveries," commences with the Fall 2001 issue, using a format similar to "On the Lookout."
We hope THEOSOPHY continues to serve the needs of serious students, while finding relevance among new readers, many from non-theosophical backgrounds. The magazine will now be quarterly. Each issue will explore many aspects of a particular theme. The theme for the Fall 2001 issue is "Magic." Further issues include "Analogy and Metaphor," "Mystical Painters," "Utopian Thought," and "Death and Dying." Contributions are welcome. The writer's guidelines are at:
Also new is that recent and current issues can be downloaded from the Theosophy Company website. The issues are in Adobe Acrobat format (PDF files). See the following site for the latest issues:
By Dara Eklund
In the September issue of THEOSOPHY WORLD, the article "Is Theosophy a Received Truth?" tries to puncture the "Faith position" of Theosophists, as "true believers." We can understand the author deducing this position from the way we Theosophists frequently riddle our statements with quotes from the teachers or Masters. However, a Theosophist will generally be the first to acknowledge his reverence for the ancient tradition with the words "Thus Have I heard." In ancient times, this statement often followed passages of religious texts by those who first placed them into writing from their oral tradition, or the glyphs and symbols known to adepts.
Nevertheless, there are means provided for a rational examination of Theosophy and a means to test its theories on their own merit. We do not need to accept them as either beliefs or dogmas. Dr. Tillett's argument that we accept HPB's teachings as "received Truth" falters when you take to heart her own words to accept nothing upon faith alone. In the preface to her SECRET DOCTRINE, she stated,
These truths are in no sense put forward as a REVELATION; nor does the author claim the position of a revealer of mystic lore, now made public for the first time in the world's history.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, page vii
Tillett claims Theosophists must admit that their acceptance of Theosophy is a faith-based position. "To do so" he writes, "one must assume a consensus as to what these teachings were." This is as if we need to take a public opinion poll to settle on the tenets of Theosophy. Indeed, there are many interpretations, as many as individuals, which have unfortunately created sects of various kinds (often in seeming opposition to the original statements of those tenets). However, HPB writes that the "consensus" was established by generations of seers who tested these truths:
The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages . That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity .
How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions -- so obtained as to stand as independent evidence -- of other adepts, and by centuries of experience.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, pages 272-73
Tillett assumes that Roman Catholicism, Islam and several other religions can make the same claim as Theosophists that their teachings are based on Laws of Nature. They might. No genuine Theosophist will deny to another his path to Truth. Theosophy after all provides a key to all religions, as at their pristine source they are ONE. This issue of THEOSOPHY WORLD has several fine articles other than Tillett's to illustrate how a Theosophist sees those "Laws of Nature."
How can we test Theosophy today? By living the Life, i.e. the "examined life" as Plato urges. The test tube is not one offered to a cohort of scientists who try to dissect the human body to find the Soul, nor a bevy of theologians who try to stipulate the number of angels who can fit on a pin. The test tube is man's sevenfold composite nature, examined on all levels of consciousness. If that begins with Faith, it can end with Knowledge.
By Katherine Tingley
[From THE THEOSOPHIC ISIS, December 1896, pages 348-52. This came from an address delivered October 29, 1896, in the town hall, Bombay, India. The chairman introduced her as the Leader of the Theosophical Movement, as one who had devoted her self to the cause of humanity since her childhood.]
The first question that must naturally arise in the minds of those who are present at such a meeting as this is, "What call be the object of this visit to India of a body of American Theosophists who are making a tour around the world, and what can they expect to accomplish in so short a time?"
Understand at the beginning that I have not come to India to seek the favor or recognition of any person or body of people, nor in the hope of affiliating with any public organization. My duty is to say what I have to say to the best of my ability, and my hearers may accept or reject the message as they please.
Though I occupy this independent position, as do the other members of my party, I am most anxious to work in harmony with all people who earnestly desire to serve humanity. Our object is to do our utmost for every soul who needs our help, for in the world of souls there are no distinctions of creed or sex. Every true Theosophist holds that the distinctions that appear in material life are of little importance as compared to the realities of the soul.
The best way of extending such help is to show people of all religions and beliefs the underlying meaning of their ancient teachings. It is not my desire to convert anyone to some established creed or dogmatic system, but to help the Hindu to grasp the deeper, more spiritual, and more scientific side of his own scriptures, and to do the same for the Mohammedan, the Parsee, the Christian, the Jain, and the Buddhist. For in each of their religions, there are the same great teachings hidden, deeply locked in by the encrusting hand of time, as well as by the deliberate intention of the great teachers who first brought them to the world. The same key will open each of them to the gaze of the student who has first found the universal key within himself, and has learnt the way to use his knowledge rightly.
Should anyone assume that he knows all that there is to be known, or that he has already solved the mysteries of the religious books of the world, it would be useless to attempt to add to his knowledge -- or his ignorance. There are some who, while professedly desiring enlightenment, are actually blinded by their spiritual pride, which holds them to the false idea that THEIR religion is the oldest of all, and that the occult truths it contains are the greatest that the world has ever known.
Know that India was not the source of the world's religions, though there may be some teachers in India who flatter you with that view in order to gather you into some special fold. The occult learning that India once shared in common with other ancient peoples did not originate here, and does not exist to any extent in India proper today.
A sacred body gave the world its mystic teachings. It still preserves it for those who yearly become ready to receive it. That body has never had its headquarters in India, but moved thousands of years ago from what is now a part of the American continent to a spot in Asia, then to Egypt, then elsewhere, sending teachers to India to enlighten its inhabitants. Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Zoroaster, Mohammed, Quetzalcoatl, and many others who could be named were members of this great Brotherhood, and received their knowledge through initiation into its mysteries. I hold that if any of these had given out a hundredth part of what they knew, the world would not only have refused to listen to their message, but would have crucified them in every instance. It is for this reason that every true teacher must keep back much that he knows, only revealing it to the few who can understand it, and who are worthy of it.
No religion has remained pure and undefiled. Man-made dogmas have crept into all of them, and their sacred books have been tampered with. In many sects of orthodox Christianity, you will find doctrines that are utterly opposed to the spirit of Christ's teachings, as well as in Mohammedanism and Buddhism. Hinduism is no exception to the rule. Witness the shocking practice of suttee that ceased only a few years ago, and the custom of child-marriage, and the enforcement of caste distinctions that still prevail. Such things are as much opposed to the laws of nature as to the spirit of the Hindu teachings.
Hinduism has an esoteric side, but it is unprogressive and stagnant. Teachings that were secret 500 or 1000 years ago should be esoteric today, but are not. The explanation is that there would have been nothing to replace them, so that which was secret had to remain so. Madame Blavatsky, who gave out some of the Hindu esoteric doctrines, was bitterly opposed by certain of the orthodox in India for doing so. By this, they hindered their own advancement and the advancement of their country, for they interfered with the law of universal progression.
The first step to take in Occultism is the practice of unselfishness. One performs work for humanity without thought of reward. Such work is of greater importance than the mere cultivation of the intellect, or the collecting of large libraries.
In the great world of ours, there are suffering men and women. They are starving for bodily sustenance, for human sympathy, and loving, tender words that go farthest in arousing an answering voice of love. Believing this, I have instituted in many of the large towns which we have visited in Europe, meetings for the very poor, at which many hundreds have been taken in out of the streets, fed, encouraged, taught the spirit of brotherly love, without interfering with their religious belief. The simplest ideals of pure thought and action were held up to them, and the divinity of man's nature was strongly accentuated. In all places where this work was carried on the members of our Society have continued it. I know that here in India there are thousands -- even millions -- of suffering people living in the midst of the saddest poverty and distress. On my return to America after I have become better acquainted with their needs, I hope to establish means of assisting them. When begun, this will no doubt have the support of many outside the Theosophical Society -- Americans who wish to show, in a practical way, their interest in the spiritual life, whose first law is that of compassion and self-sacrifice.
Let me remind you that while your first duty lies with your families, your cities, and your country, there is another duty you owe to the world as a whole. Come with me for a moment and make a mental tour of the globe. Try to realize that there are millions of souls in America with the same hopes and fears, sorrows and joys, as your own, feeling as you feel, struggling as you struggle. There are thousands of Theosophists in America. They are studying the ancient truths that are hidden in your scriptures as well as in all the sacred books of the world. Try to imagine the prehistoric civilization that once existed on that great continent, and think of it in connection with prehistoric India.
Pass on in thought from America to Europe. See the clear light that shines in Ireland -- the home of forgotten mysteries. See England, France, Holland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece rising once more from their slumber of centuries to remind the rest of Europe of its bygone triumphs in philosophy and art. Pass onto Egypt, once the home of earth's mightiest sages, still the custodian of some of their profoundest secrets -- the sacred land that is destined to lead the world in its spiritual development again.
Pass over many waters with a life and usefulness of their own. Return to India and look around. See India as it is, and as it might be. Compare it with other lands. Take that broad view of it that is necessary if you would see things as they are, instead of as you imagine them to be.
Oh, ye men and women, sons of the same universal mother as ourselves! Ye who were born as we were born, who must die as we must die, and whose souls, like ours, belong to the eternal! I call you to arise from your dreamy state, and to see within yourselves that a new and brighter day has dawned for the human race.
This need not remain the age of darkness, nor need you wait until another age arrives before you can work at your best. It is only an age of darkness to those unable to see the light. The light has never faded. It never will. It is yours if you will turn to it and live in it. It is yours today, this hour even, if you will hear what is said with ears that understand. Arise. Then fear nothing and taking that which is your own and all men's, abide with it in peace for evermore.
By Victor Endersby
[CHRONICLES ON THE PATH, Part XI. This 18-part series appeared in THEOSOPHICAL NOTES from September 1951 through November 1954.]
There was a young noble, Roger of Albi, who was experimenting along the Path. He came disconsolate to Leon du Nord, who knew much more about these things.
"I find," Roger said, "that in increasing numbers my friends, hearing that I follow wisdom, come to me with their troubles. Husbands have grievances against wives, wives against husbands, children against parents, parents against children, and neighbor against neighbor. I had never suspected such secret turmoil. To aid them, I have outlaid endless time, money, and effort, understanding that the follower of the Wisdom must have ever a heart for the troubles of mankind without regard to his own. Yet now it seems that I have become known as a false friend, a fair talker but non-doer, a simultaneous taker of opposed sides, even a slanderer. Surely I am not of that nature."
"Not at all," said Leon. "Your troubles are of another origin."
"What is this grievous thing?"
"Your heart is warm and of ready sympathy. You trust in the honesty of men as in your own. You take the tale told in the shape presented. One side is always heard first. Thus, you mind is overbalanced in favor of this first. Then either the prior judgment taints what follows, or finding that things were not as presented, you fill with wrath at the deceit and turns your face in the opposite direction. Thus, you seem to favor first one side, then the other. The simple listening to a grudge with sympathetic mien convinces the plaintiff that you are with him wholly. You do thus with both, striving to be equal-minded and fair to all, but often end up appearing as a hypocrite to all. Men do not seek you as a judge, but as an ally. Had they the sense to seek a JUDGE, they would seldom have need of one."
"Why do I find the grievance to be a simple misunderstanding, or of equal faults unrecognized in ignorance, so that naught needs but understanding? I bring this consideration to the aggrieved one, showing the innocence of the other. He ought to be glad there is no real cause to find fault. Instead, he forthwith quarrels with ME!"
"Men seek advice," Leon continued, "so they can be told to do what they already resolve to do. They come to you in their strife, not for settlement of the strife, but for reassurance of uprightness in the vengeful course already entered upon. For such as you relate, our courts find the judgment seat best filled with hard men unfavorably disposed to all, of forbidding mien, so that one daring complaint must feel well armored in righteousness."
"Verily," Roger said, "this is a brutal business for one who seeks only good for mankind. I have still another puzzle. Often in seeking justice in things, I go back and back, and farther yet to find the beginning, some initial point of grievance by which fault may be laid upon the one initially guilty. Never have I found such a beginning. I have traced the killing of a man to the ancient theft of an egg, a family feud to a careless bucket of slop-water a hundred years ago, and a war to an arm broken on the wrestling-mat. Always there is something behind. One approaches a cause, but never reaches an origin. How is this?"
"My friend, look over the whole scene of quarreling entities in this age, from pets snarling on a hearth-rug, through children bickering over their toys, unto the multitudinous slaughter of men that pours its red stream down the centuries. Unroll the scroll of past lives even unto the Land of Lyonesse, long lost beneath the Western wave. Never will you reach the finality of justice. Ever the causes remain obscure because of the immemorial history of causation. The causes remain obscured on purpose because each stage of a quarrel brings its new manure of lies to fertilize fresh strife for the ages."
"And," said Roger, reddening, "upon occasion it has happened that noble demoiselles, frequenting my company for aid in smoother going with their swains, have hinted that they would gladly substitute me for the swain. This has not simplified the task."
"It never has," murmured Leon.
"Being thus a fool," continued Roger, "why do these people rely upon me to their confusion?"
"Because there is a growing Light born in you. Men feel its warmth and see its glow. Even in the world, each thinks the sun to shine for him alone, so think they that you live for them alone. Not yet yourself comprehending the nature of that Light, how shall these contentious ones know better?"
Roger thought long.
"This," he finally replied, "is the cause of my trouble, as well as my impulsive trust. How is there a resolution, so the hearts of men may find peace?"
"Full knowledge of Law only can accomplish this. Once a man knows that justice absolute rules, despite any act of his, he looks not into the past, save to instruct others. He does not seek the crusading of this world. Nor does he resent anything that befalls. His stream of life runs free and unhindered, quickly clearing itself of mire."
"Often his blood runs with the stream also."
"Such a price must sometimes be paid for the past. Even a man's blood is on the day. His fate is for evermore."
"This is a stern teaching. Of course, I know it well, in principle, but I cannot help by teaching a principle. They beseech me then with 'What shall I DO?' If the prescribed action is sacrifice, it is insisted that another precede therein."
"Like all those young in the Path, you have yet to learn that there are those -- countless many -- who cannot be helped. Their purging must run its bitter course, while wise men stand, wait, and prepare themselves."
"That is a hard business for a soft heart."
"It becomes still harder if a soft head is joined thereto."
Again, Roger pondered.
"How may one discern those to be helped?"
"Something may be done when a man comes to you for help in atoning for a wrong, when one is found seeking self-purification or pure wisdom, or if one shows desire only to fit oneself to be better able to teach others. Help may then be offered without misgiving."
"Do you, my friend, observe my errors, and know me as I am without vanity and eager for correction and instruction? Why wait until I come in trouble?"
Leon smiled gently.
By Christmas Humphreys
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, January 1949, pages 1-6.]
What is tradition but truth in the robes of poetry? Once when the Buddha was sitting with his Bhikkhus on the Mount of Holy Vulture, a Brahma-Raja came to him. Offering a golden flower, he asked the Buddha to preach the Dharma. The Blessed One received the flower. Holding it aloft, he gazed at it in perfect silence. After awhile, the Venerable Mahakashyapa smiled. Such is the origin of Zen Buddhism. Dr. Suzuki points out:
This smile is not an ordinary one such as we often exchange on the plane of distinction. It came out of the deepest recesses of his nature, where he, Buddha, and all the rest of the audience move and have their being. No words are needed when this is reached. A direct insight across the abyss of human understanding is indicated.
-- ESSENCE OF BUDDHISM, page 22
Twenty-eight successive Patriarchs handed down the Wisdom that this smile revealed through the centuries. The Buddha was the first. The last was the Indian philosopher Bodhidharma, whom arrived in China in the middle of the sixth century AD. He became the founder of the Zen School of Buddhism. Many intervening Patriarchs were mighty men in the world of Indian thought. To name but three, people will honor Ashvagosha, Nagarjuna, and Vasubandhu as long as Indian wisdom is preserved.
The recorded history of Zen Buddhism is less romantic. Its origin is the Buddha's Enlightenment. The whole of Zen Buddhism exists as a vehicle for this direct Enlightenment. Without it in this present world of Avidya or ignorance, there would be no Zen Buddhism.
The Blessed One taught this unutterable Wisdom to his chosen few disciples. He taught the fruits of his spiritual experience. Such as they understood, they remembered. Such as they remembered, they handed down. The followers of the All-Enlightened One began to write down the Buddhist Canon two hundred years after the Passing.
Already, the Sangha were splitting into manifold sects. The grounds of cleavage were doctrinal and monastic discipline. Famous pundits still debate the genesis of these sects. They debate when and why the Mahayana or Great Vehicle, as it called itself, began to diverge from the older School, which it called the Hinayana or Small Vehicle. The older School called itself the Theravada or the Teaching of the Elders.
To students of Zen, these niceties of historical research are of little importance, and of none to the man who has known satori even once for a thousandth part of a second. The blaze of light floods the mind from its own eternal inwardness. Thoughts of "this" and "that" are for the moment purged away, illuminating unforgettably one tiny corner of the Real. At that moment, history and all bound in time have little interest.
In the course of time, the fertile Indian mind began to work on the basic principles of the Ancient Wisdom that the Buddha had once more presented. The Teaching spread, south to Ceylon, southeast to Burma, Siam, and Cambodia, east into China, and thence to Korea and Japan, and north into the locked and silent plateau of Tibet.
It reached China in the first century AD. In what form it came is by no means clear, but the earliest Buddhist Scriptures translated into Chinese were a collection of sayings culled from a number of Sutras, or Discourses, known as THE SUTRA OF FORTY-TWO SECTIONS. They were a Hinayana work modified to express the views of Mahayana adherents. This was not Zen. It was a prelude to its birth. With contributions from Confucian and Taoist sources, the Chinese genius was working on the raw material of Indian thought. With Bodhidharma as midwife, that genius produced the essentially Chinese School of Ch'an. The Japanese later called it Zen Buddhism.
The two main schools of Buddhism are as the sides of a coin. Each has in less-developed form what the other stresses. The two are one in the sense that men and women are one, two sides of a human being.
Now found in Ceylon, Burma, Siam, and Cambodia, the Theravada is the older School. It is more orthodox. It clings harder to the wording of its Pali Canon. It emphasizes moral philosophy and the prime importance of working out one's own salvation before attempting to 'save' ones neighbor or the world. Puritan in its cold insistence on character building, it has the sweetness of a reasonable, unemotional pursuit of a Way that leads to the heart's desire. Did not the Blessed One prove this approach abundantly? It leads to that peace which comes when the heart is empty of desire and self is dead.
The Mahayana adopted this, but added upon these broad and, some say, sufficient premises a vast erection of emotion-thought that flowered in time in the intuitive white light of Zen.
The Indian mind was never satisfied with the moral and philosophical teachings of Theravada Buddhism. Soon it developed the Precepts of right living into principles of cosmic truth. It came to view the Buddha, a man who attained Enlightenment, as the Principle of Enlightenment that dwells in all. It multiplied his forms. Fast on the heels of iconography came ritual. A moral philosophy became a religion. The metaphysical heights of Indian thought were climbed, equaled, and finally surpassed.
The Bodhisattva, he who dedicates his life and the fruits of life to his fellow men, replaced the Arhat, he who strives for his own perfection before he presumes to lead his brother on the Way. It raised Compassion to equality with Wisdom. It turned the depth of the Theravada to an expansion of interest that embraced all living things.
These changes are as inevitable as they are right if Buddhism claims to be an all-embracing system of thought and to supply human spiritual needs. In the vast field of present Buddhism, we find religion, philosophy, metaphysics, mysticism, psychology, and much of the science that the western claims to have discovered in the last few years. There is room for the poetry, the love of nature and beauty, and the sense of fun that is native to the Chinese character. Behind all is a vast tradition of spiritual truth only partly recorded and little having appeared in a western tongue.
To generalize in the broadest terms, the Schools are as complementary as night and day. The austerity of the Southern School offsets the religious fervor of some of the northern sects. The intensive-expansive, practical-mystical, developing-preserving, tendencies of the respective points of view are neither good nor bad, neither pure nor impure Buddhism. They are parts of an inseverable whole.
In the exuberance of spiritual thought, some later teachers of the Mahayana developed methods and techniques that seem to run counter to the Teaching of the Buddha as earlier recorded in the Pali Canon. The tolerant Buddhist mind admits that extremist doctrines, such as those of the Pure Land School, may possibly be true. The mind also reserves the right to hold, as I do hold, that it is difficult to see how one can label them Buddhist. Yet, the common ground of most of the Schools of Buddhism, North or South, is larger than their differences. Beyond all complementary emphasis on this-or-that particular doctrine is the direct, supreme, and to us ineffable Experience of the All-Enlightened One.
When Bodhidharma (Tamo to the Japanese) arrived in China, the Mahayana was still only partly developed. So notable on its first arrival, the initial hostility to Buddhism seems to have died down.
The Chinese are a practical people and disliked both the celibacy and the begging habits of the Buddhist monks. They said that a man should work for his living. Part of his duty is to provide for the memory of his father and to bring up sons to care for his own.
The Chinese deeply distrusted the metaphysics of Indian thought as displayed in the Sutras already translated. The famous Indian Buddhist, Kumarajiva, had already translated some of these Sutras, such as the Vimalakirti. People later found these Sutras to be closely akin to Zen. Even so, the Chinese needed Indian thought transferred into the Chinese idiom before they could assimilate Buddhism into their national life.
From this wealth of material, the individual Chinese thinker had to choose Sutras of value. About such thinkers and their Commentaries upon favored Sutras sprang up the many schools that in time amounted to Chinese Buddhism. Thus, thinkers developed the Tendai and the Kegon Schools respectively from the Madhyamika and Yogacharya Schools of Indian Buddhism. Introduced to the Chinese mind in the fifth century by Buddhabhadra, the Avatamsaka Sutra was used in the School that later developed into Zen.
Essentially rationalist and humanist, though with its mystical feeling developed in Taoism, the Chinese mind produced an immense change in the form of Buddha Dharma. From the luminous heights of Indian thought, the Chinese developed an emphasis on inner values that required expression in action and hard work. Wisdom to the Chinese thinker is never an escape from worldly life. As shown in the famous Cow-herding pictures, when the pilgrim has so controlled his lower self that he has reached the final goal, he does not linger there.
To return to the Origin, to be back at the Source -- already ai false step this! Far better it is to stay home, ... ... he comes out into the marketplace; Daubed with mud and ashes, how broadly he smiles! There is no need for the miraculous power of the gods, For he touches, and lo! the dead trees come into full bloom.
-- ESSAYS IN ZEN BUDDHISM, I, 365-6
Hence the exciting statement in that famous Chinese classic, THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER,
The holy science takes as a beginning the knowledge of where to stop, and as an end, stopping at the highest good. Its beginning is beyond polarity and it empties again beyond polarity.
The concentration upon inner values and processes was soon to pervade all Schools of the Mahayana. As the sixth Chinese Patriarch of Zen in the seventh century taught,
Our mind should stand aloof from circumstances. On no account should we allow them to influence the function of our mind.
Again, as illustrating this absolute idealism:
You should know that as far as Buddha-nature is concerned, there is no difference between an enlightened man and an ignorant one. What makes the difference is that one realizes it, while the other is ignorant of it.
A better illustration is the famous story of the flag.
It happened one day, when a pennant was blown about by the wind, two Bhikkhus entered into dispute as to what it was that was in motion: the wind or the pennant. As they could not settle their difference, I submitted to them that it was neither, and that actually what moved was their own mind.
-- SUTRA OF WEI LANG, pages 49, 27, and 24.
It was easy, therefore, for the Chinese mind to adopt with enthusiasm the first verse of THE DHAMMAPADA, perhaps the most popular Scripture of all the Pali Canon. "All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is made up of our thoughts." Man is the product of his past thought and actions. It follows that his thoughts and actions today decide his condition tomorrow, and in the larger tomorrows of his later lives on earth.
By W.L. Utermark
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, February 1938, pages 86-91. This came from an address delivered at the International Theosophical Convention, held in The Hague, Holland on September 25, 1937.]
When we become members of the Theosophical Society, we have a twofold responsibility. We realize that we have to pass on the light. We must sacrifice on the altar of humanity all spiritual good falling to us on behalf of those longing for enlightenment. We also undertake a great responsibility towards ourselves. We have to hold ourselves open to more light.
This receiving is giving, for without sacrifice we shall not enter that greater light. It sounds paradoxical that we must give to ourselves. When reflecting deeply, we understand that it is impossible for our spiritual enlightenment to develop if we expect to receive the light sprung from others. Parroting is always odious, particularly of spiritual values given us by Theosophy.
As we realize this heavy but wonderful responsibility, our work becomes greater. The power lies in us. Wait not for others to speak, when by acting we may render a service or avert evil from another. Wait not, bringing a third person in. Doing so, we drop a stone intended for the building of the temple of peace.
Visualize this clearly. Then wishing to found it on a practical basis, we see the importance of things. Speaking in public, I do not like to mention the technique of our work. Doing so implies that we bind ourselves to certain methods or that we struggle in the chains of a crippling system. Such conceptions are intolerable in our work, which is based on intuitive inspiration.
We can learn much from what others have done in disseminating theosophical knowledge. Find the INNER side of their work. Then plan our own development of thought and good results, relying entirely on our own strength.
In speaking in public, it is not feasible for us to find out why each person has come. We can plainly explain what lives in us. Our spiritual possessions inspire and strengthen us, so that we may pass on something of the Gupta Vidya to our audience, choosing the means that they can understand. We know that any ostentation or exaggeration may bring misunderstanding. Nothing needs more thought than the giving of spiritual values in public, for we do not know the great spiritual reflector opposite us and can only gage it summarily.
Why does someone attend a public Theosophical lecture? Some may have strayed in or someone brought them in against their will. Most came driven by an unsatisfied religious feeling, by the urge for comparative philosophical reflection, or by hope of making new scientific points of contact.
See how the three aspects of Theosophy -- Religion, Philosophy, and Science -- act as a guide. The times are past when people called philosophical reflections on religion a profanation. The times are past when science stood out against philosophy. The times are past when people considered it degrading for science to go hand in hand with religion. (Those times are AGAIN past, for these things do happen periodically throughout history.) Look at what prominent intellectual leaders have arrived at. Consider men such as Professor Planck, who openly concluded certain scientific studies of his with a philosophical verdict far exceeding the bounds of the religious!
Now we come to theosophical work with individuals. By being Theosophists ourselves and not only by speaking theosophical words, it is possible to impart imperceptibly more. Although the agitated state of the world causes our actions to be ahead of our most earnest wishes, yet have our inmost hearts spoken from the silence. This is possible, however difficult. Paradoxical, just as light can pierce darkness, so in our inmost hearts, silence can deafen the noise from outside. Realize this to be true Theosophists. Be true Theosophists and have the power to help others.
When speaking with the individual, it is possible to find the direct way to his heart. We MUST reach his heart, for only in the heart can the theosophical seeds germinate. Do we find the way by addressing his personal difficulties, emphasizing where he needs support? No. Find with him the signs of happiness, joy, and inborn interest. In these, he will find the gate to his inner being, giving access to Theosophy. If we address a man's weaknesses, we can only give superficial and temporary support.
Are there people who know neither happiness nor joy, with no innate interest? No! Everyone has a definite orientation, even if it does not always show. Such an inner joy may be of a religious, a philosophical, or a scientific nature.
In beginning the great work for the spiritual welfare of our fellow beings, no task is more gratifying than seeking the gate to their hearts. When we find this, it is but a question of time until we win their confidence and friendship.
Dwell a moment on those whose inmost happiness and joy, whose deepest interests, lie in the Bible. In the chapter "Christianity and the New Testament," published in A NEW MODEL OF THE UNIVERSE, Ouspensky says:
No religion is without revelation. In religion, always a certain element cannot be embraced by ordinary thought. For that reason, it is impossible to create an artificial synthetic religion. The result of those trials would not be a religion, but only a philosophy of minor rank.
When seeing people chained to the Bible, I often think of these words. So many people create a philosophy of false notions around the Bible! Some no longer find satisfaction in it. That does not mean they should abandon the Bible. They are looking for something more, yet understand that they keep their heads above water by the Bible. Repeatedly, I meet people desirous of learning more about Theosophy and yet put the anxious question, "Will you take the Bible from me?"
When I speak of the Bible, I mean the New Testament with Christ. Those who rely on Christ fear we will deprive them of that support. Convince them that we will deprive them of nothing. Convince them that we will help them open their eyes to see better the spiritual good they already possess and to open their hearts to the deeper significance of the doctrine of Christ.
How beautiful is it to confer such a benefit! It is like laying a sick child on a soft bed. With such people, the gate to the heart is through religion. Once found, it is not difficult to open. By slowly revealing the Gupta Vidya, as it lies hidden in the New Testament, we win their confidence. They then begin to understand how much more there is in their Bible. Then they will be open to the more direct Theosophical tenets.
Modern religious people, organized in a free-religious sense, accentuate ethics. We find ethics in both the New Testament, the Old Testament, and still earlier in the teachings of Buddha, Krishna, and others. The growing numbers of free-religious people shows an ever-greater realization of the Gupta Vidya. Hence, more approach us.
Besides differences of dogma, religious habit, and routine, there are slight ethical differences. To explain these, we must win the confidence of our audience.
The ethics that underlie religions offer much to study. Consider an example. One gets joy from doing a kind act. That joy is remuneration. Theosophically, we want act kindly without benefiting ourselves, hence without feeling joy at having acted. Thus, the action is impersonal and theosophical.
The true Theosophist will consider good action not as joy, but as duty, so he feels its omission as neglect. It is impossible to do anything else. This is not because he would then have opportunity to make good karma. Acting otherwise, he would prevent the wonderful flower of compassion in his innermost being.
The Roman Catholic Church symbolizes the idea. They consider it sinful to let an opportunity pass for being charitable. It is a pity that the pressure of fear supersedes deeper thought.
Dwell on the inner, more occult meaning of being good. In Lao-Tze, we read:
To him who is good, I am good. To him who is not good, I am good also. Virtue is good.
In harmony with the All-Will, we are naturally good. We forget that we are good. Having risen above the antithesis of good and bad, as above every other pair of opposites, virtuousness does not seem anything particular. A virtue that knows itself as virtue, which is limited by the bounds of evil, is no more the original, pure, free Virtue.
The fifth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, verses 43-48 is much to the same effect where it says:
Ye have heard that it hath been said. Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you ... Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
We read in THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE:
Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin.
Have we not a responsibility to become conscious of this deeper significance of virtue? Those who only do kind actions because exhorted to do so are but scouts on the path of life. By being entirely theosophical, we help fellow beings with whom we come into contact.
I still hear the words of the Leader, "Be good, Brothers!" These words ring like bells over the serene landscape of inner silence ... far, infinitely far away!
By Philip Harris
As a rule, I find little to cavil about in THEOSOPHY WORLD. However, I am moved to comment on Dr. Tillett's contribution about "Received Truth." At times, I notice Dr. Tillett making sweeping statements. I wonder at the logic behind them!
I can reasonably claim to be a member in good standing of the Adyar Theosophical Society since I am an honorary life member of the Australian Section and of the Perth Lodge. In addition, I am emeritus National Lecturer for the Theosophical Society. I have lectured for the Society in many countries.
It is a regrettable and very incorrect statement by Dr. Tillett when he writes that all the works of Charles Leadbeater are "received truth" in the Adyar Theosophical Society. For instance, so outraged by Leadbeater were many members of the Theosophical Society in the Australian Section that about half left the Society.
I recently wrote an article in which I discussed the problem of C.W. Leadbeater's "flights of fancy," pointing out that his statements about the inhabitants of Mars and Mercury were utter nonsense. I went on to say that we ought not to discard all his writings because of that. His book on THE CHAKRAS is a classic and the book by Besant and him on thoughtforms has been an inspiration to a generation of artists.
Apart from the book mentioned, there are three others by Besant that have stood the test of time and are considered by unprejudiced reviewers to be a valuable contribution to the literature of theosophy. They are THOUGHT POWER, A STUDY IN CONSCIOUSNESS, and THE ANCIENT WISDOM.
Whether one is a member of the Adyar Theosophical Society, the Pasadena Theosophical Society, or the United Lodge of Theosophists, it is surely reasonable to expect that all parties bring a measure of even-handedness to such a subject. To maintain the stance that there is nothing of merit in theosophical writings since the founders is much the same as saying that there has been no valid science since Newton!
Theosophy is a dynamic philosophy and our understanding of the Ancient Wisdom will metamorphose from generation to generation.
Is it not reasonable to expect the members of the Theosophical Movement to bring a measure of common sense to bear on the subject of Adyar statements and literature? There is a manifesto printed at the front of every issue of the magazine THE THEOSOPHIST, which emphasizes the total freedom of thought extended to all members. In fact, the Adyar Theosophical Society is placing diminishing emphasis on the works of both Besant and Leadbeater these days. But the baby has not been thrown out with the bathwater! The search for truth goes on.
By Gerald Schueler
Following are some key theosophical ideas. I would love to see articles on them. Perhaps I am just a dreamer. They are truer and more theosophic than the exoteric stuff the Theosophical Societies keep putting out. The public does not want to hear the exotericism the Movement has promoted throughout the last century. I am not surprised at the continuing drop in membership. Children and newbies may not always understand the key ideas that follow. Ever so, I would like to see them written on by fellow Theosophists.
1. Karma and reincarnation are conventional truths.
2. Karma is cause and effect, the law of causality. By the application of certain causes, one can bring about its transcendence.
3. Reincarnation has to do with the spirit's desire for self-expression. It has nothing to do with rewards and punishments.
4. Learning via reincarnation is about the discovery and actualization of our latent possibilities and the inner joy that such discovery engenders. The Third Objective is really all about this.
5. Compassion is an inherent characteristic of our inner spiritual nature. We encourage its expression in daily life so we can live in harmony with this nature. We do not encourage the expression of compassion for personal benefit now or in future lives.
6. Any thought or action that increases our sense of being a separate independent self is "bad." Any thought or action that decreases our sense of being a separate independent self is "good." This test should form the core of our personal ethics and morals.
7. Sleep and death are brothers. By consciously controlling dreams at night, we can consciously control our next rebirth.
8. After death, a Bodhisattva returns in a rebirth consciously and deliberately by choice. Others return in a rebirth that is unconscious and uncontrolled according to their karma.
9. It is possible to die and to enter rebirth while maintaining a continuity of consciousness. That is, one can be born with full memory of the past life. This ability is one of the karmic effects of practicing meditation.
10. Liberation from cyclic existence is possible without going into a retreat from daily life. In its truest sense, liberation is from the bonds of personal karma, not from life.
11. Cyclic existence through reincarnation and karma is all a natural result of grasping onto a belief in a self.
12. The Cycles of Necessity are the Rounds and Root Races of any Manvantara. As described by Blavatsky in THE SECRET DOCTRINE, they are based on averages and do not apply to individuals.
13. The Divine Monad has ultimate reality. It is our inner divinity, our inner spiritual monadic essence. It does not reincarnate nor participate in manifestation. It is perfect and non-dual and forever will be so.
14. The Divine Monad's expression, its monadic ray, has conventional reality. It enters into manifestation much like light leaving the sun in all directions transforms into an individualized sunbeam as it enters the atmosphere of Earth.
15. The Monadic Ray is inherently stainless and pure. It is like a mirror that dust has covered. The Path is one of removing that dust.
By Reginald W. Machell
[THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH was a magazine published by Katherine Tingley at Point Loma, California until 1929. On its cover was a reproduction of a painting by Reginald W. Machell (1854-1927), a resident student there at the International Theosophical Headquarters. Use the following link to view it. The image there comes from a scan of an issue of the magazine.
Theosophical University Press offers a 14" by 17" for sale. See the following link for more information.
The artist's description follows.]
THE PATH is the way by which the human soul must pass in its evolution to full spiritual self-consciousness. This work suggests the supreme condition by the great figure whose head in the upper triangle is lost in the glory of the Sun above, and whose feet are in the lower triangle in the waters of Space, symbolizing Spirit and Matter. His wings fill the middle region representing the motion or pulsation of cosmic life, while within the octagon are displayed the various planes of consciousness through which humanity must rise to attain to perfect Manhood.
At the top is a winged Isis -- the Mother or Oversoul -- whose wings veil the face of the Supreme from those below. There is a circle dimly seen of celestial figures who hail with joy the triumph of a new initiate, one who has reached to the heart of the Supreme. From that point, he looks back with compassion upon all who are still wandering below and turns to go down again to their help as a Savior of Men. Below him is the red ring of the guardians who strike down those who have not the 'password,' symbolized by the white flame floating over the head of the purified aspirant. Two children, representing purity, pass up unchallenged. In the center of the picture is a warrior who has slain the dragon of illusion, the dragon of the lower self, and is now prepared to cross the gulf by using the body of the dragon as his bridge (for we rise on steps made of conquered weaknesses, the slain dragon of the lower nature).
On one side two women climb, one helped by the other whose robe is white and whose flame burns bright as she helps her weaker sister. Near them a man climbs from the darkness; he has money-bags hung at his belt but no flame above his head, and already the spear of a guardian of the fire is poised above him ready to strike the unworthy in his hour of triumph. Not far off is a bard. A red cloud (passion) veils his flame. He lies prone, struck down by a guardian's spear. As he lies dying, a ray from the heart of the Supreme reaches him as a promise of future triumph in a later life.
On the other side is a student of magic, following the light from a crown (ambition) held aloft by a floating figure who has led him to the edge of the precipice over which there is no bridge for him. He holds his book of ritual and thinks the light of the dazzling crown comes from the Supreme, but the chasm awaits its victim. By his side his faithful follower falls unnoticed by him, but a ray from the heart of the Supreme falls upon her also, the reward of selfless devotion, even in a bad cause.
Lower still in the underworld, a child stands beneath the wings of the foster-mother (material Nature) and receives the equipment of the Knight, symbols of the powers of the Soul, the sword of power, the spear of will, the helmet of knowledge and the coat of mail, the links of which are made of past experiences.
An ancient book says, "The Path is one for all. The means to reach the goal must vary with the Pilgrims."
[In the back of an 1885 edition of THE LIGHT OF ASIA is the following poem, dated 1891. The inside cover indicates that the book belonged to Edward Addison Bulkeley, and the book is inscribed "Edith H. Hreher, Christmas 1886."]
"She is dead," they said to him. "Come away. Kiss her, and leave her. Thy love is clay!"
They smoothed her tresses of dark brown hair. On her forehead, of there they laid it fair. Over her eyes that gazed too much, They drew the lids with a gentle touch. With a tender touch, they closed up well The sweet thin lips that had secrets to tell. About her brows and beautiful face, They laid her veil and marriage lace. They drew on her white feet white silk shoes, Which were the whitest an eye could choose.
Over her bosom, they crossed her hands. "Come away," they said, "God understands." There was silence. There was nothing there But silence and scents of eglantere, And jasmine, roses, and rosemary. They said, "As a lady should lie, lies she." They held their breath until they left the room. With a shudder, to glance at its chilliness and gloom.
But he who loved her too well to dread The sweet, the stately, the beautiful dead. He lit his lamp and took the key and turned it -- Alone again -- he and she. He and she; but she would not speak Tho' he kissed in the old place -- the quiet cheek. He and she; yet she would not smile, Tho' he called her the names she loved 'ere while. He and she; still she did not move To any one passionate whisper of love.
Then he said, "Cold lips and breasts without breath, Is there no voice, no language of Death? Dumb to the ear, and still to the touch. But to heart and to soul, listen of whence? See now. I will listen with soul, not ear. What was the secret of dying, dear? Was it the infinite wonder of all that you ever could let life's flower fall! Or was it a greater marvel to feel the perfect calm o'er the agony deal. Was the miracle greater to find how deep Beyond all dreams sank downward that sleep? Did life with lack of record, dear. Shone as they say it does, past things clear. Was it the innermost heart of the bliss To find out so, what a wisdom love is!"
"O perfect dead! O dead most dear. I hold the breath of my soul to hear! I listen as deep as to horrible hell; As high as to heaven, and you do not tell. There must be pleasure in dying, sweet To make you so placid, from head to feet. I would like YOU, darling, if I were dead -- And were your hot tears on my brow shed. I would say, tho' the angel of death Had laid his sword on my lips to keep it unsaid. You should not ask vainly, with streaming eyes, Which of all deaths was the chief surprise? The very strangest, most sudden thing, Of all the surprises that dying must bring?"
Ah, foolish world. O most kind dead! Though he told me; who will believe it was said? Who will believe that he heard her say, With the sweet, soft voice, in the dear old way.
"The utmost wonder is this: I hear And see you, love you, and hold you dear. I am your angel, who was your bride. Know that though dead, I have never died."
By George William Russell
[From THE IRISH THEOSOPHIST, January 1896.]
Many voices entreat and warn those who would live the life of the Magi. It is well they should speak. They are voices of the wise. After having listened and pondered, oh, that someone would arise and shout into our souls how much more fatal it is to refrain. For we miss to hear the fairy tale of time, the aeonian chant radiant with light and color which the spirit prolongs.
The warnings are not for those who stay at home, but for those who adventure abroad. They constitute an invitation to enter the mysteries. We study and think these things were well in the happy prime and will be again in the years to come. Not yesterday or tomorrow -- today, today burns in the heart the fire that made mighty the heroes of old. In what future will be born the powers that are not quick in the present? It will never be a matter of greater ease to enter the path, though we may well have the stimulus of greater despair.
For this and that, there are times and seasons, but for the highest it is always the hour. The eternal beauty does not pale because its shadow trails over slime and corruption. It is always present beneath the faded mold whereon our lives are spent. Still the old mysterious glimmer from mountain and cave allures. The golden gleams divide and descend on us from the haunts of the Gods.
The dark age is our darkness and not the darkness of life. It is not well for us who in the beginning came forth with the wonder-light about us, that it should have turned in us to darkness, the song of life be dumb. We close our eyes from the many-colored mirage of day, and are alone soundless and sightless in the unillumined cell of the brain. There are thoughts that shine, impulses born of fire. Still there are moments when the prison-world reels away a distant shadow, and the inner chamber of clay fills full with fiery visions.
We choose from the traditions of the past some symbol of our greatness, and seem again the Titans or Morning Stars of the prime. In this self-conception lies the secret of life, the way of escape and return. We have imagined ourselves into forgetfulness, into darkness, into feebleness. From this strange and pitiful dream of life, oh, that we may awaken and know ourselves once again.
The student too often turns to books, to the words sent back to him, forgetful that the best of scriptures do no more than stand as symbols. We hear too much of study, as if the wisdom of life and ethics could be learned like a ritual, and of their application to this and that ephemeral pursuit.
From the Golden One, the child of the divine, comes a voice to its shadow. It is stranger to our world, aloof from our ambitions, with a destiny not here to be fulfilled. It says, "You are of dust while I am robed in opalescent airs. You dwell in houses of clay, I in a temple not made by hands. I will not go with thee, but thou must come with me." Not alone is the form of the divine aloof but the spirit behind the form.
It is called the Goal truly, but it has no ending. It is the Comforter, but it waves away our joys and hopes like the angel with the flaming sword. Though it is the Resting-place, it stirs to all heroic strife, to outgoing, to conquest. It is the Friend indeed, but it will not yield to our desires. Is it this strange, unfathomable self we think to know, and awaken to, by what is written, or by study of it as so many planes of consciousness.
In vain, we store the upper chambers of the mind with such quaint furniture of thought. No archangel makes his abode therein. They abide only in the shining. How different from academic psychology of the past, with its dry enumeration of faculties, reason, cognition, and so forth, is the burning thing we know. We revolted from that. We must take care lest we teach in another way a catalogue of things equally without life to us.
The plain truth is that after having learned what is taught about the hierarchies and various spheres, many of us are still in this world exactly where we were before. If we speak our laboriously acquired information, we are listened to in amazement. It sounds so learned, so intellectual, there must needs be applause.
By-and-by someone comes with quiet voice. Without pretence, he speaks of the "soul" and uses familiar words, and the listeners drink deep, and pay the applause of silence, long remembrance, and sustained after-endeavor.
Our failure lies in this: we would use the powers of soul and we have not yet become the soul. None but the wise one himself could bend the bow of Ulysses. We cannot communicate more of the true than we ourselves KNOW. It is better to have a little knowledge and know that little than to have only hearsay of myriads of Gods.
Lay down your books for a while, I say, and try the magic of thought. "What a man thinks: that he is. That is the old secret." I utter, I know, but a partial voice of the soul with many needs. I say, forget for a while that you are student. Forget your name and time. Think of yourself within as the Titan, the Demigod, the flaming hero with the form of beauty, the heart of love.
Forget the nomenclature of those divine spheres. Think rather of them as the places of a great childhood you now return to. These homes are no longer ours. In some moment of more complete imagination, the thought-born may go forth and look on the olden Beauty. It was so in the mysteries long ago. It may well be today.
The poor dead shadow was laid to sleep in forgotten darkness, as the fiery power, mounting from heart to head, went forth in radiance. Not then did it rest, nor ought we. The dim worlds dropped behind it. The lights of earth disappeared as it neared the heights of the Immortals. There was One seated on a throne, One dark and bright with ethereal glory. It arose in greeting. The radiant figure laid its head against the breast, which grew suddenly golden, and father and son vanished in that which has neither place nor name.
By Pete Stieler
[Following is part of a talk scheduled September 6, 2001 at Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan. It is part of a six-day series of programs put on by the Great Lakes Branch of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena). For more information, see:
It first appeared in pages 15-17 of the Summer 2001 KALI YUGA RAG.]
I think music in itself is healing. It is an explosive expression of humanity. It is something we are all touched by. No matter, what culture we are from, everyone loves music.
-- Billy Joel
Music! The very word inspires different thoughts to each individual, yet we all understand music and what it means to us. To some, it means little. To others, it means everything. We all understand something of it. It is everywhere, in every culture. It is so vast that many academics have earned their doctorate in it. Years of study devoted to the all-encompassing presence of music!
In this article, I can offer only random thoughts on music and it's relation to theosophy. I am not a professor of music nor am I an active musician, but I love music. Like everyone, I have favorite musicians and musical styles, though I like it all.
The new sound-sphere is global. It ripples at great speed across languages, ideologies, frontiers, and races. The economics of this musical Esperanto is staggering. Rock and pop breed concentric worlds of fashion, setting, and life-style. Popular music has brought with it sociologies of private and public manner, of group solidarity. The politics of Eden come loud.
-- Writer and Music Critic, George Steiner
Katherine Tingley knew this. As leader of the Theosophical Society from 1896 to 1929, she sought to bring "Truth, Light, and liberation to discouraged humanity." Beyond those noble goals was her passion to bring the arts, especially music, into the Theosophical Society. From the time Katherine Tingley was a little girl, she studied piano, voice, and harp. At that time, the students, starting with three-year-olds, with or without talent, learned to play an instrument, sang in the choir, took drawing and painting, and participated in drama.
Music was an essential part of Katherine Tingley's being. She knew it would shape lives in a positive way. She believed as do the Mahatmas that "Music is the most divine and spiritual of all arts." What makes music so spiritual? Perhaps it is because it expresses the nature of theosophy so well. Music is a microcosm of life. It is said "as above, so below." Such is music. From discordant cacophony to a simple nursery tune, there is infinite variation to music.
Music has been a creative force in my life. One commonality between my wife and I is that we like a lot of the same music. It is one of the most beautiful things we share. Perhaps you can cite examples of meeting like-minded folks at concert. People enjoying the same music create an unspoken bond. Think about it! How many couples consist of a "country music" lover and a "heavy metal" spouse?
Music is a catalyst for sharing. It draws people together, allowing them to hear the same thing. It is universal, like looking up at the stars and realizing that everyone sees the same stars. Even though we each perceive things our own way, music or stargazing makes us one. Such activities bring us closer to what we truly are, that unity. In a sense, they bring us closer to divinity, if we allow.
Music is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact, nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near to the infinite.
-- Thomas Carlyle
Theosophically, music also expresses itself in our "world of opposites" as one man's pleasure can be another's poison. On that note, with no pun intended, when asked if music could inspire violence, legendary Frank Zappa replied, "There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something, we would all love one another."
The recent advent of recording music onto tape and compact disc offers countless options to a musician. We can texture music, treating it with electronic modifiers such as phase shifters, distortion, and other special effects. Much as a canvas is to an artist, the recording medium creates a document of sorts. For about one hundred years now, these documents have helped shape the musical landscape throughout the world.
I find it fascinating that stereo has had a major role in the recording studio for the last 35 years. Stereo creates a sense of reality to the listener. A good recording can make one think there is an orchestra in their living room. The Beatles quickly capitalized upon this realism when they recorded their "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." They were not the first. There was a simultaneous burst of stereo recordings from all sorts of artists. Many musicians sought a more spiritual aspect of life, outwardly expressing that quest in their stereo recordings. Through this new and attractive medium, they brought to the masses meaningful dialogue and keen observations.
Some examples include The Moody Blues album, "In Search of the Lost Chord." Then there was the first album of John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, "The Inner Mounting Flame," especially "The Meeting of Spirits" (the first song on side one). There is not a word spoken or sung, just awesome musical expression!
Yes, music has as much of an infinite spectrum as anything we can conceive of. Yet, it is one thing, just one thing. The literal meaning of the word "universe" is one song -- "uni" for one and "verse" for song. Everything we hear and create comes from one thing. We just extract what is already there.
With music, three separate notes create a chord or a triad. Geometrically, three points create a plane. It is that third point that makes the difference. Again, we see the relationship: as above, so below. Like three legs of a chair, the chord becomes something stable and defined. This third note defines whether it is a major or a minor triad chord. This creates the basis for musical themes. We derive the word "chord" from "accord," to bring into agreement, to harmonize.
"Life's a Long Song"
-- Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull
How true! Om!
By Boris de Zirkoff
[From a tape recording entitled "What is Theosophy?" made of a private class held on April 27, 1955.]
In the study of Theosophy, we should not limit ourselves to a particular timeframe. Think in terms of thousands of years, but do not neglect the daily duties. Small things frustrate some people. Disliking the small, they always think in big terms. That is wrong too.
Routine duties are sometimes unpleasant. As a student of higher things, think in terms of centuries. Proclaim and practice those facts of being that you can apply everywhere, always. Do not allow yourself to live within a small, circumscribed horizon.
Practice both the abstract and the concrete. Hold the idea of climbing onto a mountaintop of thought, with a constantly expanding horizon. Also, give attention to the little things that surround us. We attend to them, because they are our duty. We must not neglect them.
We climb a mountain. Our horizon expands. We see more of life's purpose. We think grand, lofty thoughts. Our thoughts concern all mankind. They concern other spheres of being. They concern beings we are not in touch with, whom we feel exist and are part of the universal scheme too.
We contemplate within ourselves vast horizons of possible evolution. Unbeknownst to others, we acquire serenity and quietness for our minds. The influence of these lofty teachings is pacifying. We can import these higher vibratory rates into our here-and-now behavior. We can introduce them into our relations with others, without saying a word of the teachings.
We can carry a background of noble thinking as an undertone in our life. Our relation to others becomes different. They feel it. Often, they will ask you questions.
"Why do you behave the way you do?"
"What is it that makes you tick?"
"Why did you do it this way and not the other way?"
"Why did everyone but you get upset?"
"What is your philosophy?"
They question you. You can drop a seed of thought in their minds. You might open a door to the others thereby. They might enter. They might see there is a greater life than they had suspected.
The higher teachings are abstract and metaphysical. Even so, they have a direct, practical relation to everyday life. The abstract precepts pacify, harmonize, and strengthen our ethical standards. They build the moral stamina of seekers and students.
In the doctrine, there is no beginning or end. Some feel a need for a beginning for something eternal. Think this out. Theosophists do not recognize a beginning. Suppose that there were one. Would your mind be satisfied? It would not. You would think, "What was there before that beginning?" If there were something before it, the beginning is only relative. Now, there is something before it. Push this further back and say, "Now, this is the beginning." We ask exactly the same question. We can never be satisfied with an ultimate beginning.
Likewise, we can never satisfy the philosophical mind with an ultimate end. If one says, "This state, condition, or achievement of the race, planet, or solar system is the end. This is the jumping-off place. Beyond this, there is nothing." We know one thing beyond that point. There is nothing. We wonder, "What is nothing?" We are unsatisfied again.
At one end is a beginning. We ask what is before it. At the other end, there is a final achievement, beyond which people tell us there is nothing. We ask them to define that "nothing." The mind works that way. Why is this? The answer is not difficult. It is because intuitionally, the mind knows there is no ultimate beginning and no ultimate end.
As far back as we go, we discover previous links in the chain that brought into existence the current link. Go as far into the future as we can throw our percipient consciousness, even with a much higher mind than ours. We reach the ultimate point that our minds can conceive of. Beyond that, there is another ladder of life with more steps to climb. There is another horizon. The farther you climb, the more tremendous the horizon. The further it recedes, the more there is to it. There cannot be any end.
Granted that for some people the idea of infinity is appalling. This is not your case. There are people who know little of these things. Approach them with great caution. These ideas might give them such a tremendous vista that they might unhinge their minds. It might be too much for them.
It is possible to give someone physical indigestion by feeding them too much for dinner. Likewise, you can give intellectual and spiritual indigestion by opening doors to untrained people too quickly. Many cannot withstand the vibration. Their mental and nervous apparatus might crack. Be careful about passing along these ideas.
Some are appalled by the idea of infinity. Others find it an escape from a prison-house in which they thought they were enclosed. They thought there was an ultimate beginning. They did not know where it would end, but thought it must end somewhere. This idea offers them a final escape from that prison. They are satisfied knowing that evolution always existed, and forever is.
We can find a relative beginning to things. Obviously, you might say there was a beginning to Earth, and to the evolution upon it of the kingdoms of life. There was a beginning, just as we have a physical beginning at conception. They are relative beginnings. There were stages before them. There were planets before the Earth. We existed and evolved on other planets in cycles before our Earth began.
Conceive of beginnings and ends as relative links in an unending chain of causation. Then our philosophy acquires a great storehouse of hope. We end hopelessness. There is always a chance to do better.
How can we bring these teachings down to the ethical level? How do these teachings apply to the everyday life? In addition, how do more advanced beings bring the teachings down to us?
That is an excellent question. Great spiritual teachers have always existed. They are the most advanced members of the human family. They have run the race quicker, more successfully, because they have applied themselves more to it. They are the fine flower of the human race. As far as I know, although my knowledge is limited along various lines, the great teachers are constantly on the lookout for open minds. They are looking for channels through which they can pour the great ideas.
That work is like a spiritual and intellectual broadcasting station. It is not mechanical. It is like sounding a gong or bell. It is like broadcasting a frequency that carries on it a thought, a truth, a fact of nature, or a lofty precept of ethics.
Some of these advanced human beings cast these thoughts upon the waves of the astral light. They cast these thoughts upon the higher spiritual reaches of the astral world. The thoughts they transmit are old. They seem new, because we have forgotten them. It is their business to cast out these thoughts. They live in various parts of the world. For protection, they remain unrecognized and unknown.
In different parts of the world, receptive minds catch these ideas. They assimilate them. They modify the ideas according to their own character. Since the ideas are caught clearly enough, and modified but little, they remain close to their original form.
There is supporting evidence for this claim. Many scientific discoveries, and many other thoughts, have originated at the same time in different parts of the world. It is as if different individuals with the same frequency in their minds have caught the same idea. Many instances are startling.
In this manner, spiritual teachers use the most sensitive as channels for new thought. These sensitives can be transforming substations. They transform the current of that thought into another form. They might feel inspired to write a book with the fundamental idea running through it. They might start a society with this idea at its root. If it were scientific, they might begin a line of research that would bring it out as a discovery. On the strength of their inspiring idea, they might start a social or educational movement that will benefit others or bring some far-reaching reform.
Great, noble, and constructive ideas do not always come that way. There are also many noble ideas that come from the inner, spiritual self of every human being. The spiritual influence from our inner selves manifests through our minds as noble thoughts. These may be discoveries, inspiration, and urges to great, noble things. It happens if our minds are not too colored, biased, full of inhibitions, and full of superstitions. It happens if we have not filled our minds with incorrect education, with wrong thought forms. It happens if our minds are sufficiently transparent, clear, and pure.
The influence from our inner selves goes parallel with the one from the great spiritual teachers. The teachers cannot influence us until we have opened some pathway for our own inspiration within ourselves. Otherwise, we would not be responsive to their projected thought currents.
In this manner, we realize how powerful human thoughts are, particularly when projected by individuals of high spiritual attainment. You know about the thought transference experiments at Duke University by Professor Ryan. The evidence was conclusive. Even so, thought transference works in some cases and does not in others. It took years to establish positive evidence of it.
The teachers do not force ideas upon someone not wanting them. As the saying goes, they cast bread upon the waters and see who will respond.
The results of Professor Ryan's experiments were positive, but not convincing. Why is this? He conducted the experiments with ordinary people. From one angle, it was good. The trouble is that ordinary people do not know how to think. Professor Ryan tells someone to think about something, say a card in deck. We know how the person is going to think. Within a minute, he will have a million other tramping thoughts. He will have to bring his mind back forcefully.
If Professor Ryan had experimented with an Oriental Yogi, or an Occidental trained in certain Yogic thought practices, his experiments in thought transference would have invariably positive results. Like a bullet, a trained human thought goes to another at will. The thought registers according to certain laws, according to the will of the operator. Unfortunately, we do not have any Yogis willing to let Duke University experiment upon them!
The power of human thought depends upon the spiritual attainment of the individual. It depends upon the training of one's physical and nervous apparatus. There is confusion if that apparatus is untrained. That happens with ordinary emotional thinking.
If one has trained that apparatus, anything can happen. There can be directional thinking, which transcends any idea of telepathy an Occidental may have. There can ever be direct magic, direct magical production.
Form a picture of a rose that is perfect in every detail. We can do this with a trained mind. Then by will, aggregate substance from the astral world around that thought. If we did this, there would materialize on this table a perfect replica of a living rose. An advanced occultist has dynamically used thought, and this is the result. For most of us, that ability is far away.
There are many recorded instances of such phenomenal applications of spiritual powers. Such phenomena are not fundamentally different from things we do today in slower ways. Going to write a book, a man first has it in his mind. There is no physical book. He has a plan for in, some ideas. The future book goes through stages of materialization. The man works out some details in his mind, making a blueprint of the book. Then he takes pen and begins to write. There is no book yet. He writes a manuscript, but there is no book still. Workers bring material substances, printing the book. Ultimately, that book is the product of a thought. We materialized it, but in slower stages.
The advanced occultist can do things instantly. He is not going to write a book instantly, but the process is universal. It applies to various stages of development.
In a way, it is difficult to apply the theory of karma to daily life, to realize that everything is ultimately your own cause. H.P. Blavatsky makes an important point. Many writers address this point, although it comes primarily from her. We learn of the idea of karma, the idea of cause and effect. It is simple enough that an intelligent person may understand its elements. Ever so, the deeper reaches of that teaching, its implications, are metaphysical and abstract enough to tax the powers of the greatest minds. It implies so many things. It only looks simple.
The most significant part of karma is in the illusion we call time. As long as we do not understand time, and how to transcend it, and what it manifestations, we will not understand karma.
Here is an illustration. I say something that deeply hurts another. It was unintentional, resulting from my foolishness. I may have even laughed at the wound, taking it lightly. Someday, I will have to meet and straighten out what I did. I am morally responsible. That cause is like a seed. It will grow, sprouting someday. I will reap that harvest, having to harmonize and heal the wound. I do not know when it may come back.
Circumstances shape themselves so it happens in a year. It hits me right in the middle of the face. I have to deal with it. Then I know the full results. I must help straighten it out. In a similar another case, I feel the result in five years. Why five years later the second time?
The teaching in the Orient regarding karma is an ancient, theosophical idea. It holds that cause and effect are simultaneous. They are two sides of the coin. They coexist. When I do something, the effect is already present. It takes time to bring it into manifestation. That is a metaphysical idea.
The relation between cause and effect is inherent in the cause. The man who murdered someone today has engendered a cause that contains its effects. These effects may appear until another incarnation. He might escape scot-free. The law may never catch up. He might completely disappear out of sight and die a peaceful death. In another incarnation, these effects are going to meet him.
The time between cause and effect is inherent in the cause. What is time? The teachers have been reticent. They have not said much. They tell us that past, present, and future are illusions of our minds. When we transcend these illusions, we find there is only overall duration, which includes the three in one. Duration is a poor word, but the best we have. The metaphysical implications are deep. Think over and ponder them.
Has time its own particles, or is it a constant flow? Do time particles make up time as material particles make up matter? If it is made of particles, what is between them? Is there timelessness between the particles of time?
In one sense, time is a psychological concept that has no reality in nature. People have written books about it. One is THE BOOK OF DUNNE, a wonderful book written about 15 years ago. Stop to think. Realize there are many types of time. For instance, the time of our daily life is entirely different from the time we experience in dreams.
Even in daily life, time varies. One time can go fast. Another time can drag. We compare the two using a third time that is neither fast nor slow. We have three conceptions of time in our ordinary consciousness. A fourth is the time in dreams, quite different from the rest.
In THE SECRET DOCTRINE, H.P. Blavatsky says that time is a succession of states of consciousness. Therefore, we can transcend time.
There is ordinarily time between cause and effect. We cannot disassociate the subject from time.
If we transcend the idea of past, present, and future, we find the ultimate reasons to things, the actual workings of cause and effect. The initiates see things as they actually are, behind the veil of the senses. They know these things. They can no more communicate them to us than we can fly.
Through stages of training, we become ready to receive new installments of these truths little by little. Otherwise, the truths mean nothing to us. If you brought someone off the street, he might think we are a bit touched in discussing these things! It would mean nothing to him. We cannot blame him. The vibratory rates of his consciousness exclude this type of thinking.
It is a matter of vibratory rates. Electronics can greatly help us in illustrating the theosophical teachings. We can illustrate theosophical principles in terms of vibratory rates, which on the physical plane have given rise to the science of electronics.
Einstein embodies theosophical ideas in science, like in his Theory of Relativity and his work with light, mass, and the speed of light. Some seventy years ago when Einstein was just a kid, the early Theosophists found it difficult to present the idea of the unity of matter and energy. They found it hard to present the interchangeability of matter and energy, and to present the relativity of everything in the universe. Scientists and religionists would not see that early theosophical thought. Only a few mystics of the day saw it.
Einstein came with a whole generation of scientists following his example. They developed mathematically the ideas that Theosophists have tried to explain along metaphysical and philosophical lines.
Einstein is a great ally. By gosh, he took up an ancient thought and made it into a scientific pillar! That is why today's science is an ally of the genuine occultist. The religionist of today is not. In years, perhaps pulpits in the country might teach reincarnation. Who can tell? Then we will have allies in that field too. We can wait. Time, the great illusion, is on our side!
Can a man, through evolution, transcend karma? The answer to that deep question is both yes and no. When we learn all there is to know in a stage of development, we transcend the karma of that stage. By wisdom, which is the application of spiritual knowledge, we learn everything to know in a certain state of consciousness, in a certain sphere in which we evolve. We have become experts. We have mastered all there is to know there. We have transcended all its intricate cause and effect relations. Therefore, we have transcended the karma of that sphere.
I said yes and no. By the no, I meant we have ascended to a higher level or state of consciousness where we are beginners. In that higher sphere, we are under the sway of its karmic operations. We eventually transcend them too. Then we enter the karmic sway of something still higher. We never escape karma.
By knowledge, we can fathom the intricacies of karma to such an extent that we are above it. Consider an ordinary school. When we have learned everything that grade school can teach, we move into the next school. We have transcended the previous karmic chain of causation. We have nothing else to learn from it. We are now under the sway of another set of conditions.
Life is a school of experience with innumerable grades. The great teachers, adepts, initiates, or masters of life are in the highest school of our sphere, the university grade. When they graduate, they will be beginners in a greater sphere of life, a greater school of living. Eventually, we will reach where they are.
Things happen to us because of our past thought, feeling, and action. Some things come back through other people. We might imagine them acting upon us. The energy is essentially ours, perhaps from a distant past coming back through particular people acting as channels.
Remember this. Then we can take philosophically the things that happen to us, both pleasant and unpleasant. The unpleasant will throw us down less. The pleasant will elate us less. They are part of own karmic pattern working itself out.
In closing, go back where we started. Dwell on high, lofty, and universal truths. Our times demand it of us. Enough people deal with details, the routine, and the insignificant. We have too much of the small scale of thinking in our lives. Not enough people think great, magnanimous thoughts.
Practice great thoughts when possible. Think in terms of the whole world, of the whole universe. Think in terms of the whole of mankind. Embrace all, without distinction. There are many distinctions. Class warfare is an everyday thing. Few take all men into their consciousness, into their affection and hearts, irrespective of racial differences, political views, and personal weaknesses.
Before we can have a new age, One World, we must build a different thought climate. Thousands are doing it, even though unthanked and unrecognized. Build a new thought pattern that includes everyone.
Why do this? All have a spark of the universal divine life. We are brothers under the skin. This is not merely somebody's theory. In reality, we are rays from the same sun. We are sparks from the same fire. It is impossible to separate us because nature is intimately interwoven. Nature is a mosaic, a carpet woven out of an infinite number of threads, in which everything is interconnected.
The life of brotherhood is not a mere fraternal idea. See how nice we can be to one another. That is not merely philosophy. Why should we be our brothers' keepers? Everybody is an extension of us. We are an extension of them. We may differ greatly physically and psychologically. Fundamentally, along spiritual lines, we are rays from the same spiritual sun. We are atoms in a great cosmic entity. To us, it is infinite. We can hardly give it a name. We are atoms within its constitution, whether we want it or not. It is but an atom in the constitution of a still greater being, just as there are million of atomic lives in our body, to whom we are infinity.
Think these thoughts. They are chastening. We will eventually realize them, making them real in our lives. They will change our relations with others.
We will eventually enter into higher conditions of consciousness, where we might learn firsthand the functioning of nature, where we might experimentally learn how its laws operate. In the meantime, by thinking loftily, we become constructive building blocks in a world that needs every spiritual help that it can. We become broadcasting stations of grand ideas, helping now when the clash between the forces of light and the forces of darkness is great.
Remember that these forces clash within us. We cannot single out any country, state, or locale that is without its representatives of the forces of light and the forces of darkness. They have intensified their age-long struggle in our century. The struggle is between the forces of spirituality, towards the sun, and the forces of the opposition, towards matter. These former are the forces that lead us along the path to our ultimate parent, we might say, which is really the sun, of which we are but a feeble reflection.