Prayer with us Theosophists is aspiration; it is a constant raising of ourselves from day to day, trying each day to go a little higher towards the god within. This means inner harmony which means peace. Therefore, having harmony and peace within you, in your mind, in your heart, that state of mind and heart will reflect itself in your physical body, and your body will function harmoniously, which means in health.
-- G. de Purucker, QUESTIONS WE ALL ASK, IV, 78
By Eldon B. Tucker
The simplest way to think of a power is the ability to make something happen in the world. We have the power to bring a smile to a friend's face, to write a piece of music, to build a house for people to live in. Anything that we can do that change things in the world is a power. Until our intentions find a way of concrete expression and are lived out in life, we are powerless, either due to lack of skill in manifesting ourselves in the world or due to our own chosen inactivity.
Doing things in an extraordinary way doesn't give them special value. Getting a pen from our desk is still getting a pen, whether we walk over to the desk and get it or use a paranormal ability to make the pen float through the air to us. Either way gets it done. The floating pen trick may impress people, but that's only important if we're seeking ego gratification. Getting the pen is what's important, not how it's done.
Expressing ourselves uniquely to make the work a better, bigger, brighter, and more beautiful place is what's important, and for that, special abilities aren't needed. We get good at anything that we try, with continued practice, even if it may take lifetimes to achieve expert status. Although we can talk about different ways that our abilities can be latent, not yet realized in life, there's only one way that the abilities are put to use and we grow. That's in doing things, in finding what we get and give the most joy in doing, and just being active.
We hear that inactivity in a good deed is a deadly sin. We have many good deeds (creative activities) that we could be doing. There's no need to wish or wait for special abilities. We should just do what we love and our skills will grow over time to match our accomplishments.
When I hear the word "gifts," it makes me think of the Christian God creating a multitude of beings. "I think," he'd say, "I'll make this one blind and crippled." Then he pauses. "And I'll make her brilliant and a healer of souls." With this, a "gift" is whatever arbitrary attributes one is created with, having done nothing oneself deserve the pain nor merit the benefits bestowed upon one.
With the idea of reincarnation and karma, that each of us is self-made, there are no gifts. We grow and progress by doing things, learning, growing, becoming more skilled at bringing out things in the world. As we do so, over many lifetimes, we acquire advanced skills. The skills aren't "given" us. We've acquired them through a long learning process, where we learn BY DOING. No one taps us on the shoulder, whispers a secret password in our ears, and suddenly we've got magical, occult powers.
If we're not fully using what we have, how can we possibly grow to be capable of doing more? The important thing here is in the DOING, not in the exotic nature of how we do things. Healing the troubled heart of a friend takes a few kind words. We don't, for instance, need to astrally travel to someone's house, wave our hands before their unseeing eyes, and picture some energy flow.
The fondness for special abilities, like comic book superheroes have, comes from the idea that "if only I had this, then I could ..." These IF ONLY'S are really an excuse to put off putting forth the energy to go out into the world, be creative, and starting doing things with the resources we have right now.
Granted, there are people with extraordinary abilities. But abilities are tools, and without a creative and compassionate mind and heart, they're wasted.
Someone could be a great writer, struggling with pencil and pad of paper. Not having a $400 net book or $4000 high-end laptop didn't stop him or her from greatness. Another person could have the "special ability" that the best laptop could provide, and yet write worthless verbiage.
People may sometimes waste time, hoping or striving for special abilities with the thought that if only they could do such-and-such a wonderful thing, they'd help the world greatly, and incidentally amaze people, be taken seriously, and be highly popular.
Doing the best with what we have, we'll find that we become more skillful, our worth to the world grows, and inner and outer changes will happen in due course. The motivation is that we do what we love, or follow our bliss, as Joseph Campbell might say.
Whatever abilities we have are meant to be used, to be tools to draw upon. The abilities don't define us. We are defined by what we do. Our abilities grow with use and shrink if not used. Whenever we act, we help co-create the world and define ourselves at the same time. Our lack of abilities is not so much because we've failed to cultivate them as it is because we're not actually doing anything that would justify them being needed in our lives.
Being able to make a brick rise off the floor and float in front of us, we might impress others and they might be inclined to accept what we tell them. They might assume that if we showed such an extraordinary ability, we must know what's going on. But I don't think so. Writing a great piece of music far exceeds lifting the brick; it manifests a far deeper part of ourselves. But what if our pet dog could make the brick float? Would we ask it for psychological counseling or help with our taxes? No. The ability doesn't confer intelligence, knowledge, experience, or creativity; it's just elemental energy.
I would say that seeking abilities is getting things backwards. If we become active in doing our special contribution to the world, appropriate abilities will arise naturally. And they come because we're not seeking them, but rather because life needs us and lets us be the best that we can be.
As Blavatsky said,
The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 17
The world is not waiting for any of us to say a few magic words or learn some occult trick and then do wonders. It needs our higher awareness that is only realized in self-forgetful actions bettering the lives of all about us. A mother could make breakfast for her children with such loving kindness that the world is more greatly enriched than when a preacher heals a cripple on national television to the jaw-dropping amazement of his million viewer fan club.
Looking about us, there is a whole spectrum of neediness in those behind and of greatness in those beyond. We learn and benefit from more spiritually advanced people and teach and aid those we can help. Our worthiness comes from using what we currently have. Our abilities aren't gifts because no one has given them to us. They are skills that arise naturally based upon what we do.
Some skills may be on tap and only need awakening, because they've been acquired in past lifetimes. Others aren't developed yet, and require much learning and experience to flower in us. A skill with mathematics may be remembered and reacquired in our childhood. Or we may not have it and always find it a struggle. But no one, no external person or being, no matter how advanced, can give us an ability we don't already have.
We function at our highest when we give ourselves to doing things we totally love, things than are creative, giving, sharing, things that brighten the world. Our sense of "I" disappears and there's only the joy of bringing something wondrous into the world. There's not a feeling of a puny ego or self supplicating and a bigger ego or greater being. There is no "I" and "thou," nor even an "I", just love, beauty, and the joy of giving birth to new things in life.
By Boris de Zirkoff
[From THEOSOPHIA, Spring 1978, page 4.]
Why do students of Theosophy oppose psychic practices?
Because they undermine both intellect and spirituality, and strengthen the personal qualities of man to the disadvantage of his Spirit.
What are some of the psychic practices you are opposed to?
Divination, psychic readings, psychometry, any trance condition, certain methods of meditation leading to mediumship, alleged "recall" of former incarnations, lower aspects of Yoga, claims of astral clairvoyance, drug-addiction, etc.
But surely some of these have a modicum of truth in them and can be of benefit to some people?
Everything has a modicum of truth in it, but that truth can be uncovered and understood only against the background of a careful study of the intellectual and spiritual facts of Nature outlined in the Esoteric Philosophy. Without these facts in mind, and without the philosophical understanding of them, psychic practices cannot possibly be of any benefit.
You emphasize therefore the need of a thorough development of the intellect?
We certainly do not, unless supported by the development of spirituality. Intellect without spirituality is the direct road to materialism, crass selfishness and other evils of the personality.
And what do you mean by spirituality?
Primarily the ethical nature of man, the powers and forces inherent in his Higher Self, such as kindness, justice, self-control, self-forgetfulness, patience, equanimity, forgiveness of wrong, non-retaliation, impersonal love, sympathy, compassion, and other spiritual qualities which are today largely overlooked and practiced by a very small number of people.
What do you consider to be the chief results of the indiscriminate usage of psychic practices?
Intellectual confusion, loss of spirituality, weakening of the spiritual will, and the eventual debilitating of the moral or ethical qualities; also the strengthening of the personality as a result of the inordinate love for wonder and phenomenalism.
But is not the psychic part of the human organism an important part of every man? It cannot be obliterated?
It is just as important as any other part of his sevenfold constitution, and no one intends to obliterate it. It must be understood in the light of the higher teachings of Theosophy and brought under the control of his spiritual will. Its powers and forces, when raised to the spiritual level, can be of immense benefit in his evolution. Then they become a team of horses, as it were, under the powerful and intelligent guidance of the driver -- the Higher Self in man.
By E.A. Neresheimer
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, November 1924, pages 443-49.]
A body must necessarily have a form, and form must contain a limited amount of matter, centered and held together within a certain shape by consciousness of some kind, expressing itself in physical or other mode of manifestation. It may be assumed that for the formation of every object, many forces have converged, drawing together numerous and divers grades of matter into its mold, in order to comply with the specific need for which that object was called into being. The simplest shapes, such as the spherical or geometrically crystalline even suggest that an active intelligent law is at work selecting and governing the assemblage of particles, for the purpose of fashioning them into an infinitude of forms.
The intelligent Energy which causes all this is said to be the Universal Mind, whether the object be a simple mineral organization, or that of a plant, animal, man, or god, as the case may be. We may therefore justifiably ask, how does so complex a thing as the human body, with its manifold combinations of forces and substances, come into being, and furthermore who and what is he who we call the Real Man?
If we look at ourselves in a mirror we see, reflected back from it, the visible image of a living entity. Our attention is arrested not only by the definite outlines of shape, but by the intelligence and other characteristics expressed, and sometimes we wonder what its meaning and purpose may be. We perceive that there is not only one, but two, -- the one looking at the image, and the one that is being looked at. Both are perfect duplicates of each other in appearance, to be sure, and this gives us a hint as to what the ancient sages must have meant when they asserted that there are in reality more than one duplicate of man within himself, though not visible to the physical eye.
The teachings further tell us that there is also a PRESENCE -- he who comprehends them all; in whose sight the visible one is but the last outermost garment or shell, formed after a particular model that is but just one grade finer in structure than the physical. All the remaining duplicates of the body are said to be types of still finer and finer structure, until we reach the ARCHETYPAL ONE -- the PRESENCE. And mark ye, THOU ART THAT!
This LUMINOUS ONE is never to be perceived. IT is the source and essence of all the other invisible duplicates within the physical body of man, and all are but as graduated shadows and illusions to IT. This HIGHEST ONE is not a Being; not the manifesting Ego, not the Logos; IT is the SUPREME SELF that "IS and WAS and SHALL BE" -- "whether there is a Universe or not, whether there are gods or none," of whom a spiritually evolved oriental neophyte would say with assurance, "It is myself," -- "I am Brahman."
Brahman is the Law itself, the Self-existent, the Unfathomable Principle, from which emanates, at the opening of every periodical Grand Life-Cycle -- since beginningless time, -- the Divine Essence called the MONAD, the Eternal Kosmic Pilgrim.
The Monad may be conceived of as the combined equivalent of the Logoic Intelligence, Spirit, and Matter, the Eternal Trinity in One: coming forth from out of the bosom of the unmanifested Principle, for the purpose of enacting one of such periodical World-Dramas as our present Grand Life-Cycle. It -- the Monad -- descends into 'Existence,' and from its combined powers are reproduced all subsequent modifications of Life, Intelligence, and Matter, throughout the vast Universe. Every creature and thing, therefore, partakes of the Monadic Essence, commensurate with the respective degree of its development.
There are certain associations of 'form and consciousness' which, as types, are eternal, into which the different grades of evolving matter enter. These types are called the Kingdoms of Nature; the Elemental, Mineral, Vegetable, Animal, and Human. During the first part of the evolutionary program, which requires enormous periods of time, only the lower kingdoms are developed, and each of these kingdoms has a certain group-consciousness of its own.
Some time towards the end of the first half of the Cycle, a great change takes place in certain UNITS of the Animal Kingdom, which have reached the most advanced development possible in that stage; i.e., a division or rather differentiation of their consciousness occurs, which separates the units from the former group-consciousness of the animal kingdom. As a matter of fact, they become relatively independent and individualized entities. The rational faculty of each unit becomes detached from its group, instead of being, so to speak, submerged into the ONE consciousness with its contemporary fellow-units of the kingdom to which it belongs. In other words, at that epoch of separation, the Sparks from the Flame take the first steps in creating a career of their own, and entering the human kingdom, become the potential 'Man,' -- a more or less self-conscious being.
It is by reason of the presence of the Divine Monadic Spark still being so deeply immersed in material environments that the average man of today, looking at himself in a mirror, sees therein but the grossest outer covering or sheath of the Monadic Spark, i.e., its changing vehicle, its body of living flesh.
We can justly affirm that man is the most advanced and complex form of being on earth that the enfolding Monad could produce, up to the present time. In him have converged, and are now represented, all the divine and material forces that operate in Nature's workshop, centralized in his being, in order that he may successfully proceed upon his pilgrimage through the worlds of evolutionary progression upon the upward path. Since his complete segregation from the former group-consciousness, of the lower kingdoms of Nature, he has acquired the faculty of mind, by reason of which he stands at the summit of physically organized beings. Moreover, this new endowment of mind also made him the superior over certain nature-forces, diverse cosmic sub-intelligences, and semi-spiritual entities that have not as yet had the privilege of experience in the human kingdom.
However, it should be remembered that the bulk of the humanity of our Solar System is at present still in the early stages of the ascending arc of the evolutionary scheme, and consequently quite ignorant of the nature and extent of its latent potential divine powers. It is in enacting the second, the ascending part in the Great Cosmic Drama, that 'Man' is destined to play his most important role, namely that of a helper of all the kingdoms below him, and as liberator of his own kind. Besides this he has the privilege of acquiring progressive knowledge, and consequent discrimination, which enable him to fulfill his destined mission, both with respect to himself and to all other beings, which are rooted in the same Deific Source wherein he "lives, and moves, and has his being."
As a consequence of its prolonged association, through long ages of evolution, with the lower kingdoms of Nature, collective humanity is naturally very much encumbered with the results of those grosser material associations. At the same time it is necessarily also greatly attracted by the sensations of the new life of its independent entitative being, in fact so much so that it has practically lost sight of the greater values gained throughout preceding ages.
The average man of our day hardly ever stops to consider how strenuous the efforts must have been that he has made in the past in order to enable him to acquire all the synthetic use of many of the faculties, and the organs which he now enjoys. Let us take, for instance, the elaborate interaction that prevails among the countless lives within the human body; what a harmonious, reciprocal exchange there is between the various centers, organs, muscles, nerves, and senses that we make use of in every act and motion. Where did it all come from? How did these become so automatic in their functions?
In the absence of a conscious appreciation of this great asset, do we not miss a very powerful incentive towards building up more responsive instruments for the expression of finer and greater faculties that are almost within our reach? The brain-mind, or the ordinary centers of consciousness through which we usually function, are certainly much too gross for the expression of the greater potentialities and possibilities of the real Higher Self in us. Nor would they suffice for the realization of the future exalted goal in store for humankind. To ascertain this with any degree of success, we certainly will be constrained to acquaint ourselves somewhat definitely with our higher faculties and the vehicles of our Inner Self, and its province.
The Theosophic teachings give us in this respect firstly the assurance that we actually have acquired an enormous store of knowledge during the aeons of time spent in the womb of Mother Nature, and, secondly, that the result of these achievements is the indispensable stepping-stones to the threshold of our inner sanctuary.
Let no one imagine that all our present automatic functions of mind and body are, or can be, anything else but well-earned resources gained by past efforts. Indeed, we have been building to a great purpose, as we can observe by what is going on not only in the human kingdom but in other kingdoms as well.
We have been shown in the Theosophical teachings how the Monadic Energy first descended lower and lower in the realms of Matter, until it became immersed in what we know as the mineral kingdom. From obvious facts surely easily to be observed, we can make some simple deductions as to how experience is gained by the Monadic Consciousness in that form of existence, and how this broadens and expands by its subsequent passage through the vegetable and animal kingdoms as it rises step by step to nascent self-consciousness in the human kingdom. And now individual man, after having evolved a highly complex physical vehicle, and added unto himself the contemplative faculty of Mind, is, at last, truly in the enviable position where he may realize the actual fruition of all his former travail and the limitless possibilities of his divine nature.
Having gained relative power over the lower kingdoms, and being now closely intertwined with every grade of matter and force, as well as with all manner of contemporary creatures and fellow-beings, man is approaching the step when introspection becomes an inevitable necessity of circumstances. At this point it seems no longer strange that we should ask ourselves who we are, what we are here for, whither we are going.
These questions well up in our hearts and minds as does the surging ocean before the wind, and though their solution may still seem to be far away in a nebulous horizon, they rise again and again in the foreground of our consciousness until answered and solved. This does not mean that a full explanation of these questions, if given, could at once be understood, but their purport will ever continue to goad us on, until we are each able to find our own answer for ourselves; one which will not be that of any other.
Serious and diligent search in Theosophic teachings will disclose to us the truth of our Divine Origin and the fundamental fact of Universal Coherence, which binds men and all beings and things together in one indissoluble Unity of spiritual being. This, above all, is the very first lesson we have to learn.
An earnest inquirer will soon realize that explanations of these grand questions can only be milestones or keynotes, and that for a beginner without preparation, a real and final solution would be incomprehensible and thus of but little avail.
However, one certain encouraging assurance can be given to everyone who is ardently seeking for knowledge, namely, that Divine Wisdom has existed since time immemorial, and does exist, though it cannot be attained immediately, and just for the asking. It will be for those who are prepared to enter upon 'the Path' of serious inquiry and endeavor.
This age-old wisdom rests upon ascertained facts, proved and checked up by untold generations of seers, sages, and wise Initiates, who declare that there is positive, persistent, and gradual progress ever proceeding in the silence of Nature. And so in 'Man' also. It is Divinity behind Nature that controls and disposes of her resources throughout the immensity of the Cosmos, and Divinity also makes of man's estate the field wherein It may find its opportunity and resort for the actual conscious realization of all that was, is, and shall be. In him, individual man -- indeed in each one who dares to hew out the truth for himself -- shall Divinity be revealed and Existence glorified.
The rounding out of PERFECTED MAN alone, is said to be the real purpose of the coming forth of Deity; its descent into the arena of Manifestation and the bondage of Matter. It, however, ever remains the guiding principle that supervises the unfoldment of the Cosmic Drama. An unbroken concatenation of causes and effects runs through, and links together, all lines of evolution with every phase of conditioned life in the great as in the small. Its scheme of organization is so marvelous that the most insignificant thing on earth has its proper place, function, and possibility of infinite expansion and unfoldment; be it 'Man,' a Solar System, or the highest Cosmic Intelligences.
Those who have gone before us on the eternal path, have left us records for the benefit of those who are prepared to enter the Path in their wake, in the spirit of humility and service. A continuous line of intelligent guidance is provided for in the great economy of the Universe, to assist at every step the upcoming entities, and aspirants, and reveal to them the wisdom and true significance of 'Compassion Absolute' -- the Law of Laws, the Light of everlasting Harmony, the 'fitness of all things,' upon which the Universe and man are built. Everything must go forward; nothing can stand still.
The power of observation is within reach of every individual of ordinary intelligence, whereby he may see the true analogies that subsist between the great and the small within whose compass Nature carries on her plan, design, and purpose. There is not the least friction or encroachment anywhere along the line; everything is continuous and certain.
Its object is accomplished in cyclic waves of ups and downs, affecting alike the stellar universe, the affairs of races, nations, communities, men, creatures, and things. Through these rises and falls, man has reached his present state of being, advancing from step to step through the lower stages of evolution. What valid reason then could there be to prevent him from ascending farther, in due order, to the utmost heights in the future, in the successive turns of the wheel, to the very end?
Now that Humanity has long since passed the half-way point of the Great Cycle of Evolution, and already enjoys the fruits of the bygone mutations of his long and apparently involuntary journey through the lower strata of Nature, the questions concerning man's own identity, purpose, and destiny become more and more urgent. Man must know where he stands in relation to the rest of the world, and what the meaning is of the great pressure that spurs him persistently on. Ever since the beginning of the present Grand Life-Cycle all things, beings, men, worlds, and universes have been irresistibly carried forward, each in its respective way towards a certain goal; and in due order of this progress every advanced being and individual furnishes, so to say, a prototype for the grades below it.
All things and beings have but one Supreme Source of Being, -- the Divine Monad, whose purity is inherent and unchangeable. The Monad does not acquire merit by its descent into Matter. Its 'toil' is simply the accomplishment of the purpose of the Eternal Law in action, within which everything is swept along concurrently with the evolving Cosmos itself, according to the original plan set by the Universal Mind for this particular cycle.
What then shall we infer from these teachings as to "Who am I?" The answer is clear, simple, and unequivocal. I am the 'Spark,' temporarily differentiated from the 'Flame,' the Divine Monad. I am the sum of all experience gained in the past; firstly within the group-consciousness of the UNDIFFERENTIATED Monadic Energy, through the lower stages of evolution; and, secondly, as an individual unit-entity. Having now reached my present estate, I am the sum of the experiences gained by myself in the past, epitomized in the synthetic knowledge acquired from it.
The latter is the 'metaphysical point,' so to say, where I stand in relation to everything else in the Universe. From now forward I am prepared, and therefore propose, to hew out my own line of progress by self-devised efforts, in obedience to the One Universal Plan and Law, which I know is unlimited and immutable. And, having attained my present status, in part from Nature's bounty and care, and partly from and through my own independent efforts, -- though still on one of the lowest rungs of the ladder that mounts to true spiritual being -- yet I feel that I am well enough equipped to embark unafraid, and with enthusiastic zeal, upon the 'Path' that leads to the final goal.
Well am I aware that progress lies along certain well-defined lines, within the limits of the Law. There is no other course. The Monad is the embodiment of the Law. As a Spark of the Divine Monadic Flame, I am a part of the Law itself. IDENTIFICATION with this Law is the destiny of the Spark; the goal however distant shall finally be won!
By Erica L. Georgiades
and written August 9, 2009.]
Daughters of Zeus, dire-sounding and divine, Renowne'd Pierian, sweetly speaking Nine; To those whose breasts your sacred furies fire Much-formed, the objects of supreme desire: Sources of blameless virtue to mankind, Who form to excellence the youthful mind; Who nurse the soul, and give her to descry The paths of right with Reason's steady eye. Commanding queens who lead to sacred light The intellect refined from Error's night; And to mankind each holy rite disclose, For mystic knowledge from your nature flows.
-- Orphic Hymn to the Muses
There are many limitations, but the most severe one is a mind filled with dogmas, for they are just a subterfuge used by those who are unable to investigate and penetrate into the infinite OCEAN of life. As the mind begins investigating, without any expectation to reach a certain result, the mind begins to penetrate into the mysteries of life, which are endless as the drops of the ocean. Such investigation is like an endless journey that begins from within, and only those who are able to give up every attachment to any kind of idea rooted in the mind, will be those who will be able to begin such journey.
From this point of view, every preconceived idea is an obstacle to unveil the real meaning of things. The very process of investigation requires a humble attitude, keeping in mind that in reality we know nothing, as wisely Socrates said:
The only thing I know, is that I know nothing.
And exactly because of his humbleness and open minded spirit, he was considered by the oracle, the wisest of the wisest.
Communication through words and writings are always limited as it is always filtered by one's own experiences and psychological perceptions. What might be truth to one, maybe not truth to another, the level of perception and understanding each one of us have differs, as differs our life experiences. Therefore it is always necessary to question one's ideas and beliefs and try to develop an open mind, such a mind will be able to penetrate deeper into the nature of things.
To penetrate deeper into the nature of things is the work of the occultist, and the mind is the primary tool in this process. No rituals, no faith no beliefs will ever be able to awake in the aspirant his superior inner abilities and the latent potentials endless as the cycles of life itself. In this context in the Theosophical Glossary there is a very suitable definition for the study of occultism:
The study of genuine occultism signifies penetrating deep into the CAUSAL mysteries of universal being.
All the legends mythologies and the most elevate philosophical and religious teachings are basically expressed through symbolism, such a symbolism can be through images, hieroglyphs or enigmatic language. When one begins to investigate it (with an open mind), the mind begins to enter the realms of abstract.
All the symbolism depictured in mythologies, religious and philosophical writings are but prototypes of eternal truths that the aspirant must realize from within. In other words, the very first initiation into the mysteries is to develop a certain state of mind which is able to investigate without attachment or dependence. This is the very first step into the path of occultism, which for some may be surprising difficult even to comprehend, as the attachments to external things and beliefs is a condition of human nature which is natural in the process of evolution. But as the mind begins expanding and the process of inner maturity taking place, a different level of consciousness takes place, and it is this very level of consciousness, which enables one to investigate the nature of things, that the aspirant must develop in order to progress on his inner journey.
The symbolism of the Muses and their meaning is related to a state of mind able to penetrate the nature of things, as they seem to be prototypes of a superior and pure state of mind, a must for one to progress into path occultism. They are related to inner potentials which are revealed as the aspirant progress towards the awakening of higher levels of consciousness.
Plato while constructing philosophical etymologies for the names of the gods, refers to the words Music and Muse as apparently derived from the word "mosthai" (Plato, CRATYLUS 406a), which means, to search, to investigate. In ancient Greece philosophers were many times calling philosophy as Music, while Diodorus Siculus says the word "mousai" is derived from the word "muein," which signifies the teaching of those things which are noble and expedient and are not known by the uneducated.(Diodorus Siculus, LIBRARY OF HISTORY 4.7.1) The most accepted etymology of the word "muse" is that most probably is derived from the Hindu-European root, MEN, and it is the word from which mind and mental are also derived, the words museum, music amuse are all derived from the word Muse.
The relation of the Muses to mind and its different levels of expansion towards higher levels of consciousness will become clear as we as we advance in the investigation related to their symbolism.
The Library of Alexandria and all its scholars were created around a Museum. The Museum was the shrine of the Muses, and a place for study, which would also contain gardens areas for lectures and the Library itself.
As one of the major intellectual centers of antiquity was build around the temple of the Muses or Museum, one may conclude that the Muses were just related to gnosis, but in fact they were not only related to gnosis, which could be acquired through study, but to wisdom and inspiration or through the inspiring wisdom expressed by someone who have crossed the limits of the understandable mind and entered the lands of eternal ideas, from where the prototypes of all that exists will exist and existed can be accessed. "The Mousai who make a man very wise, marvelous in utterance." (Homerica, FRAGMENTS OF UNKNOWS POSITION FRAGMENT 5)
The real inspiration comes from the Muses, the inspiration that gives the guiding light for those who truly are investigating the mysteries of life and death, the mysteries of existence itself. Such minds eventually became the Great Minds, the ones that are immortalized by its deeds between the mortals, those that inspire generations and generations, and became immortalized, because their genuine and unselfish efforts created a chain of inspiration. Such chain is mentioned by Plato as he refers to the Muses in his dialogues,
In like manner the Muse first of all inspires; and from these inspired persons a chain of inspiration to other persons is created. You Praise Homer not by Art but by Divine Inspiration.
Divine inspiration is how I can define the role of the Muses in the Hellenic Mystery Tradition, a Divine inspiration which were enabling one to access eternal truths. Such experience takes place only within minds that are able to learn, for only such minds are able to be really being inspired, and not those minds who believe that already have learned or already know and consequently remain imprisoned into the chains of ignorance. GNOSIS is an everlasting process which leads the mind through a process of expansion, breaking every barrier created in the world of form penetrating the formless realm, from which Divine inspiration may flow as fountains of wisdom softly running over the rocks of the material word. It is a kind of Divine Madness as Socrates mentioned.
Divine Madness is the sort of insanity that is a gift from the Muses, and gives poetry, mysticism, love and philosophy itself. It is also called many times as intuition however Socrates' characterization of the phenomenon as "daemonic" suggests that its origin is divine, mysterious, and independent of one's own thoughts.
Independent of one's own thoughts, because only the ability to transcend the limitations of the egoistic mind, of the mind centered in the EGO, that will lead one into this "Divine Madness" mentioned by Socrates, which we insist to regard here as Divine Inspiration. Socrates mentions that:
The divine madness was subdivided into four kinds, prophetic, initiatory, poetic, erotic, having four gods presiding over them; the first was the inspiration of Apollon, the second that of Dionysos, the third that of the Mousai, the fourth that of Aphrodite and Eros.
-- Plato, PHAEDRUS
The Muses do not have only a category for themselves, but are also dedicated to Apollo, and close related to all other deities mentioned by Socrates. Such gives to them a relevant role, both in the prophetic, in the initiatory, in the poetical and erotic, as we will see with more details as we examine the symbols related to the Muses, their offspring and powers.
Plato give us a picture of what in some sort, we could also described as this Divine Madness:
There is, O lawgiver, an ancient saying -- constantly repeated by ourselves and endorsed by everyone else -- that whenever a poet is seated on the Mousai's tripod, he is not in his senses, but resembles a fountain, which gives free course to the upward rush of water and, since his art consists in imitation, he is compelled often to contradict himself, when he creates characters of contradictory moods; and he knows not which of these contradictory utterances is true.
-- Plato, LAWS 719c
When Plato mentions, "and he knows not which of these contradictory utterances is true," he refers to the knowledge that is limited to the LOWER-SELF, as the mind when centered in the personal self, is not able, to discern between the real and the unreal. Many times, such a mind indeed is subject of inspiration, as Socrates also mentioned in his APOLOGY, but that does not means the inspired person, has or had really a comprehension of what is the real meaning of the uttered inspired words or writings.
Exoterically the Muses became known as inspirers of artists and arts, but what is in reality the artist and art? Quoting Shakespeare, will shed some light upon the previous question: "All the word is a stage and we are the actors." If we do picture the word as Shakespeare did, a great stage, and we the actors, so yes the Muses are related only to Art. For art is all that most noble lies within the human mind, so yes we are wandering artists in the stage of life, trying to find our universal source of inspiration.
Countless paths of ambrosial verses lie open for him who obtains gifts from the Mousai Pierides and whose songs are clothed with honor by the violet-eyed maidens, the garland-bearing Kharites. Weave, then, in lovely blessed Athens a new fabric, renowned Kean fantasy:
You must travel by the finest road, since you have obtained from Kalliope a superlative prize.
-- Bacchylides, FRAGMENT 19
By Pedro Oliveira
From 1875 to 1896, the Objects of the Theosophical Society were progressively modified in order to embody, in their wording, the organization's essential purpose and aim. The fact that they have remained unchanged for over one hundred years, in spite of the fact that several attempts to change them were made over the years, is clear evidence of their enduring significance. They clearly represent what the Society stands for, the nature of its work, the Society's relevance to the progress of humanity and to the inner transformation of the human being. They can therefore be seen as visible expressions of that Divine Wisdom which the Society seeks both to embody and to serve.
The first Object is "to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour." A few people haven taken exception to the word "brotherhood" and therefore refused to have anything to do with the Theosophical Society while accusing it of sexism. But a close examination of the wording of our first Object clearly indicates its all-inclusiveness, for it embraces the whole of humanity without any distinctions. It is evident that only a mind without barriers such as prejudice, bias, self-importance and pride, can really contribute to form such a nucleus for, as N. Sri Ram wrote, brotherhood is the only right relationship. Every relationship that is not based on this all-inclusive, selfless, and universal understanding sooner or later is beset with problems because the personal element in the human mind has at its core the inbuilt notion of its separateness from all others as well as from reality itself. Because this notion contradicts the underlying oneness of all life it generates suffering, both for the individual concerned as well as for others.
The conditions prevalent in the world today amply demonstrate not only the relevance of the Society's first Object but also its urgency. There is unprecedented insecurity in the world which has fuelled an atmosphere of war. Ethnicity and religion are being used as shameful excuses for hegemonic politics and domination. We have created one of the most bizarre paradoxes in history: the information technology revolution has brought us closer like never before, yet we remain bitterly divided and clinging to our own self-interest, whether it is at individual or at the collective level. Very sophisticated knowledge coexists with an appalling fragmentation, sometimes fostering it.
It is therefore important to understand that universal brotherhood without distinctions is not another ideology to counteract other ideologies. It involves a process of real and irreversible transformation of the human mind, referred to in some religious traditions as love and in others as compassion. The first step is the acceptance of the other as he or she is, and for that we need to learn to go deep within our consciousness, to reach a deeper dimension in ourselves where harmony and peace reign. Universal Brotherhood was referred to, in the early years of the Theosophical Society, as "the only secure foundation for universal morality," probably because when brotherhood is a reality in our lives, we perceive each person's intrinsic dignity, and respect and honour it. Just think for a moment how different this world would be if at least for a nucleus of people this perception became a reality!
The second Object of the Theosophical Society is "to encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science." Religion, philosophy, and science can be seen as different approaches to Truth. They may have distinct perspectives on the universe, the human being and the Divine Ground, but all of them are concerned with Truth, with a search for meaning, with what Paul Tillich called "ultimate concern." They all enquire, along different lines, about the nature of reality and each of them throws light on certain aspects of the universal Truth or Existence. The Sanskrit word SAT, commonly translated as "truth," also means "boundless existence." Truth, in this sense, is not a mental construct or a notion, but the ultimate Reality. Religion, philosophy, and science are perhaps age-old attempts to probe the apparently fathomless mystery of existence.
By engaging in such a study, the human mind acquires breadth of vision and perspective, becomes free from parochialism, and renders itself more receptive to the extraordinary significance inherent in life. As C. Jinarajadasa put it, "even a wayside flower throbs with the message of the cosmos." The great religious teachers, philosophers, and scientists were deeply aware of this profound dimension of life, and therefore their teaching upholds the unity of humanity, the sanctity of nature, and the splendour of the universe. Among the many qualities present in their sublime minds, one stands out, namely tolerance, the respect for differences, and the total absence of any desire to persuade others to their viewpoint. In the words of Madame Blavatsky, they all searched for Truth "freely and fearlessly."
Today, while science has experienced stupendous progress in many areas, its supposed "ethical neutrality" continues to pose many challenges to the world community, like the issues involved in cloning technology and genetic engineering, to mention only a few. In spite of the efforts of scientists like David Bohm, Rupert Sheldrake, and Fred Hoyle, among others, the mechanistic fortress of modern science remains intact after many centuries, reality is still seen as a collection of separated things, and consciousness, referred to as the "hard problem," as just the by-product of the brain's chemistry!
If science has progressed, religion has apparently walked backwards, with fundamentalism being the rising force in many religious denominations, even in India, the land of the Buddha, Sri Krishna, and Sri Sankaracharya. In the west, many traditional church buildings have been sold, and the congregations have either dwindled or disappeared, and many, many people felt betrayed by their religion. This does not mean that the essential religious teaching of many traditions, which points to the eternal Truth, has been invalidated. The fact is that the religious system has eroded and lacks vitality and spiritual acumen, which only independently-minded individuals can have. In view of all this, the motto of the Theosophical Society continues to be profoundly relevant: "There is no religion higher than Truth."
The third Object of the Theosophical Society is "to investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man." Many find this Object difficult to understand. How do we investigate the unexplained? It has been said that our third Object involves the exploration of what is hidden or occult. It has nothing to do with "occult arts" though, but with what in India is called GUPTA-VIDYA, "hidden wisdom." "Hidden" here does not mean mysterious but simply that which is beyond the confines of the ordinary, superficial mind. For such a mind, only what can be seen is real. Therefore, it only sees appearances, never the essence, the heart of existence, the Ground of Being.
For such an investigation, a new faculty has to be awakened in the human consciousness, that of spiritual intuition. The word "intuition" comes from the Latin verb TUERIS, "to look." So intuition is to look within, to discover a deeper dimension in consciousness, and therefore to learn to look at life with new eyes. The wisdom tradition affirms that when such an awakening takes place, it affords an insight into the uncreated essence of Nature and the human being, both being indissolubly one.
Intuition has been referred to as spiritual perception, a capacity to see the essence, the core, the kernel of things, which goes much beyond appearances and sensory-induced cognition. Such a perception penetrates the world of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, values which are beyond time but which are essential if humanity is to survive the present onslaught of violence, greed, and ignorance.
By understanding the hidden laws of Nature, we are able to cooperate with her in her benign designs, thus furthering the unfolding of her uncreated riches in every living creature. For Nature is indeed the Divine Mother, and all creatures "live, move and have their being" in her. All the ancient cultures that revered Nature manifested enormous creativity, a deep sense of peace and cooperation, as well as a life-altering awareness of beauty. Our present-day humanity has lost its link with Mother Nature, but it can be restored through reverence and study of her open book.
Self-culture is essential. If we live only at the surface of our being, we are allowing, in the words of THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, the senses to make a playground of our minds. The latent powers mentioned in the third Object are those faculties that, once awakened, can help us to see life much more deeply. They do not necessarily refer to psychic abilities, like clairvoyance or telekinesis, because these abilities, when developed, do not automatically change the deep-seated self-centred patterns which have governed the human mind for millennia. Newspapers all over the world are full of ads of "clairvoyants" offering people solution to all their problems!
Perhaps one of the powers alluded to in our third Object is the power of listening. We react to everything we see, hear, and read according to our own opinions and partial knowledge. Real listening can be transforming for those who are truly hearers, AKOUSTIKOI as Pythagoras called them, who are those that have established in their lives a non-reactive space of observation and clarity. Those who truly listen understand, radiate peace, are free from self-interest, and therefore their actions are benign, for they become embodiments of goodness.
After 126 years, our three Objects remain extraordinarily relevant and throw light on many serious issues today, like war, violence, religious fundamentalism, environmental desecration, injustice and cruelty, alienation and lack of meaning in life, and many others. Perhaps the reason they remain valid is because they continue to address very profound needs in the human being: to relate to others meaningfully and lovingly, to explore the ultimate meaning of existence, and to discover who we really are. The Theosophical Society could not possibly have had a better beacon for its work.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, September 1924, pages 259-61.]
The sacrifice of children has always been one of the tragedies of life; and we can look back on our own childhood and that of others whom we have known for illustrations of the effect of rough contacts upon innocence, and of the lack of knowledge and real sympathy on the part of those in charge. The child is a living expression of purity and innocence, accompanied with the qualities of strength and intuition which arise from that purity. Reverence and protection are both at the same time due to it. In many respects it can be our teacher, calling us to order and setting a standard for us to live up to; and yet at the same time it demands our unremitting care.
How often do the most 'loving' parents tarnish that innocence by sowing seeds of vanity and encouraging faults of temper because they look so innocent and engaging at that early stage? Lack of understanding and true sympathy soon shows the child that his parents are the very last people to go to with his real problems; and he is left to his own resources, while at the same time those real resources which he possesses in his soul have not been shown to him by his supposed guardians.
Saving the children means more than saving infants; it means saving everything that is pure, whether in the child or the man. And the child in us is continually being sacrificed, however old we may be.
In Lomaland we have the example of children actually being protected and guided, so that there purity can be preserved; and though many of them may go out into the world, yet one knows the immense influence of those early years. And, since life does not end with the grave, the seed sown will produce new harvests for all time. The school at Lomaland is an undying center, through which flows a continual stream; so that the effect on the world is incalculably great for good.
To sigh over the past or fix one's eyes on a remote and speculative future is to waste forces that are intended to be used in the immediate present. That immediate present is the field wherein the powers of evil act. It is the field wherein we must meet and conquer them. If those who yearn for purity and harmony could realize how much can be done by working hopefully in the immediate present, instead of wasting energy in vain regrets and impossible dreams, they would soon find confidence replacing their dissatisfaction.
And this is true of the work for children; it is a practical enterprise, carried out in a spirit of trust, with the faith that what is done faithfully now will inevitably yield its due result in the future.
Most people realize the importance of beginning with the children. But there is more in it than appears at first sight. The work reacts most beneficially on those engaged in it. For what is the ideal we set before ourselves, if not one of purification? It is not so much that we have to learn as to unlearn: we need to simplify rather than to accumulate. Since our own childhood, our simplicity has become overlaid with accumulations of ideas that prove of no use and only stand in our way.
Children grow up with various defects of character and constitution; and nobody sees how to remedy these; while often the remedies suggested are worse than the disease. But the real key to the problem is simple enough; it is, not to let the evils grow at all. Then we shall not need to look about for remedies. It is often supposed that an undue preponderance of the carnal passions is a sign of luxuriant strength, whereas it is really a sign of weakness. A nature strong at the center and harmoniously poised in all its parts would not be pulled out of balance by forces at the periphery. The passions of lust and anger grow strong from small beginnings; and these small beginnings are the first little yieldings which are not checked when they are small. How small a force is needed to keep the sapling straight; and how impossible it is to straighten the grown tree!
Theosophy gives the parent and teacher a superior power to which to appeal in training the young nature straight. The appeal is not to mere authority, or to self-interest, or to fear of public opinion, or to some vague dogma. The appeal is to the child's own higher nature; for back of all the undertakings of Theosophy lies its teachings. Theosophy teaches the essential worth and strength of human nature. But this does not mean that we must put our trust in our own particular private personality; for to do so leads inevitably to undoing. It means that we must find within ourselves ideals and aspirations that go beyond personal desires and prejudices; that we must get down to the root of our nature, and discover there the reality that lies beyond the delusions of our mind.
For Theosophy teaches that man IS a Soul. If we say that man HAS a soul, we imply that he IS something less. The doctrine of original sin, teaching that all men are corrupt, and must perish unless saved by a special intercession, cannot be considered a part of true religion, and is hard to reconcile with modern views in other respects. What was the standing of mankind during the ages before the Christian era, or what is their condition in places where the knowledge of Christianity has never penetrated? It is impossible not to believe that these people are as much under the care of the All-Wise and All-Good as are those who have heard of the Christian doctrine. The Divine Spirit dwells in all men, and has the power to save from destruction all those who invoke it. How important then that children should be brought up from the first in this knowledge, instead of being told nothing at all about themselves!
The Divine in man speaks to him in many voices, but always in the form of high aspirations and ideals, whether of beauty, or goodness, or truth; but in the midst of our materialistic civilization, such aspirations are sporadic and scattered, dying out from want of union and collaboration. Moreover they are not in accord with the materialistic philosophy of life, and thus lack support. Again, the physique of mankind in the present age is seldom qualified to support the efforts of genius; so that geniuses are apt to be top-heavy and lopsided, as though they could only achieve their deeds at the expense of suffering; or as though their moments of inspiration must always be evanescent and followed by reaction. Hence the importance of cultivating a strong and well-balanced physique.
The number and variety of EXPERIMENTS that are being tried in education prove the doubt and ignorance that must exist, not merely as to methods, but even as to principles. In many cases those in charge seem to have lost AUTHORITY, and hence to be trying a policy of letting the child decide. There is confusion about that word 'authority.' It does not necessarily imply dictatorial power. When there is a street accident, and a policeman comes up and orders everybody about, taking entire charge of the whole affair and reducing chaos to order, it is not by his despotic power that he achieves this result. It is because he carries out the will of the crowd, and represents UNITY, which is what the crowd lacks. Thus a teacher or guardian should be a leader, standing for unity of will and for order, and imposing a law which all recognize and consent to.
Discipline is indispensable, and is of course desired by the pupil when it is of the right kind. Many of these experiments in leaving the pupil to his own devices are really attempts to make the best of a loss of the power of discipline. The aim of the teacher should be to impart to his pupil the power of self-discipline; and the process is analogous to that of teaching a baby to walk. If left to his own devices, the baby would probably become a sort of quadruped; he needs support and leading-strings at first; but he does not stay in leading-strings all his life. Freedom is given as soon as there is sufficient self-control to render it safe.
By Dara Eklund
[From THEOSOPHIA, Spring 1978, pages 15-16.]
We arrive at an inner poise as if it were a moment when all influences are naturally stabilized, when events seem to be self-regulated, not cascaded upon us in torrential streams. Inner poise means alignment or linear discipline. While a war is waging between various aspects of our natures, alignment cannot be achieved. If anxiety to solve a problem acts upon divergent and conflicting thoughts, that is not alignment. Alignment will come when we allow these cross currents to draw through some focal point. Call it inner space, a vortex, or a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum and something must come to fill it.
Alignment has in the psychic or mental worlds the feature of calmness. "Calmness allows the spirit to be heard," wrote William Q. Judge. True guidance flows in a direct line of unfoldment from the Higher Self. The will must be exerted to keep that line open, to command the restless energies of mind and feeling to keep at bay. It must clear the path as a wind sweeps down through a forest from the mountain top. Great ideas such as the concept of Reincarnation could clear the forest for man to become clear of many things. He can release his attachment, and concerns for passing objects, events and even persons, when he perceives the clock of Karma revolving through his life. Its hands permit the cyclical vistas and changes, and a chance to establish harmony within the whirl of existence.
What man has not pleaded with his Higher Self, "Why can't you be with me all the time?" Aspiration for our better wisdom brings us a certain enlightenment, but unless a constant modification or inner discipline balances our response to Karmic influx, we are drowned in the event itself, be it a mood or an outer circumstance. If we ourselves become brittle and crystalized we can't expect the process of change to be lighthearted and quick. It may take an earthquake figuratively to make a line open to the Self within.
"He who does not practice reflection, has no calm," teaches the Bhagavad-Gita. Here lies the main argument for meditation which may be found today. There are schools, outlines, compendiums, textbooks, even correspondence courses on "Meditation." There are promises of what it can bring to all walks of life. Yet we are still admonished in our teachings to learn first to Concentrate. Without concentration there is no disciplined alignment to the inner man. Because our age is not rich in the art of concentration, much of what is known today as meditation is a jellyfish type of passivity, effusing a lovely aura of every range of emotion, from the lowest passions to the higher forms of love and devotion. Depending upon the person meditating, the hunger for these practices is at its best a form of devotion. But a man who is truly devoted finds knowledge springing up spontaneously in the course of time, according to the Bhagavad-Gita, or the "Book of Devotion." Daily aspiration to begin each day and make it better. Nightly reflection to probe wherein we succeeded or fell short of our aim. These will draw to us the resources of our guideline within.
A friend was recently offered a first lesson in Meditation for "free." The next doses would be "three dollars each ... since we assure you our teacher is not out for money." The friend says she does not feel that the words to be repeated are natural for her. They interfere with her own thoughts. Such a person is already in a current of her Inner Godhood. Why should she pay three dollars to anyone for a course or schedule to her thought patterns?
If our "linear discipline" is correct, our daily life is the fruit of our musings, reflections, meditations. These are all varying vibratory rates of the dweller on this planet, the depth of whose experiences we barely plumb as earthlings turning on the wheel of life.
"Forces of thought constantly circulate around us, constantly transform us, while we, in turn, constantly create currents of thought. The individual as a creator of thought is an active thought in the universal ocean of currents of thought," wrote Edmund Szekely (The Living Buddha, p. 19.). This eminent scholar shows that the "Wheel of Life" of Tibetan Buddhism provides the solution to suffering, because the path out of Samsara (or that which consists of things which appear and disappear) is the central point of the wheel around which all things revolve. It is characteristic of all the "wheels" discovered in India and Tibet that the symbols of suffering appear on the circumference or the spokes of the wheel. The noble eightfold path along the spokes of the wheel leads a man away from the blind forces of tanha (thirst) which hold him to the outer rim of phenomena and suffering.
By our contentment with a simple life, by relinquishing our ambitions, we become capable of the most lofty Duty: meeting all that is our own through our daily associations with family, friends and teachers. We light the lamp of service and keep alive thereby the flame of truth, towards that day when Devotion to Truth alone will be the common discipline of Mankind.
By John Algeo
[This was originally a talk given at a meeting of the Madras Theosophical Federation on January 5, 2008, and otherwise unpublished.]
I thank Bro. C.V.K. Maithreya for inviting me to talk at this meeting and for suggesting the topic.
Theosophists have traditionally communicated Theosophy by means typical of the nineteenth century: lectures, books of exposition, and journal articles. But there are other means, some originating near the turn of the twenty-first century (such as the Internet and PowerPoint computer programs) and others going back to the dawn of time. One of those latter ancient means is through the telling of stories that illustrate a point, for instance, the parables of Jesus, the jataka tales of Buddhism, the epics of Hinduism (the Mahabharata and Ramayana), and the myths of the Greeks and of all peoples around the globe. My subject this evening is yet another one of those typical story-telling genres that can be used to express Theosophy. But to begin with a brief definition of the terms in my title "Contemporary Classics and Theosophical Thought."
"Theosophical Thought" needs no special definition. Everyone here knows what that term refers to.
The nicely alliterative "Contemporary Classics," however requires some explanation. I am going to use the term "Contemporary" in a broad sense to refer to anything in or since the twentieth century. As we are now well into the twenty-first century, that may be straining the usual sense of the term "contemporary," but I am by profession a historian of language, for whom "Modern" is anything after the year 1400, so I think of the past hundred or so years as all contemporary. To compensate for using "Contemporary" in a broad sense, I will use "Classics" in a narrow one. One definition of "classics" is that they are works "of enduring excellence." But I am going to narrow down the sort of works considered here to a particular, special kind, namely, those traditionally called "fairy stories."
The term "fairy story" is applied mainly to older works, not contemporary ones, which are usually called "fantasies" instead. But fantasies and fairy stories are terms for the same thing, differing only in chronology. The term "fairy story" is actually misleading. J.R.R. Tolkien, a contemporary authority on fairy stories, points out that such stories may (indeed usually) have no fairies in them. They are so called because they are about the Land of Faerie, which is a beautiful, enticing, enchanted, but also dangerous country in which a human hero is on a quest, assisted by a guide, and from which the hero returns as a changed person.
Mme. Blavatsky was fond of such stories, especially of the more macabre or horrifying sort. As a girl, she told stories like that to her playmates and, as an adult, she wrote some. In ISIS UNVEILED (2:406), she notes that fairy stories are universal, and she says that they have been interpreted in three quite different ways. First, some people, children and the young in heart, have taken them just as entertaining stories. Second, other people have misinterpreted them as literal and made religions out of them; fairy-tail motifs can be found in the scriptures of every religion. Third, a few wise persons have recognized fairy stories for what they really are, namely, symbolical representations of the inner experience any human being can, and many of us do actually, have. Each of us is the human hero pursuing a quest when we enter our own inner consciousness, which is our Land of Faerie. And we each have a guide who can show us the way through that land and how to return from it as a changed person.
To illustrate this genre of classics for analysis with respect to Theosophical thought, I have chosen six contemporary fairy stories or fantasies:
THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900) MARY POPPINS (1934) THE LORD OF THE RINGS (1954) THE WIZARD OF EARTHSEA (1968) THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE (1995) HARRY POTTER (1997)
Most of these fantasies are multivolume works (the dates above are of the publication of the first volume of each work). Because of their length, it is impossible to discuss them fully. Instead, for each of six, I will make some general comments, then point out why it is a fairy story or fantasy, and finally choose one episode or theme in the work as illustrative of Theosophical thought.
THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was first published in 1900 but is best known through the Judy Garland movie of 1939. Many sequels to the work were published and new ones are still appearing. It is probably the best known of all contemporary fairy stories. Its author, Frank L. Baum, was a member of the Theosophical Society, as were also his wife and his mother-in-law. He also wrote explicitly about Theosophy and the Society in a newspaper he edited. In the story, the hero is a young girl named Dorothy (a name that means "Gift of God") who is carried by a tornado or cyclone from her home in Kansas to a land of Faerie called Oz far out in the Pacific Ocean. She wants only one thing, namely, to get back home to Kansas. That is her quest: to return home. But that is also the quest of each of us. We are Dorothy; we have been transported from our homes, that is, union with the divine, into this mayavic world. We live in Oz. And our quest also is to return home to the divine source of all life.
The Wizard whom Dorothy meets in that land is a fraud. And we make a fraud out of any guru to whom we attribute supernatural wisdom and whom we expect to solve all our problems for us. Dorothy does have a guide, however, the good witch Glinda (whose name suggests "glint of light" and who represents our intuition). She reveals that Dorothy can go home whenever she wants to do so by using the magic slippers she is wearing. We each wear a pair of slippers that can return us to our home. They enable us to tread the Path of service, which is the way home.
MARY POPPINS was first published in 1934. It is also known through the Walt Disney movie of 1964 or the more recent musical play of 2004. The book's author, Pamela Travers, was a disciple of the Irish Theosophist, poet, and artist George William Russell, whose pen name was AE. She was also a follower of William Butler Yeats (another student of Madame Blavatsky's and was associated with Georgei Gurdjieff, the Russian mystic. Her creation Mary Poppins drops out of the sky to teach her charges about the mystical unity of existence and the topsy-turvydom of everyday life. The Theosophical themes in the books include the Great Chain of Being (which links all of us in the vast unity of life of HPB's first fundamental proposition) and the Cosmic Dance (which is a symbol of the orderliness of the universe in HPB's second fundamental proposition).
Mary Poppins takes her charges on adventures in three elements, which correspond with the three planes of personal existence. One is a birthday party at the zoo among the animals, that is, on land or earth, representing the physical plane. Another is a garden party under the sea or in water, representing the emotional plane. And the third is a circus in the sky or the air, representing the mental plane.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien was first published in 1954. Three films based on it date from 2001, 2002, and 2003. Tolkien, an Oxford philologist and expert in the ancient languages of northern Europe, was also the last century's most influential authority on the nature of fairy stories. Robert Ellwood, an academic authority on religion, has published the best book tracing the Theosophical implications of Tolkien's work: FRODO'S QUEST: LIVING THE MYTH IN "THE LORD OF THE RINGS" (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2002). In it, he shows that Tolkien's book is both a modern example of the classic fairy story and an example of the journey in Joseph Campbell's HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. Ellwood's book also points to ways in which Tolkien's work presents a map of the spiritual adventure that anyone can follow.
THE WIZARD OF EARTHSEA by Ursula Kroeber Le Guin, first published in 1968, is one of the best of modern fantasies. Its author was the daughter of two American anthropologists. Her fiction consequently has a strong anthropological basis, as she imagines worlds different from ours and then asks how their differences would change human behavior. Le Guin was also much influenced by Taoism, the concepts of which enter into her fiction. For example, in EARTHSEA, she cites an aphorism from an ancient book of that land: "To light a candle is to cast a shadow." That is not only an echo of the yin-yang principle of Chinese philosophy, but is a metaphor for HPB's explanation of the existence of what we call evil: each of the two implies the other.
THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE, by Steven Pressfield, was first published in 1995. A movie was released in 2000, starring Will Smith and Matt Damon. The book is a retelling of the Bhagavad Gita, substituting a golf tourney for the battle at Kurukshetra. The names are clearly allusions to the Gita. Rannulph Junuh is a golfer who has lost his swing. "R. Junuh" (as he is called) is Arjuna, the hero of the Gita who has lost the will to fulfill his duties. Bagger Vance, a black caddy who helps R. Junuh find his swing, is Krishna, also known as Bhagavan ("the Lord" whence Bhagavad Gita "the Lord's Song"), who helps Arjuna recover his will to act. The Gita is one of the world's greatest spiritual guidebooks, translated brilliantly into English by Annie Besant.
HARRY POTTER, by J.K. Rowling (volume 1) was first published in 1997. The first movie was released in 2001. The seven-book series is now clearly the best known and most loved modern fantasy. The third volume in the series, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (1999), has an unmistakable allusion to Blavatsky in chapter 4. When Harry is buying books for his third-year course in Divination at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he says: "I need UNFOGGING THE FUTURE, by Cassandra Vablatsky." "Vablatsky" is an obvious spoonerism on "Blavatsky," and even "Cassandra" is relevant, for that was the name of a Trojan prophetess who always spoke the truth but was never believed. Even the title of the Vablatsky book may echo that of Blavatsky's first book: ISIS UNVEILED. The Theosophical relevance of the HARRY POTTER books is being explored in a series of articles on the series by Prof. Abditus Questor in the e-zine Theosophy Forward (http://www.theosophyforward.com/).
The question may arise of why we should bother about fairy stories -- ancient or contemporary? Why not just set Theosophy forth straightforwardly and literally in factual expositions through lectures, articles, and books?
In reply to that reasonable question, first, Theosophy is more than a set of intellectual concepts about the world and ourselves that can be stated straightforwardly and literally. It is that, but it is more than that. It has also an affective side, an active side, and an intuitive side. Its affective side is a way of feeling about the world and ourselves. Its active side is a way of responding to the world and ourselves. Its intuitive side is a way of seeing into the inner reality of ourselves and the world. Stories, fictions -- especially fictional stories of a highly symbolic nature -- may be more successful ways of setting forth the affective, active, and intuitive sides of Theosophy than straightforward, literal expositions of Theosophical concepts.
Second, stories may make a deeper and more lasting impression on those who hear them than does intellectual explication. Stories speak through our conscious minds to our deep-level unconscious minds. They plant seeds in our unconscious that can grow into affective, active, and intuitive responses to the world and to ourselves. As already noted, all the great religious traditions have used stories for precisely that purpose. Hinduism has the puranas. Christianity has the parables of Jesus. Buddhism has the jataka tales. Those are all stories, not to be taken literally, but to be interpreted as illustrations of profound truths.
Third, fantastic fictions or fairy tales use archetypal elements -- characters, objects, places, events -- to trigger a deep-level response in our minds. They connect us with the past and the future, with all human cultures, and with the divine Mind, which is the ultimate source of all archetypes. Fantasy is not a record of the past, nor a report of the present, nor a prediction of the future. It is instead a projection of the nonexistent but possible. The creation and perception of fantasies is the closest we, at the present state of our evolution, can come to realizing our ultimate goal of development. Human beings are Dhyani Chohans in training. Dhyani Chohans are the creators of worlds. By entering into a fairy-tale or fantastic story, we are creating a world. We are practicing in symbol that which eventually we will do in fact.
G.R.S. Mead, who was Mme Blavatsky's private secretary and editorial assistant at the end of her life, wrote a preface to a work called "The Dream of Ravan: A Mystery," first published in 1853 and 1854 in THE DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE. The authorship of that work has never been established, but it has been reputed to be by the Master K.H., and the work was praised by Mme Blavatsky. Mead ended his preface to the 1895 book reprint of THE DREAM OF RAVAN with these words:
Though the narrative is set forth in the garb of phantasy and much of strangeness is intermixed, so that the general reader will pass it by as merely a strange conceit, nevertheless the mystic and student of yoga will recognize many a home truth but slightly veiled, and many a secret wholly disclosed.
That statement could be made also about any true spiritual fantasy or fairy story, such as the six works briefly introduced earlier in these remarks.
By Ralph Lanesdale
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, September 1924, pages 262-65.]
In considering the difficulties encountered by reformers and innovators in general, one finds it hard to understand why human nature should be so often charged with weakness and inconstancy because of its craving for novelty. Surely in that respect at least, in its undying love of 'some new thing,' the world displays a constancy that merits at least our serious consideration.
The pursuit of novelty for its own sake may be a sign of mere frivolity; but on the other hand there may be a deeper cause. Is it not possible that this craving for novelty may have its origin in an imperishable FAITH? May it not be that in the human heart there is a certainty, perhaps a memory, of bliss beyond the grasp of intellect and utterly unjustified by any actual experience, that is the basis of all HOPE?
However dark the picture painted by experience, that gloomiest of realists, hope leads us on with promises and hints of joys as yet untasted and bliss unthinkable. Man is unjust to hope that makes his present troubles bearable and gilds the future according to his fancy. Hope has no traffic with experience; hope is an idealist: hope is the child of faith, and faith is the reflection in man's soul of Spiritual Wisdom. Faith is the revelation of Eternal Truth.
But what does the world know of faith like that? And yet it is the inward shining of the light of faith that keeps man's hope alive. And it is man's undying hope that prompts his utterly unreasonable love of 'something new.'
The new thing is always disappointing, for once experienced it is no longer new, and all experience on this earth brings disappointment; for the thing hoped for is not of this earth; and the ideal is the image of the Divine not realizable as such upon this plane.
Man is not merely an intelligent animal, his higher nature is divine. He is essentially a spiritual being: his body of course is as material as is that of the animal, but his consciousness is spiritually linked with the Divine. Thus man is himself the missing link between the world of Spirit and the world of matter.
And in the individual man, the link between his higher and his lower self is faith, by means of which the light of truth can reach the mind in an intelligible form as a ray of hope to lead him on continually through new experience to the old familiar disappointment; for which he curses fate and slanders hope, calling her the great deceiver. And yet it is by such experience he learns that the bliss hope seems to promise is not of earth. She calls him upward: let him follow where she leads. So shall he learn to know reality and shun illusion. And so he will fulfill the purpose of existence and attain Self-consciousness. Thus faith will be justified and hope's fairest promise be redeemed. But all too often man, embittered by his disappointment, turns his back upon the light and tries to live without it. Still faith and hope endure, and their light shines undimmed by man's ingratitude.
Man may seem justified in blaming hope for all the disappointment he experiences in life; but after all the fault is his. He reads the promise wrongly, and complains of the bitterness of all experience, by means of which alone he grows. Hope promises experience -- no more; the means of growth; the richest treasure in the power of life to give; not pleasure, not enjoyment, unless he can find joy in growth and pleasure in experience. There is deception certainly, but the deceiver is not hope. Desire is the great deluder that blinds man to his destiny.
Hope leads man on and up to higher things. Desire would hold him down to gratification of the senses and emotions. Hope is a star: desire is a fire that burns; the fire wavers, but the star is fixed; the fire consumes the fuel on which it feeds: the star shines on eternally. Such a star is hope.
Man's mind is like a mirror: it reflects both the starlight and the fire. Wisdom is needed to discriminate between the two: and wisdom is from above; it is the crown of life, the radiance of divinity: not the black crown of death stained with the blood that drips from tortured brows -- the emblem of experience.
But you may ask what has this to do with man's supposed love of novelty. Simply this: the starlight falls upon the earth, the star remains on high. Man's hope is like a star set in his soul whose rays illuminate his mind with promises of bliss and immortality. This is the novelty hope offers him; not that his passion paints -- a new experience, not an indulgence.
It has been said that "there is nothing new beneath the sun," and truly so; for what is new is the unknown, the thing that is beyond the sun; the Eternal.
Man's mind in its duality reflects both the undying light of spirit and the uncertain wavering flame of passion; the destroying fire that burns and the life-giving ray of spiritual peace that proceeds from the Eternal. The paradox of man's life presents a problem that Theosophy alone can solve; and the key to the solution lies in the duality of mind. The importance of knowledge of this great truth is evident at once if we reflect that all our notions about life and about the world we live in are formulated in our minds; and that moreover all our ideas about ourselves are subject to the same controlling influence. So too the thoughts that seem to spring spontaneously in the mind may have their origin elsewhere, and take their form alone from mind (the deluder).
And so the love of novelty perhaps is traceable to hope's promise of a new experience translated by the mind into a dream of sense under the prompting of desire. For though man's spiritual self "is a like a star that dwells apart," yet it is bound to the lower self by karmic ties, and suffers from the limitations of its earthly vehicle (the body) during the period of its incarnation here.
This strange duality of human nature accounts for all the fluctuations of the public mind, which at one time is bent upon pursuit of novelty and the next moment may be engaged in fiercely opposing some reform or useful innovation, as if any change in the existing order were a calamity to be dreaded or a sacrilegious interference with the plans of deity to be opposed by ever honest man. Seeing that change is the law of life upon this plane of existence, such an attitude of mind as this appears unreasonable; and yet in despite of all experience man still persists in his attempts to build imperishable monuments, that shall defy the law of change and testify to the permanence of human institutions.
There is in man a certain natural conservatism that seems to balance the love of novelty so common in the public mind; but which is not so easily explained. Frequently, no doubt, conservatism is no more than the expression of inertia, or the force of habit, but it may also in some part be traced to that instinctive reverence paid by mortal man to the Eternal as an involuntary tribute from ephemeral man to that which never dies. Feeling himself adrift upon the tide of time he catches like a drowning man at anything that seems to have in it some quality of permanence, not understanding that he himself is of the essence of eternity and has existed since the unthinkable beginning of the universe. For truly he is a spiritual being.
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never; Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams.
So sings Krishna in THE BHAGAVAD-GITA announcing to Arjuna the immortality and permanence of the human spirit.
Man may be ignorant as to the permanence of his own spiritual self; but the truth is not affected by man's ignorance, and it reveals itself subconsciously inspiring his mind with a vague feeling of respect for law and order, or for fate, or for some relic of antiquity that seems to symbolize eternity. This feeling shows itself in many ways, of which one is a general mistrust of any innovation.
To the impetuous reformer this kind of opposition seems like stupidity or fear, inspiring malicious persecution or obstruction; while the conservative himself is conscious of no lower motive than a desire to protect society by preserving institutions 'that have stood the test of time.' Of course the wise reformer will assure himself that such an institution has outlived its usefulness before beginning to demolish it; nor will he attribute evil motives ignorantly to well-meaning people whose most grievous crime is lack of imagination.
Truly a coat of dust may make a mirror useless; but the dust may be removed without destruction of the mirror, and without attributing malicious motives to the dust; a little common sense is wonderfully valuable in life, and more precious still is knowledge of the mind's duality. When that is understood, the paradoxes and the incongruities of life will not be done away with all at once; but they will have become intelligible.
We shall not feel compelled to call our fellow-creatures hypocrites because their actions contradict their words; nor need we feel overcome with shame because we may have failed to bring our conduct into line with our ideals. A failure of this kind however serious is never final; on the contrary, it is an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson, if we use it so. If we keep this strange peculiarity of mind in view when judging other people's characters, we shall most surely find the world a better place to live in. For if our minds are mirrors in which the general world reflects itself, so surely too we see ourselves reflected in the minds of others.
Must we then rest content to live like shadows? Or can we reach reality?
It is said in the ancient teachings: "The mind is the great slayer of the real: let the disciple slay the slayer." To do this he must rise above the mind and master its duality. He must discover the real Self and know his own divinity. Self-knowledge is the final word of human evolution. But this Self-knowledge is not mere egoism; we all have that to start with. It is the knowledge of the true self, as distinct from the personality which is at the mercy of the two-faced mind, and which fluctuates continually between the two inevitable aspects of each problem that presents itself for practical solution in our daily life. The study of THEOSOPHY will provide us with keys to these mysteries; but Theosophy will not do our thinking for us.
If we would solve life's problems as they arise, we must rise above the bewildering duality of mind into the region of first principles perceived alone by intuition. Only thus can we hope to know the TRUTH.
By K. Paul Johnson
[A book review for Amazon.com.]
THE MASONIC MYTH: UNLOCKING THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SYMBOLS, THE SECRET RITES, AND THE HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY by Jay Kenney
THE MASONIC MYTH succeeds equally on several different levels, addressing readers new to Freemasonry as well as those who have studied it for years. Kinney combines an insider's mastery of the subject with an outsider's skeptical irreverence, making him a very trustworthy guide through this hall of mirrors. He addresses the concerns of readers with little knowledge of Masonry, Masons with much insider knowledge but little grasp of its historical meaning, and those who think they know a fair amount about Masonry but are confused by unreliable sources where misinformation is rife. Kinney devotes considerable attention to some of the most widely diffused misconceptions that have flourished for centuries. "Things you thought you knew about Masonry that are wrong" are scattered throughout the book and debunked persuasively. As Dan Brown's latest novel brings a new round of speculation about Freemasons' role in American history, the time is ripe for a serious explanation of Masonic myth and reality.
The first four chapters are an engagingly written, solidly researched account of the origins of the Craft. This makes the book the best place to start for anyone seeking a reliable and accessible guide to Freemasonry. The middle four chapters provide an informed account of Masonic rites, symbols, and hierarchies. As Kinney leads readers through a labyrinth of degrees and orders, his personal involvement with Masonry brings meaning to what is otherwise a bewildering landscape. Without proselytizing, Kinney conveys an appreciation for the value contemporary Masons find in the brotherhood and its not-so-secret-after-all practices. In the final three chapters Kinney explores the vast realm of misinformation about Masonry conveyed in a variety of conspiracy theories, and considers the likely future of the Craft. He confronts paranoid notions about Illuminati and Masonic occultists that have appeared in a fascinating variety of sources. We learn that the Craft's influence on the Founding Fathers has been greatly exaggerated, and that international Masonry is far too fragmented and diverse to be the basis of any global domination schemes as envisioned by conspiracy theorists.
Based on scholarly research that will be cited for decades to come, written in an engaging first person narrative by an author long recognized as a reliable guide to the entire realm of Western esoteric traditions, THE MASONIC MYTH is the first book to read for anyone intrigued by the mysteries of the Craft.
By G. de Purucker
[From STUDIES IN OCCULT PHILOSOPHY, pages 53-55.]
The doctrine of Swabhava is the doctrine of individuality, of the essential characteristic of every individual seed of the Spawn of Life. There are as many coordinated swabhavas as there are individuals, entities in other words, in the Universe.
Swabhava means individuality, the essential characteristic of an individual, making it that individual and thereby distinguishing it from other individuals. That is swabhava. Consequently it is not individuality which changes through the aeons as they pass. The changes come in and through the unfolding of the individuality, in its self-expressions or vehicles. The unself-conscious god-spark has its swabhavas or individuality, but not yet "unfolded," "unrolled," "unwrapped."
Do you see the reason why I so often repeat this phrase? Evolution means unfolding, unrolling, unwrapping, what is within, i.e., the swabhava, the individuality. A rose, a violet, a horse, a dog, any entity anywhere, a god, a sun, a planet, a man -- anything in self-expressing its individuality, manifests its swabhava; and passes through the aeons, thus casting off vehicle after vehicle, casting off garment after garment, casting off expression of itself after expression of itself.
For instance, the particular class or family of entities which is passing through the rose-stage -- or the horse, or the dog, or the man-stage -- comprises entities all belonging to the same ray if you like, of the same solar logos, or to one of the subordinate rays of one of the solar logoi; and hence it continues as such an individuality, constantly manifesting its swabhava.
It lives for a time in the rose-stage -- taking this stage as an illustration -- and then outgrows it; and the rose-stage disappears or vanishes; the manifesting individuality or swabhava meanwhile making for itself some new garment in which it lives and expresses itself for an aeon or twain or three or more, and then outlives this new stage and the new stage disappears.
This process continues until finally the growing or self-expressing individuality, i.e., the monad, pressing forward on its evolutionary journey, constantly unfolding, unwrapping, developing forth what is within itself, and casting body after body behind, reaches the human stage; and then after the human stage comes the god-stage. When the god-stage is reached, humans will be no more; they will have been outlived as vehicles.
This process as you see likewise explains the problem facing geologists of the various great classes of entities which the geologic record shows as appearing, reaching a culmination in manifestation, and then disappearing to be succeeded by a new order of lives.
Do you understand better now? The swabhava itself does not change in the lower realms, although it is evolving on its own lofty planes. The changes that human intelligence notices come from the constant self-expressions of the individuality or swabhava. Swabhava, remember, is the essential characteristic of an entity, that vital pressure, that dhyan-chohanic fluid, behind and within a manifesting entity, continually pressing upwards and forwards, and thus creating or rather building for itself, bodies after bodies after bodies.
It is a wonderful doctrine, this of Swabhava. One could write a dozen bulky volumes on it, and then feel that one had merely touched the fringes of its import.
Here is something more that perhaps I should add. I have spoken of the vehicles or expressions, the swabhava-expressions, of the evolving entities as they pass from aeon to aeon in their long, long evolutionary journey: e.g., the rose, the cat, the dog, the horse, the man, the god, etc. Each such vehicle or garment or veil or sheath, after it has disappeared or vanished because outgrown, leaves behind an imprint of itself in the Astral Light as an indelible impression.
Other entities in our rear, coming along behind us, will finally in good time reach the stage in their evolutionary unfolding where these indelible impressions exist in the Astral Light, and then these evolving entities behind us will mold themselves into these astral patterns.
It is thus that the things that were shall be reproduced in future ages, as the spiritual seers of all time have stated, exactly as we are now reproducing today things that were in aeons of past time, now existing as records of an aeonic past.
Do you catch the idea, this wonderful idea? Yet remember that each such new reproduction in manifestation of bygone astral molds or types is always a reproduction a little higher, i.e., there is always a step upwards, a step beyond, the stage last passed. I hope that these explanations have clarified the general idea.
Recollect always that swabhava means the unfolding of the individual: the unwrapping, the unrolling, of the individuality: seeking, pressing forwards, to express itself, its innate or essential characteristics. Consequently, this is the reason why the rose always reproduces a rose; why the apple-seed always brings forth an apple; why the child of a man is always human, and so forth.
This also explains why orders and genera and species and families are grouped together, because they are individuals resembling each other closely in their respective swabhavas, and this is because they all belong to the same particular branch or part or class of one of the seven (or ten) solar logoi. Yet every entity, considered as an individual, no matter to what order or family it may belong, is an individual in the core of the core of the heart of the heart, in the innermost central point, of its essence.
You see how I have to repeat words in order to carry the idea into your minds. Each such entity therefore in its essence is an eternal individual; and therefore its swabhava does not grow or change in the realms inferior to the individual, although the individual itself is constantly unfolding larger measures of its individuality as it advances to higher planes.