Sunday, 21 December 2014

Blavatsky on Astrology 2: Capricorn

Blavatsky gives a very intriguing and intricate mini-essay on the symbolism of Capricorn
(SD 2, 24, pp. 576-580, 'The Cross and the Pythagorean Decade')

and gives a few additional hints in the Theosophical Glossary:

"Capricornus (Lat.) The 10th sign of the Zodiac (Makâra in Sanskrit), considered, on account of its hidden meaning, the most important among the constellations of the mysterious Zodiac. it is fully described in the Secret Doctrine, and therefore needs but a few words more. Whether, agreeably with exoteric statements, Capricornus was related in any way to the wet-nurse Amalthæa who fed Jupiter with her milk, or whether it was the god Pan who changed himself into a goat and left his impress upon the sidereal records, matters little. Each of the fables has its significance. Everything in Nature is intimately correlated to the rest, and therefore the students of ancient lore will not be too much surprised when told that even the seven steps taken in the direction of every one of the four points of the compass, or —28 steps—taken by the new-born infant Buddha, are closely related to the 28 stars of the constellation of Capricornus." (Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary)

Moreover, certain explanations on the symbolism of Scorpio, I think, can be considered complementary:

"For the zodiacal sign of the tribe of Dan was Scorpio, as all know; and Scorpio is the sign of the female procreative principle, the matrix, and even geographically the heirloom of the tribe of Dan was the place of Dan, which included that of the springs or sources of Jordan, whose waters flowed out of the bowels of the earth. As the Styx with the Greeks, which, during the mystery trial by water, played a like part in the crypts of the temples, so the whale or fish that swallowed Jonah in the Old Testament, and Jordan that immersed Jesus in the New—all of these great “deeps” and small “deeps,” the interior of fish, waters, etc., all typified the same thing. They signified entering into conditions of existence by death, which became a new birth. As Jonah, the Initiate of the Old Testament, enters the womb of the whale (Phallic Initiation), so Jesus, the man, entering the water (the type of the spiritual womb of his second birth) enters Jar-Dan, the river of Dan, the tribe which astronomically was in Scorpio (the “gates of woman,” or the matrix). Emerging from it, he became Christos, the glorified Initiate, or the divine and sexless androgyne. So also, Jonah, upon emerging, became the “Lord,” with the Jews Jah-hovah; thus preceding Jes-us, the new life. The Jesus of the New Testament becomes the anointed by the Spirit, symbolized by the Dove. For John, Oannes, or Jonah, or the Whale-Fish, the emblem of the terrestrial world of the Old Dispensation, is transformed into the Dove, over the waters, the emblem of the Spiritual World. As said by Nigidius:

The Syrians and Phoenicians assert that a dove sat several days in Euphrates [one of the four rivers in Eden] on the egg of a fish, whence their Venus was born.*" [Blavatsky, NOTES ON THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN Lucifer, Vol. XI, No. 66, February, 1893, pp. 449-456, CW XI, 496]

Friday, 19 December 2014

Blavastky on astrology 1

Quite a few theosophists have contributed to the modern resurgence of astrology, such as Sepharial, Alan Leo, Marc Edmund Jones and Dane Rudhyar. Blavatsky made some significant efforts to rehabilitate astrology as well, both eastern and western. She might not have been favorable to the more commercial ‘career, money, romance’ aspect of contemporary popular astrology, as she stressed the spiritual and  philosophical aspects, which should ideally be pursued in the pure spirit of the discipline of initiation that this sacred science originally pertained to.

 “If all that is said in the article be true, it only confirms what has been stated often in these columns, that although the science of astrology is based upon mathematical calculations, it is impossible that the precise results of each of the innumerable combinations which may occur could be calculated and written down by any mortal man, and that, therefore, in order that his astrological predictions may be correct, the astrologer must be versed not only in the science of astrology, but also in its art, that is to say, by purity of life, thought and deed he must develop his clairvoyant perceptions so far as to be able to take note of the minutest combinations possible in every individual case, and the effects they produce on one another.” [The Theosophist, Vol. VI, No. 6(66), March, 1885, p. 131]
“In short, true Astrology is a mathematical science, which teaches us what particular causes will produce what particular combinations, and thus, understood in its real significance, gives us the means of obtaining the knowledge how to guide our future births. True, such astrologers there are but few: but are we justified in condemning the science of electricity because there may be very few real electricians? We must not at the same time lose sight of the fact that although there are numberless combinations that must be determined by the psychic vision of the astrologer, there are yet a very large number of them that have been determined and put on record by the ancient sages. It is these cases which baffle us when we find that some astrological calculations prove correct while others are quite beside the mark.” [The Theosophist, Vol. V, #9, June, 1884]

“Most certainly chance is ‘impossible’. There is no ‘chance’ in Nature, wherein everything is mathematically co-ordinate and mutually related in its units. “Chance,” says Coleridge, “is but the pseudonym of God (or Nature), for those particular cases which He does not choose to subscribe openly with His sign manual.” Replace the word “God” by that of Karma and it will become an Eastern axiom. Therefore, the sidereal “prophecies” of the zodiac, as they are called by Christian mystics, never point to any one particular event, however solemn and sacred it may be for some one portion of humanity, but to ever-recurrent, periodical laws in nature, understood but by the Initiates of the sidereal gods themselves.” [Blavatsky Collected Writings, Volume 14 Page 344]
See also, the entries ‘Astrology’, ‘Astronomos’, and ‘Zodiac’ in the Theosophical Glossary:

‘The Zodiac and its Antiquity’ in the Secret Doctrine:

T. Subba Row’s Twelve Signs of the Zodiac:

Henk Spierenburg’s Astrology of the Living Universe:

Friday, 12 December 2014

Blavatsky & the 12 Nidanas 2

Blavatsky gives further comments on the nidanas in her esoteric intstructions:

"The Nidanas have a dual meaning. They are: 1. The twelve causes of sentient existence, through the twelve links of subjective with objective Nature, or between the subjective and objective Natures. 2. A concatenation of causes and effects. Every cause produces an effect, and this effect becomes in its turn a cause. Each of these has as Upadhi (basis), one of the subdivisions of one of the Nidanas,and also an effect or consequence." (S.D. V, 558, 6 vol. ed.)

Buddhist iconography has very vivid illustrations of this concept, using symbols in a wheel: 1. blind old woman (ignorance), 2. potter making a pot (formation), 3. monkey in a tree (consciousness), 4. three men in a boat (name and form), 5. house with 6 windows (the 6 senses), 6. couple making love (contact) 7. man with an arrow in his eye (feeling) 8. man drinking milk and honey (craving) 9. monkey gathering fruit (grasping) 10. pregnant woman (becoming) 11. woman giving birth (birth) 12. man carrying a corpse (death)
In the Tibetan Kagyu tradition, Gampopa(1079-1153) in his Jewel Ornament of Liberation, offers the following description:

"This is explained according to the desire realm and according to birth from a mother’s womb.
(a) At the very first, there is ignorance, which is the confusion that misunderstands all knowledge.
(b) Under the influence of ignorance is created the mental formation of the karma of afflicted virtues and nonvirtues. This is called “mental formation conditioned by ignorance.”
(c) The seed of that karma is carried by the mind so that is called consciousness conditioned by mental formation.”
(d) By the power of that karma, the mind is fully confused, enters into a mother’s womb, and an embryo and so forth arise. This is called “name and form conditioned by consciousness.”
(e) By developing the name and form, all the senses of the eye, ear, and so forth are completed. That is called the “six increasing fields conditioned by name and form.”
(f) The interaction of the eye organ and so forth, the corresponding object, and the consciousness is called “contact conditioned by the six increasing fields.”
(g) Through contact, one experiences the feelings of joy, suffering, or indifference. That is called “feeling conditioned by contact.”
(h) When there is feeling, there is joy, attachment, and stronger attachment. That is called “craving conditioned by feeling.”
(i) From that attachment, one craves more and more, and wishes to not be separated from the object of attachment. That is called “grasping conditioned by craving.”
(j) Through that grasping, karma and existence by body, speech, and mind are again created. That is called “existence conditioned by grasping.”
(k) That karma creates the five aggregates (Skt. skandas). That is called “birth conditioned by existence”
(l) After birth, the aggregates which actually exist increase, ripen, and cease. “Ripen” means aging; “cease” means death. That is called “aging and death conditioned by birth.”
Due to ignorance, complete attachment, and craving, death causes the inner pain called sorrow. That sorrow causes expression in words, called lamentation. When the five consciousnesses experience unhappiness it is called suffering. Bringing that in the mind, that suffering is called “mental unhappiness.” Furthermore, in this way and so forth, the entire afflicted subconsciousness is called “disturbed mind.” (Chapter 16.2.c.3)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Blavatsky & the 12 Nidanas 1

wikiosophy has a nice entry on the 12 Nidanas, which Blavatsky refers to on occasion and comes into play right at the beginning of the SD Stanzas:

From HPB's Theosophical Glossary, (she prefers to give the opposite order than what is commonly used):
''Nidâna (Sk.). The 12 causes of existence, or a chain of causation, “a concatenation of cause and effect in the whole range of existence through 12 links”. This is the fundamental dogma of Buddhist thought, “the understanding of which solves the riddle of life, revealing the insanity of existence and preparing the mind for Nirvâna”.
(Eitel’s Sans. Chin. Dict.) The 12 links stand thus in their enumeration.

(1) Jati, or birth, according to one of the four modes of entering the stream of life and reincarnation—or Chatur Yoni (q.v.), each mode placing the being born in one of the six Gâti (q.v.).
(2) Jarârnarana, or decrepitude and death, following the maturity of the Skandhas (q.v.).
(3) Bhava, the Karmic agent which leads every new sentient being to be born in this or another mode of existence in the Trailokya and Gâti.
(4) Upâdâna, the creative cause of Bhava which thus becomes the cause of Jati which is the effect; and this creative cause is the clinging to life.
( 5) Trishnâ, love, whether pure or impure.
(6) Vêdâna, or sensation; perception by the senses, it is the 5th Skandha.
(7) Sparsa, the sense of touch.
(8) Chadâyatana, the organs of sensation.
(9) Nâmarûpa, personality, i.e., a form with a name to it, the symbol of the unreality of material phenomenal appearances.
(10) Vijnâna, the perfect knowledge of every perceptible thing and of all objects in their concatenation and unity.
(11) Samskâra, action on the plane of illusion.
(12) Avidyâ, lack of true perception, or ignorance. The Nidânas belonging to the most subtle and abstruse doctrines of the Eastern metaphysical system, it is impossible to go into the subject at any greater length.''
In the Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, she give a commentary on the Secret Doctrine, stanzan 1.4:

''Nidana means the concatenation of cause and effect; the twelve Nidânas are the enumeration of the chief causes which produce the severest reaction or effects under the Karmic law. Although there is no connection between the terms Nidana and Maya in themselves, Maya being simply illusion, yet if we consider the universe as Maya or illusion, then certainly the Nidânas, as being moral agents in the universe, are included in Maya. It is Maya, illusion or ignorance, which awakens Nidânas; and the cause or causes having been produced, the effects follow according to Karmic law. To take an instance: we all regard ourselves as Units, although essentially we are one indivisible Unit, drops in the ocean of Being, not to be distinguished from other drops. Having then produced this cause, the whole discord of life follows immediately as an effect; in reality it is the endeavor of nature to restore harmony and maintain equilibrium. It is this sense of separateness which is the root of all evil...
In the Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, letter 10 deals with the 12 nidanas as well:
''There they are taught the four noble truths — ariya sakka, and the chain of causation, (the 12 nid[ci]anas) gives them a solution of the problem of the origin and destruction of suffering.

Read the Mahavagga and try to understand not with the prejudiced Western mind but the spirit of intuition and truth what the Fully Enlightened one says in the 1st Khandhaka. Allow me to translate it for you.

"At the time the blessed Buddha was at Uruvella on the shores of the river Nerovigara as he rested under the Boddhi tree of wisdom after he had become Sambuddha, at the end of the seventh day having his mind fixed on the chain of causation he spake thus: 'from Ignorance spring the samkharas of threefold nature — productions of body, of speech, of thought. From the samkharas springs consciousness, from consciousness springs name and form, from this spring the six regions (of the six senses the seventh being the property of but the enlightened); from these springs contact from this sensation; from this springs thirst (or desire, Kama, tanha) from thirst attachment, existence, birth, old age and death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection and despair. Again by the destruction of ignorance, the Sankharas are destroyed, and their consciousness name and form, the six regions, contact, sensation, thirst, attachment (selfishness), existence, birth, old age, death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection, and despair are destroyed. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering."

Knowing this the blessed one uttered this solemn utterance. "When the real nature of things becomes clear to the meditating Bikshu, then all his doubts fade away since he has learned what is that nature and what its cause. From ignorance spring all the evils. From knowledge comes the cessation of this mass of misery, and then the meditating Brahmana stands dispelling the hosts of Mara like the sun that illuminates the sky."

Meditation here means the superhuman (not supernatural) qualities, or arhatship in its highest of spiritual powers.''

Part 2 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Musings on the True Theosophist's Path, Part I - William Q. Judge

Here's one that has become something of a classic, although perhaps not as popular as it might be, because it aims to tell the truth about the difficult realities of the path in a frank, uncompromising way. Inspired by the great spiritual classic, Light on the Path, Mabel Collins:

"The way of inward peace is in all things to conform to the pleasure and disposition of the Divine Will. Such as would have all things succeed and come to pass according to their own fancy, are not come to know this way; and therefore lead a harsh and bitter life; always restless and out of humor, without treading the way of peace."

Know then, oh Man, that he who seeks the hidden way, can only find it through the door of life. In the hearts of all, at some time, there arises the desire for knowledge. He who thinks his desire will be fulfilled, as the little bird in the nest, who has only to open his mouth to be fed; will very truly be disappointed.

In all nature we can find no instance where effort of some kind is not required. We find there is a natural result from such effort. He who would live the life or find wisdom can only do so by continued effort. If one becomes a student, and learns to look partially within the veil, or has found within his own being something that is greater than his outer self, it gives no authority for one to sit down in idleness or fence himself in from contact with the world. Because one sees the gleam of the light ahead he cannot say to his fellow "I am holier than thou" or draw the mantle of seclusion around himself.

The soul develops like the flower, in God's sunlight, and unconsciously to the soil in which it grows. Shut out the light and the soil grows damp and sterile, the flower withers or grows pale and sickly. Each and every one is here for a good and wise reason. If we find partially the why we are here, then is there the more reason that we should by intelligent contact with life, seek in it the further elucidation of the problem. It is not the study of ourselves so much, as the thought for others that opens this door. The events of life and their causes lead to knowledge. They must be studied when they are manifested in daily life.

There is no idleness for the Mystic. He finds his daily life among the roughest and hardest of the labors and trials of the world perhaps, but goes his way with smiling face and joyful heart, nor grows too sensitive for association with his fellows, nor so extremely spiritual as to forget that some other body is perhaps hungering for food.

It was said by one who pretended to teach the mysteries, "It is needful that I have a pleasant location and beautiful surroundings." He who is a true Theosophist will wait for nothing of the sort, either before teaching; or what is first needful, learning. It would perhaps, be agreeable, but if the Divine Inspiration comes only under those conditions, then indeed is the Divine afar from the most of us. He only can be a factor for good or teach how to approach the way, who forgetting his own surroundings, strives to beautify and illumine those of others. The effort must be for the good of others, not the gratifying of our own senses, or love for the agreeable or pleasant.
Giving thought to self will most truly prevent and overthrow your aims and objects, particularly when directed toward the occult.

Again there arises the thought "I am a student, a holder of a portion of the mystic lore." Insidiously there steals in the thought "Behold I am a little more than other men, who have not penetrated so far." Know then, oh man, that you are not as great even as they. He who thinks he is wise is the most ignorant of men, and he who begins to believe he is wise is in greater danger than any other man who lives.

You think, oh man, that because you have obtained a portion of occult knowledge, that it entitles you to withdraw from contact with the rest of mankind. It is not so. If you have obtained true knowledge it forces you to meet all men not only half way, but more than that to seek them. It urges you not to retire but, seeking contact, to plunge into the misery and sorrow of the world, and with your cheering word, if you have no more (the Mystic has little else) strive to lighten the burden for some struggling soul.

You dream of fame. We know no such thing as fame. He who seeks the upward path finds that all is truth; that evil is the good gone astray. Why should we ask for fame? It is only the commendation of those we strive to help.

Desire neither notice, fame nor wealth. Unknown you are in retirement. Being fameless you are undisturbed in your seclusion, and can walk the broad face of the earth fulfilling your duty, as commanded, unrecognized.

If the duty grows hard, or you faint by the way, be not discouraged, fearful or weary of the world. Remember that "Thou may'st look for silence in tumult, solitude in company, light in darkness, forgetfulness in pressures, vigor in despondency, courage in fear, resistance in temptation, peace in war, and quiet in tribulation."

The Path, Aug 1886 pp. 155-156
It opens with a quote from Miguel de Molinos - here's a full version-
The Spiritual Guide which Disentangles the Soul Miguel de Molinos The PREFACE. Fourth Advertisement. The Burden of this Book consisting in rooting out the Rebellion of our own Will, that we may attain to internal Peace. 29. The way of inward Peace, is in all things to be conform to the pleasure and disposition of the Divine Will. (Hugo Cardinalisin Pf.13.) In omnibus debemus subjicere volis tatem nostram voluntatis divine hæc est enim pax voluntati nostra ut sit per omnia confirmis voluntati divine. Such as would have all things succeed and come to pass according to their own fancy, are not come to know this way, Viam pacis non cognos verunt, and therefore lead a harsh and bitter life, always restless and out of humour without treading the way of Peace, which consists in a total conformity to the will of God. 30. This conformity is the sweet yoke that introduces us into the regions of internal Peace and serenity. Hence we may know, that the rebellion of our Will is the chief occasion of our disquiet; and that because we will not submit to the sweet yoke of the Divine Will, we suffer so many streights and perturbations. O Soul! if we submitted our own to the Divine Will, and to all his Disposition, what tranquility should we feel! what sweet peace! what inward serenity! what supreme felicity and earnest of bliss!. This then is to be the burden of this Book: May it please God to give me his Divine Light, for discovering the secret Paths of this Inward Way, and chief Felicity of perfect Peace.

Part 2

Monday, 17 November 2014

What is the "Daily Initiation"?

Here's a short text that, that, I think, embodies a philosophy of daily life,  a kind of mindfullness:

"It is supposed by some that initiation is always and in every case a set and solemn occasion for which the candidate is prepared and notified in advance. While there are some initiations surrounded by such solemnities as these, the daily one, without success in which no aspirant will  ever have the chance to try for those that are higher, comes to the disciple with almost each moment. It is met in our relations with our fellows, and in the effects upon us of all the circumstances of life. And if we fail in these, we never get to the point where greater ones are offered. If we cannot bear momentary defeat, or if a chance word that strikes our self-love finds us unprepared, or if we give way to the desire to harshly judge others, or if we remain in ignorance of some of our most apparent faults, we do not build up that knowledge and strength imperatively demanded from whoever is to be master of nature.

It is in the life of every one to have a moment of choice, but that moment is not set for any particular day. It is the sum total of all days; and it may be put off until the day of death, and then it is beyond our power, for the choice has been fixed by all the acts and thoughts of our lifetime. We are self-doomed at that hour to just the sort of life, body, environment, and tendencies which will best carry out our karma. This is a thing solemn enough, and one that makes the "daily initiation" of the very greatest importance to each earnest student. But all of this has been said before, and it is a pity that students persist in ignoring the good advice they receive.

Do you think that if a Master accepted you He would put you to some strange test? No, He would not, but simply permitting the small events of your life to have their course, the result would determine your standing. It may be a child's school, but it takes a man to go through it."

The Path, Sept. 1889, pp. 187-88, Hadji Erinn (William Q. Judge)

Since this is a 19th century text, 'man' can be considered gender neutral.

Part 2 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Links of Interest 2 - Theosophy & Rosetta Comet Mission

Rosetta comet mission copacetic with esoteric cosmology:

In H.P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine (1888), there are ideas about the cosmological role of comets that are intriguingly similar to today's theories:

"(II.) “That it does not regard the Comets as involved in that particular evolution which has produced the solar system.” (Esoteric doctrine does.) (It does, because it, too, recognises the comets as forms of cosmic existence co-ordinated with earlier stages of nebular evolution; and it actually assigns to them chiefly the formation of all worlds.)" SD I, 599

Similar modern theories can be found voiced in the article below:

Recent discoveries have human life up to 1 million years ago:

A very clever multi-media experiment based on Kepler's Harmonice Mundi:

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Blavatsky on Sufism / Sufi Wisdom

Suffism (Gr.). From the root of Sophia, “Wisdom ”. A mystical sect in Persia something like the Vedantins; though very strong in numbers, none but very intelligent men join it. They claim, and very justly, the possession of the esoteric philosophy and doctrine of true Mohammedanism. The Suffi (or Sofi) doctrine is a good deal in touch with Theosophy, inasmuch as it preaches one universal creed, and outward respect and tolerance for every popular exoteric faith. It is also in touch with Masonry. The Suffis have four degrees and four stages of initiation:1st, probationary, with a strict outward observance of Mussulman rites, the hidden meaning of each ceremony and dogma being explained to the candidate; 2nd, metaphysical training; 3rd, the “Wisdom” degree, when the candidate is initiated into the innermost nature of things; and 4th final Truth, when the Adept attains divine powers, and complete union with the One Universal Deity in ecstacy or Samâdhi. (Theosophical Glossary, p. 311)

Plato states that the mystic Magian religion, known under the name of Machagistia, is the most uncorrupted form of worship in things divine. Later, the Mysteries of the Chaldean sanctuaries were added to it by one of the Zoroasters and Darius Hystaspes. The latter completed and perfected it still more with the help of the knowledge obtained by him from the learned ascetics of India, whose rites were identical with those of the initiated Magi.
Ammian, in his history of Julian's Persian expedition, gives the story by stating that one day Hystaspes, as he was boldly penetrating into the unknown regions of Upper India, had come upon a certain wooded solitude, the tranquil recesses of which were "occupied by those exalted sages, the Brachmanes (or Shamans). Instructed by their teaching in the science of the motions of the world and of the heavenly bodies, and in pure religious rites . . . he transfused them into the creed of the Magi. The latter, coupling these doctrines with their own peculiar science of foretelling the future, have handed down the whole through their descendants to succeeding ages."***
It is from these descendants that the Sufis, chiefly composed of Persians and Syrians, acquired their proficient knowledge in astrology, medicine, and the esoteric doctrine of the ages. "The Sufi doctrine," says C. W. King, "involved the grand idea of one universal creed which could be secretly held under any profession of an outward faith; and, in fact, took virtually the same view of religious systems as that in which the ancient philosophers had regarded such matters."**** The mysterious Druzes of Mount Lebanon are the descendants of all these.
Solitary Copts, earnest students scattered hither and thither throughout the sandy solitudes of Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, Palestine, and the impenetrable forests of Abyssinia, though rarely met with, may sometimes be seen. Many and various are the nationalities to which belong the disciples of that mysterious school, and many the side-shoots of that one primitive stock. The secresy preserved by these sub-lodges, as well as by the one and supreme great lodge, has ever been proportionate to the activity of religious persecutions; and now, in the face of the growing materialism, their very existence is becoming a mystery. (Isis Unveiled 2, p. 307)

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Blavatsky & the Vivekachudamani / Crown Jewel of Discrimination, Sankara

Blavatsky herself noticed Mohini Chatterji's pioneering 1886 translation in her Secret Doctrine, in the section "On the Elements and Atoms". She gives some admirably subtle metaphysical interpretations of some passages and makes a rather intricate comparison with a passage from the Gospel of John:

”The monad — a truly “indivisible thing,” as defined by Good, who did not give it the sense we now do — is here rendered as the Atma in conjunction with Buddhi and the higher Manas. This trinity is one and eternal, the latter being absorbed in the former at the termination of all conditioned and illusive life. The monad, then, can be traced through the course of its pilgrimage and its changes of transitory vehicles only from the incipient stage of the manifested Universe. In Pralaya, or the intermediate period between two manvantaras, it loses its name, as it loses it when the real one self of man merges into Brahm in cases of high Samadhi (the Turiya state) or final Nirvana; “when the disciple” in the words of Sankara, “having attained that primeval consciousness, absolute bliss, of which the nature is truth, which is without form and action, abandons this illusive body that has been assumed by the atma just as an actor (abandons) the dress (put on).” For Buddhi (the Anandamaya sheath) is but a mirror which reflects absolute bliss; and, moreover, that reflection itself is yet not free from ignorance, and is not the Supreme Spirit, being subject to conditions, being a spiritual modification of Prakriti, and an effect; Atma alone is the one real and eternal substratum of all — the essence and absolute knowledge — the Kshetragna.† It is called in the Esoteric philosophy “the One Witness,”and, while it rests in Devachan, is referred to as “the Three Witnesses to Karma.”(SD1, XI, p. 570)

The Fourfold prerequisites of the Vivekachudamani were important concepts in early Theosophy :

Qualifications for Chelaship, Theosophist, September, 1884:

Atmanatma-Viveka, “Discrimination of Spirit and Not-Spirit”, Translated by Mohini M. Chatterji

Even Krishnamurti's At the Feet of the Master is based on these notions.

PS. The section "On the Elements and Atoms" can be considered one of the more essential sections, and a good place to start reading the Secret Doctrine.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Vivekachudamani / Crest Jewel of Discrimination, Sankara 5

Question – what is consciousness, perceiver and perceived, pot and clay, reality and existence, the universe not different from the absolute, non-duality, slaying of residual impressions, establishing mind in Self, destroying false self, giving up attachment, egoism (214-360)
Meditation, detachment (361-389)
The Self, the mature of supreme reality, realization of bliss (390-424)
Liberation, merging in the absolute while in body (425-453)

Accumulation of past actions (454-479)
Student becomes established in supreme absolute (480-581) 

As the wise man looks at the sun itself and not the jar, the water or the reflection; so also the wise man looks towards the self-illumined \Atman through which the three (\upaadhis) are manifested. (221)

Therefore there is no real existence of the universe, distinct from the supreme \Atman; its distinct perception is as unreal as that of the serpent in the rope. What reality can there be in that which is merely manifest through ignorance?(237)

The wise know that as the supreme truth which is absolute consciousness, in which are united the knower, the known and the knowledge, infinite and unchangeable. (241)

The ascetic possessed of \shama, dama, supreme uparati, and \kshhaanti (endurance), and devoted to \samaadhi, perceives the state of the Logos and through that completely burns down all vikalpa (error) produced by \avidyaa and dwells in bliss in Brahman free from vikalpa and action. (356)

Know meditation to be a hundred times (superior) to listening, assimilation to be a hundred thousand times (superior) to meditation, and \nirvikalpa-samaadhi to be infinitely (superior) to assimilation. (365)

For him who is possessed of excessive dispassion there is \samaadhi, for him in \samaadhi there is unwavering spiritual perception. For him who has perceived the essential reality there is liberation, and for the liberated \Atman there is realization of eternal bliss. (375)

Verily all this universe, known through mind and speech, is the spirit; verily nothing is except the spirit which lies on the other side of \prakriti. Are the various kinds of earthen vessels different from the earth? The embodied ego, deluded by the wine of \maayaa, speaks of "I" and "you". (392)

He who is perfectly at rest (in this wisdom) is said to be firm in wisdom. He who is firm in wisdom, whose bliss is uninterrupted and by whom the objective universe is well nigh forgotten, is regarded as \jiivanmukta.(429)

The weariness produced by the burning heat of changing existence being removed by drinking the sweet moonlight of thy glance, I attained, in a moment, the imperishable abode of \Atman whose glory and bliss are indestructible.(488)

Neither the relinquishment of of the body, nor of the staff, nor of the water-pot is \mokshha; but \mokshha is the happiness untying the knot of ignorance in the heart.(559)

He neither applies his senses to objects nor removes them therefrom, but remains a mere spectator. He whose mind is intoxicated with excessive draughts of bliss does not pay even the slightest attention to Karmic effect.(553)

Part 6

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Vivekachudamani / Crest Jewel of Discrimination, Sankara 4

This part starts a question and answer phase that deals with the discrimination between the real and the unreal - there's a general statement that faith, devotion, meditation, and action are the basic practices of the path:

"It is directly pointed out by the sayings of the Scriptures that \shraddhaa, bhakti, \dhyaana and Yoga, are the causes which bring about emancipation. Whoever abides by these, attains emancipation from the bondage of incarnated existence." (48)

Here's a basic summary of Advaita Vedanta, in a nutshell:

"By reason of ignorance a connection between you who are \Paramaatman and that which is not \Atman is brought about and hence this wheel of embodied existence. By the fire of wisdom arising from this discrimination the growth of ignorance is burnt up to its very roots." (49)

The practical nature of the path and the importance of self-reliance is indicated:

"The nature of the one reality must be known by one's own clear spiritual perception and not through a pandit (learned man); the form of the moon must be known through one's own eye, how can it be known through (the medium of) others?" (56)


"If the supreme truth remains unknown, the study of scriptures is fruitless, even if the supreme truth is known the study of the scriptures is useless (the study of the letter alone is useless, the spirit must be sought out by intuition)." (61)

Hidden treasure does not come out at (utterance of) the simple word "out", but there must be trustworthy information, digging and removal of stones; similarly, the pure truth, itself transcending the operation of \maayaa (\maayaa here meaning the force of evolution) is not obtained without the instruction of the knowers of the supreme, together with reflection, meditation, and so forth, and not by illogical inferences. (67)

The chief cause of liberation of the mind is said to be complete detachment of the mind from transitory objects; after that (the acquirement of) \shama, dama, \titikshhaa, and a thorough renunciation of all Karma (religious and other acts of the attainment of any personal desire). (71)

He who is free from the great bondage of desires, so difficult to avoid, is alone capable of liberation; not another, even though versed in the six systems of philosophy. (79)

Those only sentimentally desirous of liberation and only apparently free from passion, seeking to cross the ocean of conditioned existence, are seized by the shark of desire, being caught by the neck, forcibly dragged into the middle and drowned. (81)

He only who slays the shark of desire with the sword of supreme dispassion, reaches without obstacles the other side of the ocean of conditioned existence. (82)

If the desire for liberation exists in thee, sensuous objects must be left at a great distance as if they were poison, thou must constantly and fervently seek contentment as if it were ambrosia, also kindness, forgiveness, sincerity, tranquility and self-control. (84)

Part 5

Friday, 24 October 2014

Vivekachudamani / Crest Jewel of Discrimination, Sankara 3

The next section describes the Advaita psychological concepts of the subtle bodies and the phases of consciousness, which are summarized in the charts below, with the corresponding theosophical model, from the SD:
Hindu Vedanta
Taraka Raja Yoga
1- Sthula Sharira
Annamaya kosa
(food sheath)
(Gross Vehicle)
2- Prana
Pranamaya kosa
(vital sheath)
3- Linga Sharira
4- Kama Rupa
Manomaya kosa
(mental sheath)
(Subtle Vehicle)
5 – Manas
 a- Volitions, feelings
Vijnamaya kosa
(intellectual sheath)
Anandamaya kosa
(Causal Vehicle)

 1) Jagrat: The waking state.
 2) Svapna: The dream state.
 3) Sushupti: The state of dreamless sleep.
 4) Turiya: spiritual consciousness on interior planes.
Then the next part deals with  the twenty-four Tattvas or Principles of the manifestation of Mula Prakriti:
The five Tanmatras or rudimentary principles of the elements: 1-Sabda (sound), 2-Sparsa (touch), 3-Rupa (form or colour), 4-Rasa (taste), 5-Gandha (smell).
The five Jnana-Indriyas or organs of perception: 1-Srotra (ear), 2-Tvak (skin), 3-Chakshus (eye), 4-Jihva (tongue), 5-Ghrana (nose).
The five Karma-Indriyas or organs of action: 1-Vak (speech), 2-Pani (hand), 3-Pada (foot), 4-Upastha(genital),5-Payu(anus).
The five Pranas or vital forces: 1-Prana, 2-Apana, 3-Vyana, 4-Udana, 5-Samana.
The fourfold Antahkarana or the internal organs: 1-Manas (mind), 2-Buddhi (intellect), 3-Chitta (memory or subconscious), 4-Ahamkara (ego­ism).
These elements can be found in a more succint form in the Atma Bodha:
Part 4

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Vivekachudamani / Crest Jewel of Discrimination, Sankara 2

The first five verses deal with taking advantage of spiritual opportunities relating to one's condition of birth. Verses 6-15 deal with the need for self-reliance and the relative importance of performing actions and rituals.

"The attainment of the object principally depends upon the qualification of him who desires to attain; all artifices and the contingencies arising from circumstances of time and place are merely accessories." 14

The next verses deal with the Four-fold prerequisites (Sadhana Catustaya), an important early theosophical tenet:

1- Discrimination between the eternal and non-eternal (Viveka)
2- Detachment from the enjoyment of the fruits of action (Vairaga)
3- The virtues (Samadi Guna)
     a- Peace Tranquility(Sama)
     b- Self-Control (Dama) 
     c- Self-Withdrawal (Uparatti) 
     d- Forebearance (Titiksha) 
     e- Faith (Sraddha) 
     f- One-pointedness (Samadhana)
4- Intense Longing for Liberation (Mumuksutva)

"In one in whom absence of desire and aspiration for emancipation are prominent, \shama and the other qualifications will be productive of great results". 30

The next part deals with the notion of certain helpful individuals who are present in this business of spiritual progress...

"The great and peaceful ones live regenerating the world like the coming of spring, and after having themselves crossed the ocean of embodied existence, help those who try to do the same thing, without personal motives." (39)

Part 3

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Vivekachudamani / Crest Jewel of Discrimination, Sankara 1

Sankara's Vivekachudamani or Crown Jewel of Wisdom, a world spiritual classic of which the Theosophical Society helped popularize in English:

There's a very good recent translation by: John Grimes The Vivekacudamani of Sankaracarya Bhagatpada Ashgate, England 2004:

Here's a quick, sketchy summary of the whole work - the whole work framed as a dialogue between teacher and student.
1- Basic aspects of the path of liberation (1-32)
2- Seeking a teacher (33-73)
3- Discrimination of body (3 bodies) (74-111)
4- Five sheaths, three gunas (112-132)
5- The nature of the Self, discrimination between real and unreal, ignorance and knowledge, superimposition of the mind (113-193)
6- Question from student – the nature of delusion (194-213)
7- Question – what is consciousness, perceiver and perceived, pot and clay, reality and existence, the universe not different from the absolute, non-duality, slaying of residual impressions, establishing mind in Self, destroying false self, giving up attachment, egoism (214-360)
8- Meditation, detachment (361-389)
9- The Self, the mature of supreme reality, realization of bliss (390-424)
10- Liberation, merging in the absolute while in body (425-453)
11- Accumulation of past actions (454-479)
12- Student becomes established in supreme absolute (480-581)

Below is a translation by Mohini Chatterji:

"Among sentient creatures birth as a man is difficult of attainment, among human beings manhood, among men to be a Brahmana, among Brahmanas desire to follow the path of Vedic Dharma, and among those, learning. But the spiritual knowledge which discriminates between spirit and non-spirit, the practical realization of the merging of oneself in Brahmatman and final emancipation from the bonds of matter are unattainable except by the good karma of hundreds of crores of incarnations. These three, so difficult of attainment, are acquired only by the kindness of the Devas (Gods), humanity, desire for emancipation, and the guidance of (spiritually) Great Men." (Verse 2)

Grimes gives a more liberal translation to Brahmana, rendering it as 'having a strong constitution'.

Part 2

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Secret Doctrine - The Introduction Section

The intro section of the Secret Doctrine is written in a kind of classic romantic era occult literary style (quite readable, compared to the complex, difficult writing of the main text), designed to pique one's curiosity; full of picturesque, exotic, mysterious hints, allusions, and revelations; I thought it would be useful to compile an informal listing:
1- The Wisdom-Religion is the inheritance of all nations. (18)
2- A Hungarian, Egyptian, and a Hindu initiate taught H.S. Olcott and two Europeans in America. (19)
3-The Saptaparna Cave  was a Buddhist place of initiation.(20)
4- Sakyamuni's esoteric teachings were the same as esoteric Hindu teachings. (21)
5- The SD is a reaction to a wave of sexual symbolic religious studies. (22)
6- The Book of Dzyan is unknown to Europeans. (22)
7- "The members of several esoteric schools — the seat of which is beyond the Himalayas, and whose ramifications may be found in China, Japan, India, Tibet, and even in Syria, besides South America — claim to have in their possession the sum total of sacred and philosophical works in MSS. and type: all the works, in fact, that have ever been written, in whatever language or characters, since the art of writing began; from the ideographic hieroglyphs down to the alphabet of Cadmus and the Devanagari." (23)
8- With the destruction of the Alexandrian library, adepts have gathered, preserved and hidden away esoteric works, this occurring in India during the time of Akbar. (24)
9- There exist several underground hidden libraries in Tibet.
10- There are lost ruins of ancient cities in Central Asia (Tarim Basin). (24, 32)
11- There are many references to lost texts in Asian literature that may not be really lost, such as the 930 works of Lao-Tsu, commentaries on the Brahmanas, and 76 000 Buddhist tracts (25-28)
12- All the world's religions stem from a primeval revelation.(30)
13- Dayanand Sarasvati knows of a secret gupta cave that contains esoteric texts (Okhee Math). (30)
14- The remains of a hundred extinct nations can be found near the oasis of Cherchen.(33)
15- The Secret Doctrine was the universally diffused religion of the ancient and prehistoric world. (34)
16- J.W. Keely has discovered a powerful force akin to Bulwer-Lytton's Vril. (35)
17- The septenary esoteric division of principles contains potential for discovering powerful natural forces, especially with the higher planes. (35)
18- The St-Petersburg imperial library contains documents retrieved by Russian Masonic mystics  from Tibet.  (36)
19- These primordial tenets are given out for the first time, although initiates such as J.-M. Ragon have given out partial fragments. (36)
20- " For in the twentieth century of our era scholars will begin to recognize that the Secret Doctrine has neither been invented nor exaggerated, but, on the contrary, simply outlined; and finally, that its teachings antedate the Vedas". (37)
21- "But it will take centuries before much more is given from it." (38)
22- " In Century the Twentieth some disciple more informed, and far better fitted, may be sent by the Masters of Wisdom to give final and irrefutable proofs that there exists a Science called Gupta-Vidya; and that, like the once-mysterious sources of the Nile, the source of all religions and philosophies now known to the world has been for many ages forgotten and lost to men, but is at last found." (38)
23- There exist an old book written in Senzar, an universal language, dictated by divine beings at the beginning of the 5th race. (43)
24- There is a book, about 5000 years old, which consist of prophecies during the age of Kali Yuga. Volume two is nearly ready, being in preparation since the time of Sankara. (44)
25- "This period, beginning with Buddha and Pythagoras at the one end and the Neo-Platonists and Gnostics at the other, is the only focus left in History wherein converge for the last time the bright rays of light streaming from the aeons of time gone by, unobscured by the hand of bigotry and fanaticism." (45)

Monday, 29 September 2014

Links of interest

5 timeless philosophies for a happy, successful life
The ancient Stoic philosophers are often dismissed as joyless and boring intellectuals. But the Stoics were actually very interested in the pursuit of things like happiness and success; they merely pursued them in different ways than most. With a few simple changes in perspective and behavior, the Stoics knew that it was possible to achieve a lasting form of personal happiness.

With a few simple changes in perspective and behavior, the Stoics knew that it was possible to achieve a lasting form of personal happiness." More ancient Stoic wisdom, confirmed by modern researchers of today:

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Porphyry: On the Cave of the Nymphs 4

The Olive Tree is related to Athena and symbolises Divine wisdom. Because she was born from the Head of Zeus, she is related to the intelligible nature. The olive has a white part that is raised upward in the Summer and downwards in the Winter and is therefore similar to the movement of the soul through the two entrances, and symbolises the alternation between light and dark. It symbolises peace  and victory as the  fruits of labour in the Olympiad of the soul: "Thus, too, the world is governed by an intellectual nature, and is conducted by a wisdom eternal and ever-flourishing; by which the rewards of victory are conferred on the conquerors in the athletic race of life, as the reward of severe toil and patient perseverance" (17)

"For in summer the white leaves of the olive tend upwards, but in winter the whiter leaves are bent downward. On this account also in prayers and supplications, men extend the branches of an olive, nominating from this that they shall exchange the sorrowful darkness of danger for the fair light of security and peace. The olive, therefore being naturally ever-flourishing, bears fruit which is the auxiliary of labour (by being its reward , it is sacred to Minerva; supplies the victors in athletic labours with crowns and affords a friendly branch to the suppliant petitioner".(15)

 In this cave all things must be deposited in a process to purify the passions.  According to Plato in the Timaeus, Phorcys represents material nature. It is related that Numenius gives a general interpretation of the Odyssey: "On this account, too, a seat under the olive is proper to Ulysses, as to one who implores divinity and would appease his natal daemon with a suppliant branch. For it will not be simply, and in a concise way, possible for anyone to be liberated from this sensible life, who blinds this daemon, and renders his energies inefficacious; but he who dares to do this, will be pursued by the anger (note 25) of the marine and material Gods, whom it is first requisite to appease by sacrifices, labours, and patient endurance; at one time, indeed, contending with the passions, and at another employing enchantments and deceptions, and by these, transforming himself in an all-various manner; in order that, being at length divested of the torn garments (by which his true person was concealed) he may recover the ruined empire of his soul. Nor will he even then be liberated from labours; but this will be effected when he has entirely passed over the raging sea, and, though still living, becomes so ignorant of marine and material works (through deep attention to intelligible concern) as to mistake an oar for a corn-van" (17)

A cavern at the top of a cliff :
The universe, matter

A stream of water flowing through:
Elements formed by matter

Marble beams where Naiads weave purple garments :
Souls descending into generation and acquiring body.

Naiads : Related to human nature of incarnated souls

Marble Beams Bones Purple Garments Flesh Bowls and urns filled with honey provided by bees :
Earth symbols - Nutritive, generative and preservative powers of nature.

A North gate for mankind :
Tropic of Cancer -Summer, Moon, North gate where the souls descend.

South gate for immortals :
Tropic of Capricorn - Winter, Saturn, South gate of ascent.

An olive tree :
Related to Athena, Divine wisdom. Peace, Victory. The Intellectual Principle that governs nature.

Basically, theses images represent the process of the soul's descending incarnation from it's cosmic origin and it's experience in relation to natural process up to the point of disembodiment and return to it's cosmic origin.

In general, Porphyry explains these symbols in relation to traditional Greek religious symbols and other mystical traditions such as Mithraism and Orphism. The symbols are all implicitely related to the lesser mysteries in ancient traditions such the mysteries of Eleusis and Attis, related to processes of generation and fertility.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Porphyry - On the Cave of the Nymphs 3

The Double entrance symbolises the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The tropic of Cancer  is related to Summer and the  Moon and is the North gate where the souls descend ; The tropic of Capricorn is related to Winter and Saturn, and is South gate of ascent. Ascent is related to liberation, for example, the Roman Saturnalia festival is therefore related to the Southern Tropic and features elements of divesting of garments symbolising the return to pristine felicity, the fountain of life. The entrances are said be aligned with the North-South tropic rather than the East-West/Aries-Libra equinoctial axis because Sothis, the Dog-Star is near Cancer and related to the new moon, thus a symbol of generation.

Then he gives some rather specific astrological data related to Mithras: "Hence, a place near to the equinoctial circle was assigned to Mithra as an appropriate seat. And on this account he bears the sword of Aries, which is a martial sign. He is likewise carried in the Bull, which is the sign of Venus. For Mithra. as well as the Bull, is the Demiurgus and lord of generation (note 13). But he is placed near the equinoctial circle, having the northern parts on his right hand, and the southern on his left. They likewise arranged towards the south the southern hemisphere because it is hot; but the northern hemisphere towards the north, through the coldness of the north wind." (11)

Porphyry then goes on to examine various uses of cave entrance symbolism from various traditions. Caves were consecrated to gods. For example in Crete, the Curetes dedicated a cavern to Zeus. The month Januarius is said to derive from the word janua meaning gate, related therefore to Aquarius. There is a temple cave in Arcadia dedicated to the moon and one in Lyceum dedicated to Pan, as well as one in Naxos dedicated to Dionysos. Parmenides makes mention of the two celestial gates.

The north entrance is related to Boreas, the North wind, therefore the myth of the rape of Orythyia by Boreas who beget Zetis and Calais is related to this symbolic nexus of the descent and return of souls. He relates the ancient belief that disembodied souls reside in the milky way,( a passage that is linked to chapter twelve of the Commentary on "Scipio's Dream" by Macrobius, which further explains the descent of the soul through the seven planets):

"According to Pythagoras, also, the people of dreams (note 19). are the souls which are said to be collected in the galaxy, this circle being so called from the milk with which souls are nourished when they fall into generation. Hence, those who evocate departed souls, sacrifice to them by a libation of milk mingled with honey; because, through the allurements of sweetness they will proceed into generation: with the birth of man, milk being naturally produced"(13)

Part 4 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Porphyry - On the Cave of the Nymphs 2

In Chapters 4-8 Porphyry explores the contents of the caves proper, which he considers to be a complex of interelated symbols, all related to generation and natural growth. Water is considered to symbolize primal matter that goes into generating things and is closely related to the Naids. Naids are related to the humid nature of incarnated souls. He relates this to Heraclitus' concept of humid souls

He makes a distinction between Nymphs and Naiads. Naiads are a particular kind of Nymph. Apparently Nymphs in general symbolize natural matter in general whereas Naiads are related to the matter of human bodies.

"For in consequence of containing perpetually flowing streams of water, it will not be a symbol of an intelligible hypostasis, but of a material essence. On this account also it is sacred to Nymphs, not the mountain or rural Nymphs, or others of the like kind, but to the Naiades, who are thus denominated from streams of water. For we peculiarly call the Naiades, and the powers that preside over waters, Nymphs; and this term also, is commonly applied to all souls descending into generation." (4)

The purple garments symbolize human flesh and the marble columns symbolizes human bones. Therefore the image of the Naids weaving purple garments over stone columns symbolizes souls descending into generation and acquiring body.

"For the formation of the flesh is on and about the bones, which in the bodies of animals resemble stones. Hence these instruments of weaving consist of stone, and not of any other matter. But the purple webs will evidently be the flesh which is woven from the blood". (6) According to Orphic accounts, Persephone presides over generation and is shown weaving a web peplos.

The stone bowls and urns with honey are earth symbols, related to the nymphs and Dionysios, symoblizing the generative, nutritive, and preservative powers of nature.
"Let the stony bowls, then, and the amphorae be symbols of the aquatic nymphs". He illustrates this with a rich, complex series of examples, all related to fountains, nymphs, water, and generation:

In the mysteries of Leontika, there is a ritual involving pouring honey on one's hands.

Honey preserves, honey intoxicates. It is related to divine nectar, citing the Myth of Porus in Plato's Symposium. It symbolizes desire, delight in generation. In another Orphic account, Zeus tricks Kronos with honey. Honey Platonically symbolizes Death because embodiment is the death of the soul, in contradistinction with gall which symbolizes life, because physical death signifies the liberation of the soul to eternal life.

A priestess of Demeter  was called a Bee. Persephone was titled "meltitode" - meaning  delicious like honey. Bee symbolism is linked to the moon and bull symbolism. Bees symbolizes just human souls, who have risen above their humid nature.

"For water co-operates in the work of generation. On this account the bees are said, by the poet, to deposit their honey in bowls and amphorae; the bowls being a symbol of fountains, and therefore a bowl is placed near to Mithra, instead of a fountain; but the amphorae are symbols of the vessels with which we draw water from fountains." (8)

English translation:
Latin translation:
Part 3