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