Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Mahatma Letters on Compassion

Who are these mysterious Mahatmas, Adepts, Brothers, Sisters...Much creative speculation has been written on them and they have many imitators - why not read the original texts? One thing that can be said, is that compassion seems to be a primary concern (thanks to Katherine Beechey):

You cannot truly be students of the Divine Wisdom, save as you are active in the service  of the Divine Life. Where trouble is, where suffering is, where ignorance is, where quarrel is, where oppression, where cruelty is-there must we find the earnest members of Our society.

For it is “humanity” which is the great Orphan, the only disinherited one upon this earth, my friend. And it is the duty of every man who is capable of an unselfish impulse to do something, whoever little, for its welfare. KH (Letters of the Masters of the Wisdom, Series I, p.74)
A man who places not the good of mankind above his own good is not worthy of becoming our chela, -he is not worthy of becoming higher in knowledge than his neighbor. M (Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, p. 252)
Send forth Atma’s most divine emanations, proceeding of that God-like sentiment-the love of mortal man for its fellow creature in its higher spiritual expression, and concentrating them…find… the means of benefiting humanity by the practical application of the Sephiroths of Love, Mercy, Justice, Divine Charity and boundless Self-abnegation. S. (Letters of the Masters of the Wisdom, Series 2, p.40)
For, though no one ought to be expecting thanks, for doing his duty by humanity and the cause of truth-since, after all, he who labours for others, labours but for himself-nevertheless, my Brother, I feel deeply grateful to you for what you have done. KH  (Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, p. 239)
To all, whether Chohan or chela, who are obligated workers among us the first and last consideration is whether we can do good to our neighbour, no matter how humble he may be; and we do not permit ourselves to even think of the danger of any contumely, abuse or injustice visited upon ourselves. We are ready to be "spat upon and crucified" daily — not once — if real good to another can come of it. KH (Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, p. 395)
He who is desirous to learn how to benefit humanity, and believes himself able to read the character of other people, must begin first of all, to learn to know himself, to appreciate his own character at its true value. M (Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, p. 222)
Woman’s mission is to become the mother of future occultists-one of those who will be born without sin. On the elevation of woman the world’s redemption and salvation hinge. And no till woman bursts the bonds of her sexual slavery to which she has ever been subjected will the world obtain an inkling of what she really is and of her proper place in the economy of nature. (Eminent Occultist, Comm. On E. Levi’s Paradoxes)
If he (H.S.O) is “ignorant of many things, so are his accusers, and because he remains still uninitiated the reason… is very plain: to this day he has preferred the good  of the many to his own personal benefit. Having given up the advantages derived from steady, serious chelaship by those who devote themselves to it, for his work for other people-these are those who now turn against him. M (Letters of the Masters of the Wisdom, Series 2, p.63)
The greatest consolation in and the foremost duty of life, child, is not to give pain, and avoid causing suffering to man or beast. KH (Letters of the Masters of the Wisdom, Series 1, p.153)
Our Society is not a mere intellectual school for occultism, and those greater than we have said that he who thinks the task of working for others too hard had better not undertake it. The moral and spiritual sufferings of the world are more important, and need help and cure more than science needs aid from us in any field of discovery. KH (Letters of the Masters of the Wisdom, Series 1, p.77)
Are you ready to do your part in the great work of philanthropy? You have offered yourself for the Red Cross; but, Sister, there are sicknesses and wounds of the Soul that no Surgeon’s heart can cure. Shall you help us teach mankind that the soul-sick must heal themselves? M (Letters of the Masters of the Wisdom, Series 2, p.129)
Let every Theosophist only do his duty, that which he can and ought to do, and very soon the sum of human misery, within and around the areas of every Branch of your Society, will be found visibly diminished. (Lucifer January 1888 edition, pp. 344)

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a review of the Truth and Reconciliation report

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Jacob Boehme on Religious Tolerance

Some  timeless reflections by the great Christian theosophist, Jacob Boehme:
150. But the Holy Ghost teacheth in the holy Teachers, and the Spirit of Christ heareth through the Soul, which is the Divine House of the Divine Sound or Voice in the holy Hearer.

151. The holy Man hath his Church in himself, wherein he heareth and teacheth.  But Babel hath a Heap of Stones, into which she goeth with her seeming Holiness and real Hypocrisy.  There she loveth to be seen in fine Clothes, and maketh a very devout and godly Shew; the Church of Stone is her God, in which she putteth her Confidence.

152. But the holy Man hath his Church about him every where, even in himself; for he always standeth and walketh, sitteth and lyeth down in his Church.  He liveth in the true Christian Church; yea, in the Temple of Christ.   The Holy Ghost preacheth to him out of every Creature.  Whatsoever he looketh upon, he seeth a Preacher of God therein.
153. Here now the Scoffer will say that I despise the Church Of Stone, where the Congregation meeteth; but I say that I do not.  For I do but discover the hypocritical Whore of Babylon, which committeth Whoredom with the Church of Stone, and termeth herself a Christian, but is indeed a Strumpet.
154. A true Christian brings his holy Church with him into the Congregation.  For the Heart is the true Church, where a Man must practise the Service of God.  If I should go a thousand Times to Church, and to the Sacrament every Week, and hear Absolution declared to me every Day, and have not Christ in me, all would be false, an unprofitable Fiction and graven Image in Babel, and no forgiving of Sins.
155. A holy Man doth holy Works from the holy Strength of his Mind.  The Work is not the Atonement or Reconciliation, but it is the Building which the true Spirit buildeth in his Substance; it is his Habitation.  But the Fiction and Fancy is the Habitation of the false Christian, into which his Soul entereth with Dissimulation.  The outward Hearing reacheth but to the outward, and worketh in the outward only; but the inward Hearing goeth into the inward, and worketh in the inward.
Regeneration or the New Birth (1622), Chapter 6)

162. But a Christian is of no Sect: he can dwell in the Midst of Sects, and appear in their Services, without being attached or bound to any.   He hath but one Knowledge, and that is, Christ in him.  He seeketh but one Way, which is the Desire always to do and teach that which is right; and he putteth all his knowing and willing into the Life of Christ. 163. He sigheth and wisheth continually that the Will of God might be done in him, and that his Kingdom might be manifested in him.   He daily and hourly killeth Sin in the Flesh; for the Seed of the Woman, viz. the inward Man in Christ, continually breaketh the Head of the Serpent, that is, the Power of the Devil, which is in Vanity.

164. His Faith is a Desire after God and Goodness; which he wrappeth up in a sure Hope, trusting to the Words of the Promise, and liveth and dieth therein; though as to the true Man, he never dieth.

165. For Christ saith, Whosoever believeth in me, shall never die, but hath pierced through from Death to Life; and Rivers of living Water shall flow from him, viz. good Doctrine and Works.

166. Therefore I say, that whatsoever fighteth and contendeth about the Letter, is all Babel.  The Letters of the Word proceed from, and stand all in, one Root, which is the Spirit of God; as the various Flowers stand all in the Earth and grow about one another.  They fight not with each other about their Difference of Colour, Smell, and Taste, but suffer the Earth, the Sun, the Rain, the Wind, the Heat and Cold, to do with them as they please; and yet every one of them groweth in its own peculiar Essence and Property.

167. Even so it is with the Children of God; they have various Gifts and Degrees of Knowledge, yet all from one Spirit.  They all rejoice at the great Wonders of God, and give Thanks to the most High in his Wisdom.   Why then should they contend about him in whom they live and have their Being, and of whose Substance they themselves are?

(Regeneration or the New Birth (1622), Chapter 7)

a review of the Paris climate summit:

Friday, 11 December 2015

Theosophy Basics: Blavatsky on Freedom

Obviously, Blavatsky wrote extensively on her brand of traditionial esoteric global perrenialism,which integrates a very fine analysis of Hegel's philosophy of history. It is probably not one of the more popular or better understood aspects of her thought, I think because it is not in tune with the current modern form of sceptical empiricism . One important component of her admirably deep and perceptive semantic approach is the value of freedom, of which she developed a remarkably progressive perspective; the passages below are a few typical examples:

Blavatsky's universalist perspective entails that freedom of thought is an important value:
We hold to no religion, as to no philosophy in particular: we cull the good we find in each. But here, again, it must be stated that, like all other ancient systems, Theosophy is divided into Exoteric and Esoteric Sections. (Key, 19)

"Verily so," we answer. "But where is the alleged contradiction in this? Neither the Founders, nor the 'most prominent members,' nor yet the majority thereof, constitute the Society, but only a certain portion of it, which, moreover, having no creed as a body, yet allows its members to believe as and what they please." PHILOSOPHERS AND PHILOSOPHICULES [Lucifer, Vol. V, No. 26, October, 1889, pp. 85-91, CW11, 431]

Membership in the Theosophical Society does not expose the "Fellows" to any interference with their religious, irreligious, political, philosophical or scientific views. The Society is not a sectarian nor is it a religious body, but simply a nucleus of men devoted to the search after truth, whencesoever it may come.  [FORCE OF PREJUDICE Lucifer, Vol. IV, No. 23,July, 1889, pp. 353-360, CW11, 330]

A cosmopolitan sense of equality and respect of fundamental human rights for all is part of this perspective:
We have already said in The Theosophist: "Born in the United States of America, the Theosophical Society was constituted on the model of its mother country. The latter, as we know, omits the name of God from its constitution, lest, said the Fathers of the Republic, this word someday afford the pretext for a State religion; for they wanted to grant absolute equality in its laws to all religions so that all would support the State and all in their turn would be protected."   The Theosophical Society was established on this beautiful model.   THE NEW CYCLE [La Revue Theosophique, Paris, Vol.  I, No.  I, March 21, 1889, pp. 3-13, CW11, 123]

ENQUIRER. What do you consider as due to humanity at large?
THEOSOPHIST. Full recognition of equal rights and privileges for all, and without distinction of race, colour, social position, or birth.
ENQUIRER. When would you consider such due not given?
THEOSOPHIST. When there is the slightest invasion of another's right — be that other a man or a nation; when there is any failure to show him the same justice, kindness, consideration or mercy which we desire for ourselves. The whole present system of politics is built on the oblivion of such rights, and the most fierce assertion of national selfishness. The French say: "Like master, like man"; they ought to add, "Like national policy, like citizen." (Key, 230)

To begin with, no Fellow in the Society, whether exoteric or esoteric, has a right to force his personal opinions upon another Fellow. "It is not lawful for any officer of the Parent Society to express in public, by word or act, any hostility to, or preference for, any one section (3), religious or philosophical, more than another. All have an equal right to have the essential features of their religious belief laid before the tribunal of an impartial world. And no officer of the Society, in his capacity as an officer, has the right to preach his own sectarian views and beliefs to members assembled, except when the meeting consists of his co-religionists. (Key, 50)

In general, self-reliance, independent and original thinking is encouraged, in a spirit of inclusiveness. The position is one of neutrality, objectivity and open-mindedness; this is considered to be the basis of a non-sectarion, non-dogmatic position:

As a body, the Theosophical Society holds that all original thinkers and investigators of the hidden side of nature whether materialists--those who find in matter "the promise and potency of all terrestrial life," or spiritualists--that is, those who discover in spirit the source of all energy and of matter as well, were and are, properly, Theosophists. For to be one, one need not necessarily recognize the existence of any special God or a deity. One need but worship the spirit of living nature, and try to identify oneself with it. To revere that Presence, the invisible Cause, which is yet ever manifesting itself in its incessant results; the intangible, omnipotent, and omnipresent Proteus: indivisible in its Essence, and eluding form, yet appearing under all and every form; who is here and there, and everywhere and nowhere; is ALL, and NOTHING; ubiquitous yet one; the Essence filling, binding, bounding, containing everything, contained in all. It will, we think, be seen now, that whether classed as Theists, Pantheists or Atheists, such men are near kinsmen to the rest. Be what he may, once that a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought--Godward--he is a Theosophist; an original thinker, a seeker after the eternal truth with "an inspiration of his own" to solve the universal problems. [What are the Theosophists? The Theosophist, Vol. I, October, 1879, pp. 5-7, CW2, 98]

The Society, in its capacity as an abstract corporation, believes in nothing, accepts nothing, teaches nothing. The Society per se cannot and must not have any religion, for it contains all religions. Cults are, after all, but external vehicles, more or less material forms and containing more or less of the essence of the One and Universal Truth. In its essential nature Theosophy is the spiritual as well as the physical science of this Truth--the very essence of deistic and philosophical research. As visible representative of the universal Truth, since it contains all religions and philosophies, and since each of them contains in its turn a portion of this Truth--the Society could not be sectarian, have preferences, or be any more partial than, say, an anthropological or geographic society. Do the latter care to what religion their explorers belong, so long as each of their members bravely carries out his duty?   THE NEW CYCLE [La Revue Theosophique, Paris, Vol.  I, No.  I, March 21, 1889, pp. 3-13, CW11, 123]

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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Book Review: The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky Vol. One, 2003

The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky Vol. One, Quest Books, 2003, John Algeo, editor.
Early in the new millenium, Blavatsky's Collected Works project got a welcome re-boot with the first installment of her collected letters. There are 134 letters, covering mainly a four-year period, 1875-78, the important seminal years of the Theosophical Society and the writing of Isis Unveiled, in the United States. Roughly three quarters of these letters have previously appeared in various books of collected letters of hers, giving roughly 30 letters that are more obscure, although almost all of the letters have been published; the only exception being a short previously unpublished note to Olcott from the Adyar archives in India (letter 29). There is a Canadian connection in that several of the more obscure letters were reprinted in the late-lamented magazine The Canadian Theosophist in the 1980s. The thoroughness in gathering all this material together is impressive.
On a more controversial note, the inclusion of possible forgeries or adulterated source material, of which Blavatsky has been the victim, for purposes of defamation, on several occasions. In most cases, a note indicating the problematic nature of the letter is included. Fantastically, there is letter 7, an alleged letter of Blavatsky offering her services to a secret government department as a spy for Russia. Although the reference information in the letter seems fairly accurate, the letter on the whole comes across as far-fetched and contrived and so is most likely inauthentic, although the original copy has never been analyzed, which is a shame. Ironically, this letter originally surfaced in 1986, shortly after the Society for Psychical Research  (SPR) issued a  publication analyzing the infamous 1885 Hodgson report, the main source of her mainstream reputation woes, largely exonerating her. This new letter has had considerable mileage in academic circles.

The interesting letters to Hurrichund Chintamon were transcribed by Eleanor Sidgwick on behalf of the SPR, and although probably mostly authentic, there are some wonky passages of questionable authenticity. A series of letters that do not have any notes indicating problems of authenticity are the letters to A.N. Aksakov, a Russian spiritualist writer,  taken from Solovyov's A Modern Priestess of Isis, which has a notoriously negative portrayal of Blavatsky, most likely inspired by the Hodgson report, which entailed probable adulteration of certain otherwise authentic letters. Although they seem mostly authentic, the letter involving Andrew Jackson Davis in particular, seems questionable. Since it is a rather touchy issue, a certain disclaimer might have been appropriate. Since this problem had been amply covered previously, notably in Jean Overton Fuller's Blavatsky and her Teachers, it would have been a good opportunity to set the record straight. There are at least four distinct cases of forgery problems with Blavatsky so perhaps a separate study on all of them would be useful.
Of particular interest are letters to Olcott (44), to W.S. Moses (59), and C.C. Massey (65,74) which contain much interesting passages on esoteric philosophy, which, interestingly, shows that she was already acquainted with the distinctive theosophical tenets that were only published during and after her stay in India  (It is very regrettable that the considerable correspondence known to exist to the latter two have been lost). Moreover, there are a half dozen lengthy letters to her aunt Nadya de Fadeyev, both erudite and heartfelt. One small caveat is that since many of the letters that deal with the mysterious character of John King, concern a mysteriously produced painting, it would have been nice to include an illustration of said painting, as it has survived.

Most of the original Russian letters are previously unpublished translations by original collected works editor Boris de Zirkoff and many letters have benefited from verification with the archived originals. There is much helpful historical notes and explanatory text as this hefty 600-page tome collects much scattered material together for the first time, a treasure-trove of material for both theosophists and historians alike. Volume two is eagerly awaited.