Sunday, 31 January 2016

Theosophy Basics: Blavatsky on Tolerance

"Pity and forbearance, charity and long-suffering, ought to be always there to prompt us to excuse our sinning brethren, and to pass the gentlest sentence possible upon those who err. A Theosophist ought never to forget what is due to the shortcomings and infirmities of human nature."

Tolerance and charity are the key principles in relations among one’s fellow human beings:
 ENQUIRER. And what should you do then?
THEOSOPHIST. Pity and forbearance, charity and long-suffering, ought to be always there to prompt us to excuse our sinning brethren, and to pass the gentlest sentence possible upon those who err. A Theosophist ought never to forget what is due to the shortcomings and infirmities of human nature.
ENQUIRER. Ought he to forgive entirely in such cases?
THEOSOPHIST. In every case, especially he who is sinned against.
ENQUIRER. But if by so doing, he risks to injure, or allow others to be injured? What ought he to do then?
THEOSOPHIST. His duty; that which his conscience and higher nature suggests to him; but only after mature deliberation. Justice consists in doing no injury to any living being; but justice commands us also never to allow injury to be done to the many, or even to one innocent person, by allowing the guilty one to go unchecked.
ENQUIRER. What are the other negative clauses?
THEOSOPHIST. No Theosophist ought to be contented with an idle or frivolous life, doing no real good to himself and still less to others. He should work for the benefit of the few who need his help if he is unable to toil for Humanity, and thus work for the advancement of the Theosophical cause.(key 251)

Only the latter, remaining as kindly disposed and brotherly to the "individual theosophist and even a Branch" -- that snub him and his "order," by refusing to pay what others do -- shows himself ten-fold more theosophical and true to the principle of Brotherhood, than the former, who traduces and denounces him in such uncharitable terms, instead of kindly warning him of the bad effect produced. Unfortunately, it is not those who speak the loudest of virtue and theosophy, who are the best exemplars of both. Few of them, if any, have tried to cast out the beam from their own eye, before they raised their voices against the mote in the eye of a brother. Furthermore, it seems to have become quite the theosophical rage in these days, to denounce vehemently, yet never to offer to help pulling out any such motes.[The Original Programme of the Theosophical Society, Ostende, October 3, 1886, CW 156]

This principle of tolerance is of course extended to the field of religion, which includes denouncing fanaticism:
Viewed as a philosophy, Theosophy in its practical work is the alembic of the Mediæval alchemist. It transmutes the apparently base metal of every ritualistic and dogmatic creed (Christianity included) into the gold of fact and truth, and thus truly produces a universal panacea for the ills of mankind. This is why, when applying for admission into the Theosophical Society, no one is asked what religion he belongs to, nor what his deistic views may be. These views are his own personal property and have nought to do with the Society. Because Theosophy can be practiced by Christian or Heathen, Jew or Gentile, by Agnostic or Materialist, or even an Atheist, provided that none of these is a bigoted fanatic, who refuses to recognize as his brother any man or woman outside his own special creed or belief. Count Leo N. Tolstoy does not believe in the Bible, the Church, or the divinity of Christ; and yet no Christian surpasses him in the practical bearing out of the principles alleged to have been preached on the Mount. And these principles are those of Theosophy; not because they were uttered by the Christian Christ, but because they are universal ethics, and were preached by Buddha and Confucius, Krishna, and all the great Sages, thousands of years before the Sermon on the Mount was written. Hence, once that we live up to such theosophy, it becomes a universal panacea indeed, for it heals the wounds inflicted by the gross asperities of the Church "isms" on the sensitive soul of every naturally religious man. How many of these, forcibly thrust out by the reactive impulse of disappointment from the narrow area of blind belief into the ranks of arid disbelief, have been brought back to hopeful aspiration by simply joining our Brotherhood--yea, imperfect as it is. . [IS THEOSOPHY A RELIGION? Lucifer, Vol. III, No. 15, November, 1888, pp. 177-187, CW 164]

Freedom, tolerance and equality are considered mutually complementary values:
 We have now, we think, made clear why our members, as individuals, are free to stay outside or inside any creed they please, provided they do not pretend that none but themselves shall enjoy the privilege of conscience, and try to force their opinions upon the others. In this respect the Rules of the Society are very strict: It tries to act upon the wisdom of the old Buddhistic axiom, "Honour thine own faith, and do not slander that of others"; echoed back in our present century, in the "Declaration of Principles" of the Brahmo Samaj, which so nobly states that: "no sect shall be vilified, ridiculed, or hated." In Section VI of the Revised Rules of the Theosophical Society, recently adopted in General Council, at Bombay, is this mandate: “It is not lawful for any officer of the Parent Society to express, by word or act, any hostility to, or preference for, any one section (sectarian division, or group within the Society) more than another. All must be regarded and treated as equally the objects of the Society's solicitude and exertions. All have an equal right to have the essential features of their religious belief laid before the tribunal of an impartial world. In their individual capacity, members may, when attacked, occasionally break this Rule, but, nevertheless, as officers they are restrained, and the Rule is strictly enforced during the meetings. For, above all human sects stands Theosophy in its abstract sense; Theosophy which is too wide for any of them to contain but which easily contains them. [What are the Theosophists? The Theosophist, Vol. I, October, 1879, pp. 5-7, CW 105-06]

This spirit of tolerance includes both scientific and religious beliefs:
In conclusion, we may state that, broader and far more universal in its views than any existing mere scientific Society, it has plus science its belief in every possibility, and determined will to penetrate into those unknown spiritual regions which exact science pretends that its votaries have no business to explore. And, it has one quality more than any religion in that it makes no difference between Gentile, Jew, or Christian. It is in this spirit that the Society has been established upon the footing of a Universal Brotherhood. [What are the Theosophists? The Theosophist, Vol. I, October, 1879, pp. 5-7, CW 106]

As part of its chairmanship of the Council of Europe, Belgium is organizing a high-level conference entitled "Tolerance trumps hate". It will be held in Brussels on 8 May.

image thanks to :

Sunday, 24 January 2016

William Q. Judge - On the Daily Initiation 5 - Philosophy of Daily Life

This is actually our fifth quote pertaining to Judge's concept of 'Daily Initiation' and this passage kind of sums up what Judge was all about - a practical, deontological outlook with a concept of spiritual humanism that combines the compassion of Buddhism (or Christianity, or Sufism) with the holistic monism of Advaita Vedanta, in a contemporary language:

"We become one with the Supreme most surely when we lose ourselves in work for Humanity."

"To obtain the good, we must think good thoughts; we must be filled with good desires; in short, we must be good.
And this practical suggestion is to fulfill faithfully and conscientiously every known duty. It is in and through the incidents of daily life, in work well done, in duties thoroughly performed, that we today can most readily make progress in the higher life,-slow progress, it may be, but at any rate sure. These are stepping stones to better things. We advance most rapidly when we stop to help other wayfarers. We receive most when we sacrifice most. We attain to the largest measure of Divine love when we most unselfishly love the brethren. We become one with the Supreme most surely when we lose ourselves in work for Humanity."

 “Spiritual Gifts and their attainment”, The Path, February 1889
Two new books from Daniel Caldwell
PHOTOGRAPHIC FACSIMILE REPRINT of the April 1891 Edition of HPB's "Esoteric Instructions"
The Writing of The Secret Doctrine. 102 pages

images thanks to

Friday, 15 January 2016

The Mahabharata and the Iliad compared - a symbolic interpretation

Image from Yogananda's commentary on the Baghavad Gita.

''Had the Rt. Hon. W. E. Gladstone, who prides himself on his Greek scholarship and understanding of the spirit of Homer's allegories, ever had a real inkling of the esoteric meaning of the Iliad and Odyssey, he would have understood St. John's "Revelation," and even the Pentateuch, better than he does. For the way to the Bible lies through Hermes, Bel, and Homer, as the way to these is through the Hindu and Chaldean religious symbols.'' (H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine 2, 383)
As William Q. Judge observes, it is interesting to look at a symbolic meaning to various myths and legends:
"This valuable privilege of looking for the inner sense, while not straining after impossible meanings in the text, is permitted to all sincere students of any holy scriptures, Christian or Pagan....The moment we are aware of its existence in the poem, our inner self is ready to help the outer man to grasp after it; and in the noble pursuit of these great philosophical and moral truths, which is only our eternal endeavor to realize them as a part of our being, we can patiently wait for a perfect knowledge of the anatomy and functions of the inner man."
Following certain indications given by William Q Judge, and T. Subba Row on their commentaries on the Baghavad Gita, I've sketched out some symbolic correspondences with the theosophical sevenfold principles with the various characters in the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata, of which the Gita is a part:
Pandavas – Higher Self – (Hastinapura – Atma )
Kauravas – Lower Self
Dhritarashra –Material world.
Pandu – Spiritual World
Atma – Krishna
Buddhi – Draupadi
Manas – Arjuna
Kama Manas – Yudhisthira (Manas aspect) – Duryodana (Kama aspect)
Linga Sharira – Bhima
Prana Sharira – Nakula
Sthula Sharira – Sahadeva
Interestingly, there exists a system of Hindu myth interepretation in the Kriya Yoga system. See for examples the commentaries on the Baghavad Gita by Lahiri Mahasay and Paramahansa Yogananda.
Moreover, there has always been a tendency to notice the similarities between various myths. This can give depth and a wider perspective to one’s interpretations. For example, one could compare the epic battle of the Pandavas and Kauravas of the Mahabharata to the Trojan War epic of Greece and there have been several studies recently which have noted striking similarities. (See for example:
The Neoplatonists have similar symbolic interpretations of myth to the Theosophical one. Sallustios, the neoplatonist, gives 5 keys to myth interpretation:
1- Theological (Essence of the gods, ex. Kronos=Intellectual world) (Philosophers)
2- Physical (Activities of gods in the world, ex. Kronos=Time) (Poets)
3- Psychic (Activities of the soul itself) (Poets)
4- Material (Equating material substances with divine natures, ex. Isis=Earth)
5- Mixed psychic & material (Religious Initiation myths, ex. Attis)
Moreover, Thomas Taylor in his "The Wandering of Ulysses"
gives a passage from the neoplatonist Hermeas, explaining the basic symbolism of the Iliad:
"By Ilion we must understand the generated material place, which is so denominated from mud and matter (para ten iloun kai ten oulen), and in which there are war and sedition. But the Trojans are material forms, and all the lives which subsist about bodies. Hence, also, the Trojans are called genuine (ithageneis). For all the lives which subsist about bodies, and irrational souls, are favourable and attentive to their proper matter. On the contrary, the Greeks are rational souls, coming from Greece, i.e. from the intelligible into matter. Hence, the Greeks are called foreigners (Epeiloudes) and vanquish the Trojans, as being of a superior order."
Indeed, this symbolic explanation is similar to ones given for the Mahabharata. So one can equate the Pandavas with the Achaeans or Greeks and the Kuravas with the Trojans. Moreover, these two myths can be considered part examples of the theosophical theme of the War in Heaven ( and in more general terms, the symbolic notion of the Holy War, which according to Berzin, "in both religions (Islam and Buddhism), the main emphasis is on the internal spiritual battle against one’s own ignorance and destructive ways".(see A. Berzin's text, Holy Wars in Buddhism and Islam)
Moreover, H. P. Blavatsky mentions a connection between Homer and another classic Indian epic, the Ramayana (Isis Unveiled 2, 278), and scholars have noted the similarities between the Ramayana and Homer's Odyssey.

great Canadian group of seven painter and Theosophist Lawren Harris  has LA exhibition:

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Book Review: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff with your Family, Richard Carlson, Hachette Books, 1998

Moving away from the more serious, spiritual-minded posts, we have a light, breezy self-help book from the popular Richard Carlson, who sadly passed away in his prime in 2006.


This book consists of a hundred fairly simple, common sense tips designed to damage control the fast-paced, competitive, extraverted ways of modern capitalistic society. Quite a useful, helpful book full of very traditional Stoic, medieval Christian, or Buddhist principles repackaged for the micro-managing, daily life minutiae-focused Seinfeld generation, showing that what’s old is new again and that modernism can use a healthy dose of perennial wisdom. Basically the book can be summarized as “learn patience, compassion, and detachment”. (Note that according to William Q. Judge “Humility, Patience, and Contentment are the first three steps that lead to the door”.) This book is saved from being a collection of shallow, feel-good truisms by the fact that the author shows a willingness to introspect. Observing oneself and correcting one’s behavior is no easy task and the author communicates a sincere desire to engage in this tricky business of self-amendment. And it’s always good to be reminded of the simple things, which we often forget and which are not always easy to put in practice. Who has not become needlessly irritated over the silly foibles of daily life? Somewhat contrary to the book’s spontaneous, personal, casual approach, I’ve re-organized the tips into three categories:

Personal attitudes: Forgive your outbursts; choose the lifestyle that you enjoy; keep your promises; don’t worry when you spill your drinks (visualize this advance to inure yourself to it); meditate on gratitude; make light of unpleasant situations; avoid knee-jerk reactions; nip down sliding situation in the bud; avoid putting yourself down; learn to let go (detachment); meditate on love; don’t feel victimized; lower your expectations; don’t go to bed mad; don’t be so self-centered; don’t be so hard on yourself (perfectionism); action speak louder than words; stay centered; become less easily bothered; don’t gossip; learn to relativize; speak with kindness; take life as it comes; don’t constantly evaluate yourself; behave as if you were being observed; organize your mind; don’t engage in compulsive thinking; don’t exaggerate your work load; don’t repeat the same mistakes; learn to appreciate small improvements; avoid making false assumptions; speak softly; be playful; acknowledge positive accomplishments  daily; have a simple hobby; be peaceful; accept change; don’t be a control freak; learn to defer gratification; reflect on the mutability of existence (shortness of life)

Relation to others: Set a positive emotional climate; if you’re nice to your spouse, he or she will help you; learn from children’s positive traits; be a good listener; don’t worry about children bickering; don’t overstimulate your children; set a good example to your children; don’t be too stressed about teenage behaviour; tell people that you love them; keep good company; agree to disagree; don’t overburden your relations with negative complaining; be flexible with children; don’t take your spouse for granted; give in sometimes (compromise); appreciate your in-laws; be aware of your mood swings; be accepting of your loved ones; accept people’s quirks; avoid saying how busy you are; be tolerant towards your neighbours; have empathy for your family members; show your appreciation; don’t hurt people’s feelings; don’t be overbearing; remind others to treasure life; don’t expect people to be perfect; don’t expect family members to treat you the same as other people do; learn from your children; be patient with your landlord of building manager; reminisce over fond souvenirs, express gratitude for your home; accept that children need to complain; reverse roles with your spouse; live every day as it were the last with your family

Practical: Give yourself an extra ten-minute cushion; maintain privacy boundaries; accept that a house requires constant maintenance; don’t answer the phone systematically; give something away, if you buy something new; schedule free time; simplify your life; set aside personal quality time; decorate your home; explore low-cost activities; don’t be overly ambitious or acquisitive; don’t do too much; keep work life separate; schedule caring gestures; have family meetings; don’t over-emphasize vacations; take moments of sitting still; stay healthy; go camping; don’t accumulate too many belongings; have a favorite family charity; exercise, get rid of clutter

Canada welcomes Syrian refugees