Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Spiritual Meaning of Easter 2

There's actually some very intimate connections between William Stainton Moses and Theosophy, as can be ascertained from the Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett. He was a critical investigator of spiritualism and an important early British TS member.  A future post on this is on the drawing table.
"The whole course of the typical life of the Pattern Man is emblematic of the progressive development of the life begun on earth, completed in heaven (so to use your terms), born of self-denial, and culminating in spiritual ascension. In the Christ life, as in a story, man may read the tale of the progress of spirit from incarnation to enfranchisement. Thirty years and more of angelic preparation fitted the Christ for His mission: three short years sufficed to discharge so much of it as man could bear. So man's spirit in its development progresses through the course covered by the Festivals of the Christian Church, from the birth of self-denial to the festival of the completed life. Born in self-denial, progressing through self-sacrifice, developed by perpetual struggles with the adversaries (the antagonistic principles which must be conquered in daily life, in self, and in the foes), it dies at length to the external, and rises on its Easter morn from the grave of matter, and lives henceforth, baptized by the outpoured spirit of Pentecost, a new and risen life, till it ascends to the place prepared for it by the tendency of its earth life.

This is spirit's progress, and it may be said to be a process of regeneration, shortly typified by crucifixion and resurrection. The old man dies, the new man rises from his grave. The old man, with his lusts, is crucified; the new man is raised up to live a spiritual and holy life. It is regeneration of spirit that is the culmination of bodily life, and the process is crucifixion of self, a daily death, as Paul was wont to say. In the life of spiritual progress there should be no stagnation, no paralysis. It should be a growth and a daily adaptation of knowledge; a mortification of the earthly and sensual, and a corresponding development of the spiritual and heavenly. In other words, it is a growth in grace and in knowledge of the Christ; the purest type of human life presented to your imitation. It is a clearing away of the material, and a development of the spiritual--a purging as by fire, the fire of a consuming zeal; of a lifelong struggle with self, and all that self includes; of an ever-widening grasp of Divine truth.

By no other means can spirit be purified. The furnace is one of self- sacrifice: the process the same for all. Only in some souls, wherein the Divine flame burns more brightly, the process is rapid and concentrated; while in duller natures the fires smoulder, and vast cycles of purgation are required. Blessed are they who can crush out the earthly, and welcome the fiery trial which shall purge away the dross. To such, progress is rapid and purification sure.

This, briefly, is the life of the progressive spirit--self-sacrifice, whereby self is crucified; self-denial, whereby the world is vanquished; and spiritual conflict, whereby the adversaries are beaten back. In it is no stagnation; even no rest; no finality. It is a daily death, out of which springs the risen life. It is a constant fight, out of which is won perpetual progress. It is the quenchless struggle of the light that is within to shine out more and more into the radiance of the perfect day. And thus only it is that what you call heaven is won."

Spirit Teachings, Section 30, William Stainton Moses

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Astrology: Lunar Eclipse - March 23, 2016

Dynamic Mercurial Spring Resurrection
Coming four days after the Spring equinox, this  lunar eclipse highlights the transition from submersion in the Piscean mystical waters to the rebirth into the manifesting energies of Aries; the renewal of spring, marking the end of the zodiacal initiatory cycle and the beginning of a new cycle of experience and transformation.

Aries-Libra Axis
This is the final sequence of Aries-Libra eclipses begun in October 2013 and so can represent a culmination of relationship issues focused on individual needs versus relational needs. The challenge of harmonizing one’s personal needs with the needs of others will not be so easy as the Sun/Mercury conjunction, in the sign of Aries, in a Trine with Mars (in Sagittarius) gives a powerful energy for vocal self-assertion (there will be no lack of loquaciousness), whereas the moon’s effectiveness is muted in Libra and the sextile aspect with Mars is less powerful; and with a full moon, emotional energy can be strong. Hence the balance between intellect and emotion is a major challenge with this eclipse.

Saturn-Neptune-Jupiter T-Square
This powerful T-Square is strongly balanced by Neptune/Pluto, Saturn/Uranus and Jupiter/Pluto trines; along with the Uranus/Pluto square, the outer planets are all inter-connected by powerful aspects, bringing socio-political changes in areas of bureaucratic/political power (Pluto in Capricorn), philosophical ideologies (Saturn in Sagittarius), religious policies and environmental issues (Jupiter in Virgo), technological developments and social protest (Uranus in Aries) as well as art and spirituality (Neptune in Pisces); and so we are at a pivotal moment in the current outer planetary transits. In the last eclipse, most of the planets were focused around the T-Square, whereas now, all of the inner planets are somewhat inter-spread between these aspects, although still very close to the planets Neptune, Uranus, Jupiter, and Saturn. The Jupiter (retrograde) -Saturn square goes exact practically at the same time as the eclipse occurs and Saturn will go retrograde on March 25th. With all this movement going on, the Venus-Neptune conjunction may perhaps get muted, but it could be quite potent in terms of creative, romantic and spiritual inspiration if one can achieve a strong practical, realistic, grounded balance and discipline, while avoiding the problem of deluded emotionalism. Additionally, the Venus/Neptune trine with Pluto, can serve to favor spiritual insight.

If one follows the news, one may have noticed how the solar eclipse of March 8th shook things up quite a bit, (and also brought encouraging signs of productive cooperative changes). Perhaps some long-standing problems flared up, or old wounds re-opened. With this eclipse, there is an exceptionally positive energy for completing the zodiacal cycle of transformation and renewal. With five planets in fire signs and the Uranus, Pluto, Saturn and Mars squares, a certain amount of dramatic volatility can be expected; moreover, the strong Jupiter-Saturn square can bring dramatic change in one’s life structure (a change to allow for a more fluid organization). The main challenge with this eclipse would be to take care to use the mercurial masculine individualistic, intellectual insightfulness in a holistic manner that integrates the more feminine, emotional, intuitive, altruistic aspects of the full moon in Libra. Hence, one would do well to consider diplomacy, listening skills, and empathy in one’s drive to engage in resolving lingering problems and disputes.

As a possible hint to the deeper meanings of this eclipse, I suggest the above image of the alchemical Rebus as envisaged by Basile Valentin from FIGVRA XCVIII (48), Viridarium chimicum (1624) by Daniel Stolcius. For a good explanation of this symbol see:

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Gauri Viswanathan on the Mahatma Letters

Sometimes it’s good to look at what’s being written about theosophy in academic circles and reflect upon the diversity of opinions thereof. The selected quotations that I propose to present are from the pioneering “The Ordinary Business of Occultism”, by Gauri Viswanathan (Vol. 27, No. 1 (Critical Inquiry, Autumn, 2000), pp. 1-20 University of Chicago Press) Professor Viswanathan specializes in the field of literary historiography and has written several award-winning books in the field. I propose to focus on her views of The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett.
Basically, I think the paper succeeds in describing the underlying dramatic historical reality of the Mahatma Letters, with their eloquent descriptions of the socio-political tensions of colonial India and the significant cultural and spiritual dynamics between Hindu (and South East Asian) and Western societies, thus successfully arguing for its literary distinctiveness and historical importance. Yes, the Mahatma Letters have gained a respectable position in academia – who would have imagined it? Although the position is, of course, not without considerable perplexity and skepticism, and so, much more research would be required to attempt to solve the many unanswered questions.

Just to clarify, of course A.P. Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism is almost completely based on letters from the Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett; and obviously, reincarnation is a central aspect of both works, and was the first major exposition of the theosophical ideas on this question and remains a classic exposition thereof - even Blavatsky's exposition on reincarnation in Key to Theosophy seems based mainly on the Mahatma Letters.

“Reading Theosophy-as one among many so-called fringe spiritual movements of the nineteenth century-poses the sorts of challenges to critical thinking that secular intellectuals would prefer not to contemplate. A cosmopolitan movement that acquired worldwide adherents, Theosophy developed in reaction to orthodox Christianity, as it sought the roots of spiritual life not in dogma but in an experiential religion recapturing a non-deity-centered, pantheistic theology. Its appeal lay in finding a common ground between many world religions, without necessarily subscribing to the tenets of any one particular religion. Although it is sometimes grouped along with other spiritualist cults, it is necessary to distinguish it from the more plebian movements with which spiritualism was often identified.” (p. 4)  
“The Mahatma Letters to A. P Sinnett is an extraordinary work. Marvelously constructed and richly textured, it justly deserves much closer attention than it has received, particularly since it sheds valuable light on the complex dynamics of colonial relations, as well as on the institutionalization of Eastern thought and the disenchantment of religion in the modern world.” (p.12)  
“At once prophetic and cautionary, the Mahatmas' communications are designed not so much to disrupt the secular moment as to pry it open in order to salvage a past that exceeds the past of European sectarianism. Agents of a new secularism, the Mahatmas conceive of their role as a tearing away of the mask of legal tolerance to show the "religious dogmatism [that] lingers in the hearts of the multitudes" (ML, p. 4). For the Mahatmas it is essential to recognize this as a starting point for reconstructing a nondogmatic world order. But in opening up sectarian history to new, frightening contemplation, they succeed in drawing attention to a long view of history that would otherwise not be visible. For instance, in a series of letters Koot Hoomi uncovers the evolution of life forms whose progressive differentiation results in the fragmentation of a uniform world consciousness. Even as he shows that such fragmentation is the essence of sectarianism, he also points to a much larger biological process that is integrative in its impulses. The revelation of occult secrets thus becomes a mechanism for imagining a future in which a world consciousness might be recaptured from its moments of rupture.” (p.16 )
“On another level, however, an alternative culture of governance is imagined, which would draw upon the insights of spiritual teachers to cultivate an expansive secularism, a secularism open to its past. Indeed, the role of the Theosophical Society is proposed as a narrowing of the chasm between rational secularity and occult knowledge. This allows the Anglo- Indian officers of the society to project their organization as oppositional while appropriating the teachings of the truly anti-colonial masters to construct their own self-serving version of a secular society, less opposed to religion than to a present-minded, ahistorical view of life. 
Finally, I realize how complicated it is to write about the Tibetan Masters in The Mahatma Letters as if they had a reality independent of their interlocutors and authors. And perhaps that is the whole point of the work, as it challenges its readers to imagine whose world is being imagined, whose perspective dominates the disenthralment of the modern world, whose viewpoint ultimately prevails in the reception of astral secrets, and, most of all, whose personae the masters assume. Whatever the answers to these questions, it seems clear the masters are intended to function as agents of a new secularism that is less present-minded and more open to a long view of time, as evident in the Theosophists' fondness for genealogies beginning with primordial matter. The expansiveness of the temporal framework is also designed to allow for a displacement of religious teleology by evolutionary history, which by the nineteenth century had begun to yield new units of scientific analysis such as race and ethnicity.” (p.20) 

for an example of further research that has since been done on this question, see:
Mriganka Mukhopadhyay. The Occult and the Orient: The Theosophical Society and the Socio-Religious Space in Colonial India - Presidency Historical Review

varia: upcoming lecture on theosophy at McGill University

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Astrology: Solar Eclipse, March 8 2016

Death and Transfiguration

There’s a tremendous amount of energy in this total eclipse, with the planets all more or less clustered in one hemisphere, forming five key points, with four important aspects at each point, making for an intense butterfly/trapezoid configuration. The key aspects can be analysed in four main groupings:

A- Mystical Healing Social Sun Stellium
The Sun/Moon eclipse conjunction in Pisces is very powerful as it is part of at least a four-planet stellium (with a strong Neptune in domicile and Mercury, in reception to its domicile, Virgo) add asteroids Chiron and Ceres, and a slightly out-of-orb Venus in Aquarius and this forms a kind of Triple Goddess (Venus, Moon, Ceres) mystical septenary, focused on wounds and healing. As this stellium is conjunct the descendant, it is very socially active.

B- Mutable War and Peace T-Square
However, all is not unimpeded mystical bliss; this stellium forms an opposing corner in a difficult Saturn/Jupiter/Sun T-square (Saturn apex). Jupiter retrograde (in Virgo), in opposition to the eclipse, is conjunct the North Node (which can serve to give even more intensity to the social, transformative and healing aspects, in general). Mars (just entering Sagittarius) is slightly out-of-orb from a conjunction with Saturn (also in Sagittarius), but is square to the stellium, and so adds considerable volatility. This T-Square creates dynamic tension in the social and human relation spheres. It forms quite a cross of sorrow centered around strongly polarized opposites: optimism/pessimism, masculine/feminine, idealism/realism, aggression/peacefulness; conflict resolution and harmony by opposition will be very challenging but also potentially very rewarding.

C- Positive Plutonic Transformative Triangulation
Fortunately, this T-Square is in positive aspect to Pluto (in Capricorn), with Jupiter in trine, the Sun in sextile and Saturn in semi-sextile to it. This gives a strong impetus for positive transformation, resolution and digging deep for solutions; a powerful impetus for the death and transfiguration process necessary for resurrectional self-renewal.

D- Volatile Uranian/Plutonic Square
Unfortunately, this positive Plutonic triangulation is complicated by a difficult Uranus (in Aries)/Pluto square, which is pushing for radical socio-political transformations, related to the mass media technological computer age. Moreover, Mars in semisquare to Pluto and sesquisquare to Uranus creates a powerful disruptive potential. The Saturn/Uranus trine attenuates things somewhat but it is also closely implicated in a volatile Mars/Saturn/Uranus/Pluto configuration, opening the door for revolutionary upheavals of outdated structures and ruling styles.

So we have a Christ-like Piscean stellium, configured in a T-Square cross of sorrow, catalyzed by a Plutonian-triangulated crucifixion process, ideal for a Neptunian resurrection of the Holy Spirit. This eclipse therefore creates an exceptional potential for a productive inner meditative process, if one has the resolve, patience, insight and compassion to overcome the intense, turbulent, frenetic psycho-social challenges and difficulties, as a remarkable amount of Piscean mystical archetypes are constellated during this eclipse, with strong initiatory trial and tribulation energy to catalyze the inner regeneration impetus.

The accompanying image of Mercurius-Virgo is from the De alchimia, Codex Vossianus 29, fol. 95a Leiden, Rijksuniversiteit Bibliotheek, (XVIth c.) and attributed to Pseudo Thomas Aquinas, and, I think, gives some good symbolic hints as to the theosophical nature of this eclipse (hint: the two fountains are of gold and silver and can be related the sun and the moon; the wings can be related to the phoenix).

“This, briefly, is the life of the progressive spirit--self-sacrifice, whereby self is crucified; self-denial, whereby the world is vanquished; and spiritual conflict, whereby the adversaries are beaten back. In it is no stagnation; even no rest; no finality. It is a daily death, out of which springs the risen life. It is a constant fight, out of which is won perpetual progress. It is the quenchless struggle of the light that is within to shine out more and more into the radiance of the perfect day. And thus only it is that what you call heaven is won." (Spirit Teachings, Section 30, William Stainton Moses)

chart thanks to
some more interesting forecasts:
Inernational Women's Day