Friday, 27 May 2016

Theosophy Basics: Gupta Vidya, Atma Vidya, Brahma Vidya

Blavatsky gives a number of terms to designate Theosophy, including some oriental equivalents. One she gives is Gupta Vidya as per the following eloquent, poetic description:
The great science, called by the vulgar “magic,” and by its Eastern proficients Gupta-Vidya, embracing as it does each and every science, since it is the acme of knowledge, and constitutes the perfection of philosophy, is universal; hence—as very truly remarked cannot be confined to one particular nation or geographical locality.
But, as Truth is one, the method for the attainment of its highest proficiency must necessarily be also one. It cannot be subdivided, for, once reduced to parts, each of them, left to itself, will, like rays of light, diverge from, instead of converging to, its centre, the ultimate goal of knowledge; and these parts can re-become the Whole only by collecting them together again, or each fraction will remain but a fraction.
He is at one and the same time a Chaldaean Sage, a Persian Magi, a Greek Theurgist, an Egyptian Hermetist, a Buddhist Rahat, and an Indian Yogi. He has collected into one bundle all the separate fractions of Truth widely scattered over the nations, and holds in his hands the One Truth, a torch of light which no adverse wind can bend, blow out or even cause to waver. Not he the Prometheus who robs but a portion of the Sacred Fire, and therefore finds himself chained to Mount Caucasus for his intestines to be devoured by vultures, for he has secured God within himself, and depends no more on the whim and caprice of either or evil deities.”
(HPB CW 3, 266-68 - MADAME BLAVATSKY ON “THE HIMALAYAN BROTHERS” [The Spiritualist, London, August, 12, 1881])
Gupta means secret, Vidya means knowledge.  A similar term is guhya-vidya [ guhyavidyA ] meaning knowledge of Mantras or mystical incantations. (see Vishnu Purana. i, 9, 117; see also the Theosophical Glossary). Chapter 9 of the Gita  is titled Raja-Vidhya Yoga or the Raja-Guhya Vidhya. Etymologically, the term Vidya gives the Greek verb, to know, and in English, wisdom (Monier Williams, Sanskrit Lexicon):
Elsewhere she outlines four types of Gupta-Vidya: “There are four (out of the many other) names of the various kinds of Esoteric Knowledge or Sciences given, even in the esoteric Purânas. There is
(1) Yajna-Vidya,1 knowledge of the occult powers awakened in Nature by the performance of certain religious ceremonies
(2) Maha-vidya, the "great knowledge," the magic of the Kabalists and of the Tantrika worship, often Sorcery of the worst description.
(3) Guhya-Vidya, knowledge of the mystic powers residing in Sound (Ether), hence in the Mantras (chanted prayers or incantations) and depending on the rhythm and melody used; in other words a magical performance based on Knowledge of the Forces of Nature and their correlation; and
(4) ATMA-VIDYA, a term which is translated simply "knowledge of the Soul," true Wisdom by the Orientalists, but which means far more.
This last is the only kind of Occultism that any theosophist who admires Light on the Path, and who would be wise and unselfish, ought to strive after.”(Occultism versus the Occult Arts, Lucifer, May, 1888)
Another term she uses is Brahma Vidya ((Mahabharata V. 30: “This weapon of Brahma is the science of Brahma or of the Veda. This choice of a boon  seeks the removal of all obstacles  to the attainment of divine knowledge.” See also the Brahmavidyā Upanishad): “Theosophy is the equivalent of Brahm-Vidya, divine knowledge” (Key, sect. 1 fn 1). A more expanded explanation is given elsewhere:

“Theosophy is synonymous with the Jnana-Vidya, and with the Brahma-Vidya (1) of the Hindus, and again with the Dzyan of the trans-Himalayan adepts, the science of the true Raj-Yogis, who are much more accessible than one thinks. This science has many schools in the East. But its offshoots are still more numerous, each one having ended by separating itself from the parent stem — the true Archaic Wisdom — and changing its form. (THE BEACON OF THE UNKNOWN La Revue Théosophique, Paris, Vol. I, Nos. 3,4,5,6; May 21 , 1889, pp. 1-9; June 21, 1889; pp. 1-7; July 21, 1889, pp. 1-6; August 21, 1889, pp. 1-9] CW 11, p.256
Blavatsky tends to relate Theosophy as a western term to Neoplatonism, and there is an early Neoplatonic text that relates the term Theosophy to Indian sources, Porphyry’s lengthy treatise On the Abstinence from Animal Foods
“In the land of Hindus, divided in many ethnicities exists the ilk of theosophos, and the Greeks are accustomed referring to them as gymnosophists ["naked philosophers”]. There are two sects of gymnosophists, one is headed by the Brahmans the others by the Shramana[5] (śramana). While Brahmans maintain the hereditary succession of Theosophia [Theosophy] - exactly as happens with priesthood - the Shramana comprises a social category composed by those who want to practice Theosophia [Theosophy].” [6] («Περí Αποχής Εμψύχων» 17, π 237, β. 4)

picture thanks to

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Book Review: Grandma’s Lifesaving Tips – Susie Foster – SJG pubs. 2014

For those aspirants seeking initiation into the mysteries of household management, this book will reveal plenty of the arcane secrets thereof. In today’s attention deficit, instant gratification, high-tech, ultra-processed, automated, asceptic world, what use is this simple, quaint old-fashioned collection of traditional household maintenance methods and tips? You’ll be surprised at how timeless and relevant these old bits of practical wisdom can be.
1- Organizing the Chaos
The first chapter and possible the most important concerns organization and many creative and inventive selections are proposed to control the clutter and keeps things running smoothly.
2- Wardrobe Rescue
Of course clothes care is essential and all aspects of the tricky business of clothing maintenance, storage, cleaning and repair are covered.
3- High Days & Holidays
Holidays and parties add such zest and gaiety to one’s home life and this chapter shows how to save time and money without sacrificing the fun.
4- Kitchen Calm
Of course the kitchen, often considered the very heart of the home, is given the caring consideration it so richly deserves; and the variety of long-term food preparation methods is most impressive indeed.
5- Housework SOS
The difficult problem of housecleaning is tackled with uncompromising frankness and it is amazing how many low-cost, natural cleaning solutions there are. The versatility of vinegar is shown to be mind-blogging.
6- Household Purse
Of course budgeting finances is key and Grandma shares very helpful and shrewd ways to cut costs and stretch the dollar.
7- Getting to Grips with the Garden
Gardening is given a high priority in the household activities, (and rightly so) and the author gives experienced advice.
8- Sprucing up the House
The esthetic aspect is not neglected; this fun chapter on decorating is both practical and creative.
9- Reusing & Recycling
Nowadays we talk about the need to implement more ecological practices; but back in the day, respect for the environment was a fully integrated part of the program.  The possibilities for thrift are a key focus and this chapter on recycling contains deeply ecological, environment-saving advice.
10 You & Yours
With all the hustle and bustle of home management, personal care should not be neglected and so the final chapter has a wonderful array of surprisingly simple recipes to relax, refresh, soothe and regenerate the body and soul.
Household management is key for a well-balanced life and the wealth of information and wisdom in this book gives one some solid tools for building a quality home life. Kudos to for an elegant retro design.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Franz Hartmann's Rosicrucian Rules

1. Love God above all.
To “love God” means to love wisdom and truth. We can love God in no other way than in being obedient to Divine law; and to enable us to exercise that obedience conscientiously requires knowledge of the law, which can only be gained by practice.
2. Devote your time to your spiritual advancement.
As the sun without leaving his place in the sky sends his rays upon the earth to shine upon the pure and the impure, and to illuminate even the most minute material objects with his light; likewise the spirit of man may send his mental rays to obtain knowledge of all terrestrial things; but there is no need that the spirit should thereby lose its own divine self-consciousness, and be itself absorbed by the objects of its perception.
3. Be entirely unselfish. Spiritual knowledge begins only where all sense of self ceases.
Where the delusion which causes man to imagine himself to be a being separated and isolated from all others ends, there he begins to realize his true state as an all-embracing universal and divine self-conscious power.
4. Be temperate, modest, energetic, and silent.
The door to the inner temple is called “Contentement”; but no animal can enter therein, only he who walks uprightly, being conscious of his true dignity as a human being. Without energy, nothing can be accomplished; and only in the silence, when all thoughts and desires are at rest, can the Divine harmonies penetrate to the internal ear.
5. Learn to know the origin of the METALS contained within thyself.
Ignorance is the cause of suffering. That which is material must be crucified and die, so that that which is spiritual may be resurrected and live.
6. Beware of quacks and pretenders.
He who claims to be in possession of knowledge knows nothing; only he through whom the Word of wisdom speaks is wise.
7. Live in constant adoration of the highest good.
The worm seeks for pleasure among abomination and filth; but the free eagle spreads his wings and rises up towards the sun.
8. Learn the theory before you attempt the practice.
He who travels with a trustworthy guide will be safer than he who refuses to profit by the experience of another.
9. Exercise charity towards all beings.
All beings are one in the spirit; divided from each other merely by the illusion of form. He who is charitable towards another form in which the universal One Life is manifest, saves suffering to his own self.
10. Read the ancient books of wisdom.
Books are to the unripe mind that which the mother’s milk is to the nursling. We must receive drink from others until we have gained sufficient strength and experience to descend to the living fountain within ourselves, and to draw from there the water of truth.
11. Try to understand their secret meaning.
That which is external may be seen with the external eye; but that which is spiritual can only be seen with the eyes of the spirit.
(From In the Pronaos of the Temple of Wisdom, Chapter 7, 1890)

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Blavatsky's Influence 3

Anna Bonus Kingsford
Alternative Science
Religious historian Olav Hammer discusses Blavatsky’s influence in the area of alternative sciences in his comparison of her scientific writings with Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics: “Presumably less familiar is the fact that the broad outlines of Capra’s views on science are structurally similar to arguments made by Blavatsky almost a century earlier…The similarity with Capra is nevertheless most clearly apparent in another major facet of her discussion: the claim that the modern physical sciences point to the same reality as Oriental or occultist beliefs. As Blavatsky puts it, “all comes to science from ancient notions, all is based on the conceptions of archaic nations” (Blavatsky 1888, vol. I:506–7). This modern and inclusive science is thus merely rediscovering what ancient sages already knew; insights that they expressed, for instance, through the cryptic symbolism that one finds in Indian scriptures. (“Theosophical Elements in New Age Religion”, Handbook of the Theosophical Current, Leiden, Brill, 2013, p. 250)
The importance of Blavatsky and the early Theosophical Society in the feminist movement has been the subject of a ground-breaking study by Joy Dixon entitled Divine Feminine: Theosophy and Feminism in England (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001). According to religious historian Siv Ellen Kraft: “Theosophy downplayed the importance of marriage, insisted upon the spiritual independence of women, included women on all levels of the organization, and – last but not least – upheld the theological authority of a woman. Theosophy offered the historically rare case of a male founder being overshadowed by his female counterpart, and the equally rare case of women having formal religious authority. Henry Steel Olcott was the first president of the TS, but there would have been no Theosophy without the fertile mind of his co-founder Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. (Theosophy, Gender and the “New Woman”, Handbook of the Theosophical Current, Leiden, Brill, 2013,p. 357) She notes that: “Blavatsky was clearly familiar with the writings of liberal Christian theologians in regard to “the woman’s question.” Like these theologians and other Theosophical feminists, she blamed Christianity and its male god for social corruption and the suppression of women. More specifically, she describes the suppression of women as typical of all religions, but as taken to the extreme by Christianity.(p. 368)

Social Causes
Kraft also notes that the early movement was involved with various socialist causes related to the feminist movement: “Several studies have described an overlap between these movements and also with Theosophy. Historian Diana Burfield, in an early article about Theosophy and gender, notes that Theosophical notions of brotherhood, sexual equality, progress, perfectibility, and tolerance were in harmony with socialist and feminist ideals (Burfield 1983: 35). There were“elective affinities between these groups, which were quite pronounced up to the First World War” (p. 359)

They were also concerned with food reform and animal welfare: “Theosophical interests in vegetarianism further strengthened the bonds to feminism and socialism. There is “plenty of evidence for vegetarianism within WFL [Women’s Freedom League] and the WSPU [Women’s Social and Political Union]” (Leneman 1997: 274). Many women in the latter group were also anti-vivisectionists (ibid: 277), and their ideological angle towards food reform and animal welfare overlapped with that of Theosophy, which promoted a “universal kinship” of living beings and a “practical desire to alleviate the wrongs of society” (ibid.: 282). Theosophists also tended to support social purity organizations, which in turn were supported by temperance workers, and overlapped extensively with women’s rights movements.” (p. 360)

Art, Music, Literature
Historian K. Paul Johnson observes that: “ Blavatsky’s ideas inspired leading figures in the development of modern art, most notably Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. Theosophical influence in literature affected the Irish Literary Renaissance, in which William Butler Yeats and AE (George Russell) were prominent.” (Initiates of Theosophical Masters, State University of New York Press, 1995, p. 113. Nobel Prize laureate William Butler Yeats knew Blavatsky and wrote the following reminiscences: ““I remember how careful she was that the young men about her should not overwork. … I overheard her saying to some rude stranger who had reproved me for talking too much, ‘no, no, he is very sensitive’. … [She was] humorous, unfanatical, and displaying always, it seemed, a mind that seemed to pass all others in her honesty.”(Memoirs, New York, MacMillan, p.26)

In the world of music, the great Russian composer Alexander Scriabin was inspired by Blavatsky; according to Scriabin biographer Boris de Schloezer: “[Scriabin] felt greatly beholden to Mme. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine in his own development; indeed he felt tremendous admiration for Mme. Blavatsky to the end of his life. He was particularly fascinated by her courage in essaying a grandiose synthesis and by the breadth and depth of her concepts, which he likened to the grandeur of Wagner's music dramas. . . . The theosophic vision of the world served as an incentive for his own work. "I will not discuss with you the truth of theosophy," he declared to [de Schloezer] in Moscow, "but I know that Mme. Blavatsky's ideas helped me in my work and gave me power to accomplish my task" (Scriabin: Artist and Mystic, University of California Press, 1987).

Johnson continues: “Political activism in colonial India and Ceylon owed an immense debt to Theosophical influence. In the West, many social movements such as educational reform, women’s suffrage, and abolition of capital punishment were advanced by the efforts of early Theosophists. But in no field of endeavor has Theosophy’s influence been as great as in introducing Eastern religious ideas to the Western public.”(p. 113). Mohandas K. Gandhi met Blavatsky offered this reminiscence: “Theosophy is the teaching of Madame Blavatsky. It is Hinduism at its best. Theosophy is the Brotherhood of Man. … I recall having read … Madame Blavatsky’s Key to Theosophy. This book stimulated in me the desire to read books on Hinduism, and disabused me of the notion fostered by the missionaries that Hinduism was rife with superstition.” (An Autobiography, Boston, Beacon Press, 1957, p. 68.)

Overall impact
The influence of Blavatsky and the early theosophical movement is actually quite mind-blogging and, judging from the quantity and quality of recent important historical studies one could say that an ever-increasing understanding of this reality has been consolidating since the beginning of the new millennium. Astrologer Michael R. Meyer  observes: “The society’s revolutionary impact is central to any real understanding  of the fin de siècle, the gestation of Modernism, the ideology of the counter-culture of the 1960s and the late-twentieth century flowering of New Age and alternative spiritualities” (The Astrology of Relationships, London Continuum, 2009, p. 229.)  
Religious historians Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein contend that: “ the formation of the Theosophical Society (henceforth abbreviated TS), and the main events linked to the fate of this organization, its key figure Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891), and her immediate successors also belong to the short list of pivotal chapters of religious history in the West...These facts place Theosophy and its multiple off-shoots as one of the modern world’s most important religious traditions.” (“Introduction”, Handbook of the Theosophical Current, Leiden, Brill, 2013, pp. 1-2)”.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Blavatsky's Influence 2

D.T. Suzuki
Regarding the early theosophical movement, esoteric historian Joscelyn Godwin states that it “ is a complex story, involving many nations and characters, but they all revolve around Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), the prime mover of the Society and one of the most influential women of all time”. (“Blavatsky and the First Generation of Theosophy”, Handbook of the Theosophical Current, Leiden, Brill, 2013, p.15)
She is considered an important figure in the history of alternative spirituality: "... Madame Blavatsky ... stands out as the fountainhead of modern occult thought, and was either the originator and/or popularizer of many of the ideas and terms which have a century later been assembled within the New Age Movement. The Theosophical Society, which she cofounded, has been the major advocate of occult philosophy in the West and the single most important avenue of Eastern teaching to the West." (J. Gordon Melton, Jerome Clark and Aidan A. Kelly, editors, New Age Almanac, Detroit, Michigan, Gale Research Inc., 1991, p. 16)

Her use of astrology in her cosmology was innovative (beginning with her interpretation of “Ezekiel’s Wheel” in Isis Unveiled) and influential astrologer Sepharial (Walter Old) was a student of hers. Major astrology figure Alan Leo was a theosophist and met Blavatsky as well. According to Michael R. Meyer, the “re-establishment of astrology that took place during the last quarter of the 19th century and the first part of the twentieth century was promoted largely by theosophists including Sepharial, Alan Leo, Max Heindl, Charles Carter, Marc Edmund Jones, and Dane Rudhyar. (The Astrology of Relationships,London Continuum, p. 2009)
Influential and innovative astrologer and composer Dane Rudhyar, who was associated with diverse theosophical currents, observes: ”It may be impossible scientifically to prove the validity of that claim; it is as impossible to prove it was a hoax, considering the quite outstanding individuals who had firsthand experiential knowledge of the validity of her assertions. Even more convincing is the astounding character of the contents of her large books, especially The Secret Doctrine, which no ordinary mind could have produced without passing dozens of years studying and collating an immense mass of verifiable documents in many great libraries. At the same time, it is evident that H. P. Blavatsky, the woman, spent her life away from universities and national libraries.” (Occult Preparation for the New Age, Wheaton, Quest, 1975)
Esoteric Historian James Santucci explains the value of the Blavatskian theosophical approach to perennialist comparative religion: “Although non-theosophists may not agree to the proposition of an underlying Wisdom-Religion, the comparative study of religion in a sympathetic and open manner is an idea whose time has already come, and this in part through the efforts and accomplishments of the Theosophical Society…following the inspiration of Madame Blavatsky and later leaders, that humans of whatever race, creed, sex, caste, or color are equal, that all ·the world religions contain the same essential message reflecting the Wisdom of the Ages, and that this Wisdom resides in all the nations of the world, reveal a cosmopolitan and universalism in the purist sense of the terms. (Theosophy and the Theosophical Society, London, Theosophical History Centre, 1985)

Moreover, William Quinn, in his The Only Tradition, gives a solid overview of Blavatsky’s important contributions to perennialist comparative religion, noting that “Blavatsky was the prime mover in the creation of the Theosophical Society and consequently modern Theosophy as a restatement of theosophia via her published doctrinal corpus and commitment to the movement.” (Albany, SUNY Press, 1997, p. 104).

Marcus Braybrooke, a historian of the interfaith movement, appreciates the theosophical contribution to inter-faith dialogue: “Theosophists can claim to have been amongst the first to suggest a unity of religions.The society insists that it is not offering a new system of thought, but merely underscoring certain universal concepts of God, nature and man that have been known to wise men in all ages and that may be found in the teachings of all the great religions. Emphasis is placed on mystical experience. A distinction is made between inner, or esoteric, and outer, or exoteric, teaching. It is said that all the historic world religions contain inner teaching which is essentially the same, despite external differences. This teaching is monistic in character, suggesting an underlying all-encompassing unity. (Pilgrimage of Hope: One Hundred Years of Global Interfaith Dialogue, Crossroad, 1992, p. 266)

Blavatsky has received a number of endorsements from several noted Asian Buddhists and scholars. Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) was a prominent Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist and writer who collaborated extensively with the theosophical movement and was highly appreciative of his contact with Blavatsky:”The path of perfection was shown to me by Mme Blavatsky in my 21st year”. (Diary, December 20, 1930); “Blavatsky gave me the key to opening the door to my spiritual nature”. (Diary, March 10, 1897) (quoted in Steven Kemper, Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World, pp.53, 59) According to Walter Evans-Wentz: “The late Kazi Dawa Samdup was of the opinion that there is adequate internal evidence in them of their author’s intimate acquaintance with the higher lamaistic teachings into which she claimed to have been initiated.” (The Tibetan Book of the Dead, p. 7 footnote. Oxford The Tibetan book of the dead; London, Oxford University Press, 1927)
In 1927 the staff of the 9th Panchen Lama Tub-ten Cho-gyi Nyima helped Theosophists put out the "Peking Edition" of The Voice of the Silence and he wrote a short dedication. (Blavatsky H.P. The Voice of the Silence, ed. Alice Cleather and Basil Crump. Peking: Chinese Buddhist Research Society, 1927. – P. 113) Zen Buddhism scholar D. T. Suzuki wrote: “The Voice of the Silence is true Mahayanistic doctrine. Undoubtedly, Madame Blavatsky had in some way been initiated into the deeper side of Mahayana teachings and then gave out what she deemed wise to the Western world as theosophy." (“The Eastern Buddhist” vol. V no.4 July 1931)

The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso wrote:"I believe that this book has strongly influenced many sincere seekers and aspirants to the wisdom and compassion of the Bodhisattva Path." (Blavatsky Helena The Voice of the Silence. Centenary edition. Santa Barbara: Concord Grove Press, 1989. // Foreword by the 14th Dalai Lama). Sri Lankan academic, scholar and diplomat, Dr G.P. Malalasekera wrote that her “familiarity with Tibetan Buddhism as well as with esoteric Buddhist practices seems to be beyond doubt.” (Encyclopedia of Buddhism I, Taylor & Francis, 1973, p. 539).