Thursday, 28 July 2016

Visions - William Stainton Moses 1/3

Englishman William Stainton Moses was one of the most important and intriguing members in early TS history. Like many of the early members, his relationship with the founders had its up and downs, but efforts were made to remain on good terms until the last. A good account of his mystical experience with the TS can be found on the following:
In 1888, a rather obscure pamphlet by Moses was published after appearing in the spiritualist weekly, Light. It details some of his most unusual spiritualist experiences ever and was reviewed by both Blavatsky (Lucifer, Vol. II, No. 8, April, 1888, pp. 164-165) and Olcott (The Theosophist, May 1888). We present here the text in three parts, according to the original division recounting a three-day experience. Below are some more links of recent William Stainton Moses research, including links to his two most important works, Spirit Teachings  and More Spirit Teachings.
V I S I O N S . By “ M.A. (Oxon.) ”
"In the year 1882 was published a book, entitled A Little Pilgrim in the Unseen (Macmillans), which was anonymous, and was prefaced by the following remarks :— “ The reader will easily understand that the following pages were never meant to be connected with any author’s name. They spring out of those thoughts that arise in the heart when the power of the Unseen has been suddenly opened close upon us, and are little more than a wistful attempt to follow a gentle soul which never knew doubt in the new world, and to catch a glimpse of something or its glory through her simple and childlike eyes.” I t is an open secret now that a well-known novelist is the author of those pages. The book was succeeded by a development of the original idea—The Little Pilgrim Goes up Higher, and the papers which had been originally published in Blackwood were succeeded in January of the present year by a remarkable narrative published in the same magazine, and called “ The Land of Darkness—A necessary part of the Little Pilgrim’s Experience in the World of Spirit.” As I read these narratives my mind was carried back to some very parallel experiences of my own ten years previously, namely, in September, 1877. 
It is necessary to make some preliminary explanations before laying these before the readers of “ Light.” For what I am about to touch upon is very different from the ordinary course of teaching with which readers of my Spirit Teachings are familiar. This method of instruction is allegorical, and is not to be interpreted with that rigid literalness of interpretation to which the usual messages given to me were susceptible of being submitted. We have in what follows a parable, a glimpse of teaching from another order of intelligence; a revelation or lifting of the veil that hides from our clogged senses the realities of the world in one state or condition of which we are now living : all unconscious, most of us, of what our bodily senses are not adapted to comprehend. Thrice only have I been brought in contact with spiritual beings who profess never to have been incarnate in this world. One of those was known to me as “ The Angel Harmony.” Her method of teaching was, as I have said, by symbolic vision. I became clairvoyant, and saw these visions, having first of all prepared myself by gazing fixedly into a crystal. I do not discuss the question as to whether these visions weie subjective or objective. My readers will form their own opinion, and the value of the teaching will not thereby be affected. It is sufficient that they form a compact block of teaching which was conveyed to me in a manner different from any that I had previously been acquainted with. 
Hitherto I had received definite and positive information given in answer to a very distinct craving in me for satisfaction on the point that then perplexed me. I wanted direct evidence of the existence of intelligence external to a human brain, and I got what I wanted. Information, demonstrably external to my own mind, was repeatedly given, and my questions respecting such information had been categorically answered, but there had been no attempt at the symbolic method of teaching, with which I now first became familiar. Having seen my vision, or having travelled in spirit with my instructor to the scenes that I describe (if that explanation be preferred), I used to get an interpretation of what I had seen by the usual process of automatic writing. This interpretation was given to me usually by a spirit who was very familiar to me, and was able, by long practice, to use my hand for the purpose of automatic writing with more facility than others who were less acquainted with the process. He seems to have written, as an amanuensis, what was conveyed to him by the angel. The dramatis personce in these narratives included some personal friends who had quite recently passed away from earth. These names I have, of course, changed, explaining so much only as will make the narrative intelligible. I cannot, of course, hope to convey to any who did not know those persons any conception of the extreme vividness with which their characters were delineated and represented. I had had visions before this. I do not know, but I suspect, that they were mere visions, and not, as I used to think, an actual visiting of scenes visited by me in spirit. Be this as it may, the scenes, at any rate, were as clear as any I have ever seen with the natural eye. In what I am about to say I have selected a compact mass of experience extending over the three days, September 4th, 5th, and 6th, 1877. I ought to say, further, that the accounts were written on the spot as soon as I returned to my normal consciousness, and pretend to be no more than a plain record of my own impressions. They are not at all dressed nor prepared for effect, so as to aim at any literary merit such as charms us in “ The Land of Darkness.” 
September 4th, 1877, is the first of the days with which I have to deal. [Sitting in the morning at work, I became clairvoyant, and saw a scene in Spirit-land. It was a peaceful landscape ; a billowy prairie or moor in the foreground, with a river creeping through it. In the middle distance were isolated houses, built of some translucent substance like crystal, and surrounded by very beautiful gardens. There were fountains and glass-houses with fruit, and the appurtenances of a well furnished garden. In the further distance was a range of hills, purpled by the setting sun. In the centre of the picture hovered the angel Harmony, and in one of the gardens I saw “Sunshine,” * who was talking to a friend of hers whom I knew by appearance ; and in another two more friends, one of whom had lately left this earth. There were other spirits whom I did not recognise, and my ears were filled with a sound of very exquisite soft music.] [By automatic writing, given after I had resumed my normal state, and in answer to a mental question.] The angel Harmony it was whom you saw, and with her several of her charges, some not known to you. She returns because your present state attracts her Also she brings with her news of your friends. 
* The spirit-name of a close friend not long departed : very appropriate and significant, as such names often are.
The twin spirits who have left your sphere last are now united in their spirit-home. The angel will tell you of it if you will sit to-night alone. Also Sunshine sends word to her friends through you. She is happy and progressive. I will not try to say what she will better tell. Only let me say that the angel’s language is symbolic. She cannot remain long. Do not question her.* We will transmit her ideas in words, and will explain hereafter. Rector. [I complied with the directions, and very soon I saw the same scene as that just described. I now saw that the house on the extreme left was dusky compared with the other in which I saw “ Sunshine,” and I recognised in one in the background a very close friend of my own, with whom I had been on terms of great intimacy, extending over many years, and who had departed some time ago. The scene seemed permanent, and I passed into an interior state. After I had recovered from this state, and while I was still (as I suppose) under influence, I was told to put down what I have recorded above. Doctor (the spirit who was then my instructor) then appeared and conversed with me, and I resume the writing a t the time of his appearance.] Can you put down what you have to say, so that it may be permanent ? I have nothing to say, except that I greet you once again, in the absence of the Chief, as his deputy. I have not been absent, but silent. I t is likely that you will recognise my presence more now : and I am concerned with you more now in your writing. You will need much more preparatory work than you expected, and you cannot hurry. Be patient. All is well. The Chief is absent only for a while. His presence is not now needed. He is not absent in the sense you mean, but withdrawn for a while. Can you interpret f o r the angel? Rector (the usual amanuensis) will do that. He writes with more ease. I will converse with you hereafter,' when you are at peace. Doctor. 
There seems to be some symbolic imagery about the angel. She is clad in “ shining raiment ” with golden circlet in her hair, and with a cincture o f blue. Purity , love, and wisdom, I suppose ? What is the star on her brow? Yes, purity and love. The star typifies hope, and she has by her the Dove of Innocence. I will translate her thoughts into your language. Rector. The scene your spiritual eye beholds is a symbolic one. It is real, but not objective. The prairie is typical of probation life. See, it is set with thorns and briars. I t is full of pitfalls, overgrown with rank herbage which conceals their danger. I t undulates upwards to the river of death. It contains no sign of habitation, because in it there is no home : no abiding place. That which the spirit had regarded as its home vanishes with the body, and there remains only a bare and untenanted moor over which flit in aimless wanderings a few flocks of birds. These are earthbound spirits, and they are going to and fro, seeking rest, and marvelling that their homes are gone from them. The river winds in and out, now meandering slowly and noiselessly between sedgy banks; now bounding over boulders, and precipitating itself down cascades ; and again rushing tumultuously between its rocky banks. This, again, is typical of the various degrees of difficulty with which spirits cross it. To some the passage 
 * “ Her ” I had myself used of the angel. I hardly know why. She looked altogether virginal and exquisitely tender and fragile. The feminine is preserved in the communications.
is full of difficulty ; they must breast the opposing flood, and climb the steep ascent on the further side. Some glide over the favouring stream and land with ease on the shore beyond, where friends await them and extend a helping hand. The grouping of the friends on the other side is made for your convenience. We know no time nor space, and I am enabled to place this scene before your spiritual eye. Withdraw your eye now and gaze fixedly on the crystal. I t will enable you to free yourself from the body and to accompany her. After I will speak to you again. The words of Harmony. Rector. [Accordingly I got my crystal, and using it in the way I had been directed, I soon seemed to be free to move as I was impressed. I joined (or seemed to join) the angel, and we entered the dusky house on the left of my former’ scene. I was conscious of being in an abnormal state, and did not speak. The house contained three persons, one unknown to me. The spirit whom I have known for a long time as Greed* had completely cast away his former appearance, and presented a curious spectacle to my eye. The face was half covered (from the chin to just under the eye) with what seemed old skin, which was peeling off, and above it all was fair, clear, and new, as though it had been renewed after illness. The eye was clear and full of hope. The robes were all a rich living green, indicative of Progress, the spirit’s new name. He was concerned in endeavouring to obliterate a stain from his right hand. He was alone. In another room, the walls of which were fully transparent, except in patches, rested on a sofa, rose-coloured in robe and surroundings, the spirit who has lately left us. She was concerned apparently in meditation, or, perhaps, in rest only. The face was rejuvenescent: all the traces of bodily age and infirmity had gone, but the likeness remained. In the same room, assiduously spinning, was another spirit whom I did not know, but who was, I believe, a relation of the spirit last described. I could not see her face. There was an all-pervading atmosphere of roses, and a distant sound of trickling water as from a fountain. The room in which the two spirits sat was decked with flowers. The other was littered with unfinished work.
We passed through the flower-covered archway that gave access to the house, and as I came out a swallow that had disturbed spread its wings and soared away. We turned into the pathway, and I noticed that it was hedged with flowers, and that water ran on either side. Insects and birds of various plumage I saw, but no animals or reptiles. By-and-bye we came to another house, crystal-walled like the other, but clearer and with fewer spots. The eastward side appeared to have no wall at all, and to be defined only by the flowers that hung in clusters from the roof. It was more an arbour than a room. In it was the spirit Sunshine,” not much changed in appearance, but full of vivacity and mirth. She was robed in that “ shining raiment ” that spirits sometimes bring to earth, but it was finer and more translucent. In her hair she wore some jewels, which looked like luminous moonstones, and which seemed to shine by their own light. She was exactly as I have seen her on earth, only glorified. She was talking to a tall, dignified spirit, who had evidently not long left the earth, and whom I readily recognised as one whom I had known slightly, and who had been well known to her. She seemed out of place, and, as it were, “ on a visit.” She was explaining things to him, as I gathered, drawing illustrations as she proceeded. I could see that on the side opposite to me her robe was full of holes, but she concealed ' The spirit-name of an old man whose life and thoughts the word exactly typifies Viz., a very repulsive and loathsome one. Then now and again by a rapid movement of her hand, laughing as she did so.* Her guardian was at hand, and seemed to keep watch lest the influence of earth should gain sway. The room was pretty, but I felt an air of disorder in it. The male spirit was robed in dusky blue, not a pleasing colour ; but the head was massive and full of repose. I was moving further, but the angel recalled me to earth, and the scene faded from my view.] 
[By automatic writing, after I resumed my normal state] :— Is my account exact ? Yes. It is true, and the symbols are plain. Not all. Why was Sunshine's robe in holes on the side away from her ? I t is not perfect yet. But she would put a fair face on it. She did so always. A h ! yes. So she shook it out, and would make the best o f it ? Yes. I t was her way. She could not speak ? It was not permitted. She would be drawn to earth. The angel wished you to see her state. She is happy, and is making progress. Can she send any message ? I t was desired, but the angel did not consider the attempt desirable, for reasons which were named. Was the scene real, or only a subjective vision ? A t first the vision was presented to your eye, grouped by spirit power; but afterwards you visited the scene. The face of the spirit on which the old skin half remained: was it typical of unaccomplished progress ? Yes ; and the attempt to remove the stain was symbolic of effects which have not yet been got rid of. Cease. You are exhausted. A t the foot of the message, as was usual, certain symbols used by spirits—each distinctive and never varying—were placed. A new one attracted my notice—1|. What is that new sign ? The sign of the angel, Harmony. Two parallel lines which never cross each other. She is anxious to add that she will show you other symbolic visions unless she is prevented. To-night I No; to-morrow in the early morning. Before I close the book, I want to ask whether those scenes are reed—real, I mean, in the same sense as scenes in our world ? ■ In precisely the same sense. The scenes of the world of spirit, and the surroundings of the spirit in any sphere of its existence, are just as real as are the scenes and surroundings of your earth’s. Each is impressed upon your own spirit: each is the result of your own state. They would not be real to you in your present state : they Are real to you in spirit as you visited them : just as these scenes are not real to us. Rector. [Looking back now, I can understand what was then to me a mystery. I got the teaching for which I was fitted in the way tha t my instructor could best give it. “ M.A. (Oxon.)”] ( To be continued.)
 * This action was eminently characteristic of her. We always used to say that she was the best possible hand at putting the best possible face
*The answer told at her departure that it would be very dangerous for her to be brought again within earth-influence. Hence she never returned, though we very earnestly desired it. 

Part 2 

Friday, 22 July 2016

Atisa, Santideva and Tsong Kha Pa on Compassion and Altruism

One of the more positive outcomes of the terrible tragedy that Tibet experienced in the 20th century is that the resulting Tibetan diaspora has made the rich philosophical and cultural treasures of Tibet much more widely available to the world at large. And so we humbly present a small selection of some of Tibet's brightest luminaries on some essential aspects of the Mahayana Buddhist Bodhisattva ethics:

The Bodhisattva loves all creatures/From the bottom of his heart;/As one loves an only child,/Ever desiring to seek its good.
Ornament of Sutras 10:3Atisa. A Lamp for the Path and Commentary. R. Sherburne, transl. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1983, p.19

I rejoice in all the merits of the/Buddha's Sons, of Solitary Victors,/Of those still learning and those beyond,/In the entire world's merit I rejoice.
Samantabhadra - The Royal Resolves, v. 9 Atisa. A Lamp for the Path and Commentary. R. Sherburne, transl. London: GeorgeAllen & Unwin, 1983, p.26

Thus, even though working for the benefit of others,/There's no conceit; there's no amazement;/There's no hoping for a ripened result (for oneself),/When it's with an appetite exclusively for what benefits others. Santideva, Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life - 8, 109

Just as the hand and so on are held dear/Through their being the limbs of the body,/Why couldn't beings having a body be similarly held dear/Through their being limbs of wandering life?
Santideva, Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life - 8, 114

First, I should apply myself to meditation/On the equality of self and others./Because we are all equal in wanting to experience/happiness and avoid suffering,/I should cherish all beings as I do myself.
Santideva, Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life - 8, 90 p. 128 Ulverston, Tharpa Publications, 2002.

All sentient beings are alike in that they want happiness and do not want suffering. It is, thus, incorrect to hold some near, helping them, while keeping others at a distance and either harming them or [at least] not helping them.
Lam Rim (Tsong kha pa 1402/1985, 299).

Just as all crops grow perfectly/In dependence on the earth,/All of the highest, positive results depend on ethical conduct/Moistened by the water of compassion.
Tantra Requested by Subahu Geshe Luhundub Sopa, Tsong kha pa Steps on the Path of Enlightenement, Vol. 2. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2005. p. 399

These bodies are a basis for sickness, old age, and death./Those who have good character and compassion/Make them in each moment/A basis for promoting the happiness in others.
Bhavaviveka, Heart of the Middle Way 3.4.3 Tsong-kah-pa. The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path of Enlightenment.Vol. One. Lamrin Chenmo Comm., transl. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2000, p. 133.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Tibetan Philosophers on Compassion and Altruism

Geshe Langri Thangpa
Probably one of the more successful adaptations of Asian wisdom to western culture has been the Tibetan Mind Training teachings known as Lojong
Presented here are some basic sayings taken from Montreal’s own Thupten Jinpa: Essential Mind Training. transl. Boston: Wisdom Publications. 2011.

He who sees as spiritual teachers/the objects that engender afflictions/be they enemy or friend/will remain content wherever he is.
(Sangye Gompa 1179-1250 Public Explanation of Mind Training) (Jinpa 12)

When happy I will dedicate my virtues to all;/may benefit and happiness pervade all of space!/When suffering I will take on the pains of all beings;/may the ocean of suffering become dry!
Sakyasri (1127-1295) (Jinpa 17)

As for suffering, I do not wish even the slightest;/as for happiness I am never satisfied;/in this sphere there is no difference between others and me./May I be blessed to take joy in others' happiness. Panchen Losang Chogyen (1569-1662), Guru Puja (Jinpa 19)

Reveal your own shortcomings,/but do not seek out others' errors./ Conceal your own good qualities,/but proclaim those of others.
Atisa (982-1054) Bodhisattva's Jewel Garland 3, (Jinpa 25)

Abide as if you were a servant of all beings. Condensed Perfection of Wisdom, 19a6 (Jinpa 114)

Without sentient beings, how would you obtain even the immediate benefits-these would cease immediately; even ultimate happiness arises in relation to sentient beings. It is on the basis of sentient beings that you attain the unsurpassable state of buddhahood.
Chekawa (1102–1176), "A Commentary on 'Eight Verses on Mind Training'"Essential (Jinpa 112)

When we think we are exceptional, we are unable to live in harmony with others even in this present life.
Chekawa (1102–1176), "A Commentary on 'Eight Verses on Mind Training'" (Jinpa.114)

Even if others return kindness with harm,/I will practice responding with great compassion;/the most excellent beings of this world/answer injury with benevolence.
Unknown line from Chekawa (1102–1176), "A Commentary on 'Eight Verses on Mind Training'" (Jinpa 122)

In any case, if you have correctly distinguished between enemy and friend, you understand everyone to be a friend. Then even when you work for others' welfare, the jaundice of self-centeredness does not arise. Instead you recognize all such tasks as obligations, so boastfulness toward others simply does not occur. When that happens, your mind has become trained.
Se Chilbu Chokyi Gyaltsen (1121-89), "A Commentary on the 'Seven-Point Mind Training'" (Jinpa. 97)

If you lapse and find yourself noticing another’s shortcomings, think ,’This is my own deluded perception; no such flaw exists in them. All sentient beings are endowed with the essence that shares the Buddha’s own nature.’ Reflect in this manner and judge this perception to be your own flaw.
Se Chilbu Chokyi Gyaltsen (1121-89), "A Commentary on the 'Seven-Point Mind Training'"(6.3) (Jinpa 97 )

image thanks

Thursday, 7 July 2016

10 Theosophical books that changed the 20th Century

Alexandra David-Neel

The first generation of theosophical writers generally had a powerful, erudite, original, and innovative quality about them, but the theosophical movement hit some major obstacles at the turn of the century. Nonetheless, the second generation of theosophists still had enough momentum to produce an impressive body of writings in their own right. Although not quite as innovative, they had considerable mainstream success and influence in twentieth century spiritual thinking.

1-GRS Mead – Fragments of a Faith Forgotten (1900) Before the Nag Hammadi texts launched a major revival in Gnosticism, Meads Fragments played a major role in promoting the study of gnosticism in the first half of the twentieth century, and is considered to be an important influence on Carl Jung.

2- Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe, Atal Bihari Ghose ) – The Serpent Power (1919) This is the book that put Tantric studies on the map and helped clear up a lot of misconceptions concerning tantra. Technically not a card-carrying theosophist (although his wife was), he has a very theosophy-friendly comparative approach, a major figure in bringing Tantra to the west.

3-Walter Evans-Wentz Lama –  Lāma Kazi Dawa-Samdup - The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1927) This book propulsed the Tibetan Book of the Dead to its status of a world spiritual classic and perennial best seller – and, prior to the Chinese invasion of Tibet, did much to promote Tibetan culture to the West. Although Samdup deserves more credit for this landmark work, Wentz is underated as a scholar-his study of Padmasambhava's biography is a strong piece of comparative religion work.

4-Manly P. Hall – The Secret Teachings of All Ages – (1928) Again, not an official card-carrying theosophist, but he had close theosophical connections and was openly influenced by theosophy. This book put western esotericism on the map in the 20th century – and so a solid account of the western esoteric tradition was made popularly available in the mainstream public.

5-Alexandra David-Neel – Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929) Her vivid travelogues and translations make her one of the pre-eminent western travellers in Tibet and her testimonies of the rich culture and mystical traditions of Tibet are valued as classics.

6-Dane Rudhyar, The Astrology of Personality (1936)  The theosophical influence on modern astrology has been tremendous, and Rudhyar’s seminal work stands out as the game-changing formulation that influenced virtually everyone. This obscure Alice Bailey-published book went on to become a landmark in the field.

7-Judith Tyberg – First Lessons in Sanskrit Grammar and Reading (1941) A classic pioneering work in Sanskrit studies, Tyberg did important work in presenting Indian pundits to the West and has done much to promote an appreciation of Indian literature.

8-Christmas Humphreys – Concentration and Meditation (1968) Humphreys was a  tireless promoter of Buddhism in the West and a prolific writer. This work offers a solid introduction to eastern meditation theory and practice without sacrificing the philosophical aspect, paving the way for the current mainstream mindfulness explosion.

9-Ernest Wood – Yoga (1959) A natural educator and scholar, Wood did much to present Advaita Vedanta, Yoga and Hindusim to the West. This popular paperback introduction to Ashtanga Yoga is simple and accessible without sacrificing the philosophical aspect.

10- Robert Ellwood, Barbara A. McGraw - Many Peoples, Many Faiths: Women and Men in the World Religions (1976)  Ellwood had a solid career as scholar of comparative religion and this book stills holds its position as a popular textbook in the field, now in its tenth edition, with additional internet features included.