Thursday, 31 August 2017

Through the Gates of Gold, Chapter 1, part 6

The problem of laziness, idleness, inactivity, inertia is considered to be a grave one.
“Indolence is, in fact, the curse of man. As the Irish peasant and the cosmopolitan gypsy dwell in dirt and poverty out of sheer idleness, so does the man of the world live contented in sensuous pleasures for the same reason.”
The problem is thinking that there is a point that one can stop at when one feels satisfied. But one is mistaken in thinking that this satisfaction will last.
“There can be no final point, for life in every form is one vast series of fine gradations; and the man who elects to stand still at the point of culture he has reached, and to avow that he can go no further, is simply making an arbitrary statement for the excuse of his indolence.”
Of course there is a possibility of declaring that the gypsy is content in his dirt and poverty, and, because he is so, is as great a man as the most highly cultured. But he only is so while he is ignorant; the moment light enters the dim mind the whole man turns towards it. So it is on the higher platform; only the difficulty of penetrating the mind, of admitting the light, is even greater.
The man suffers the final penalty for his persistent ignorance of a law of nature as inexorable as that of gravitation, — a law which forbids a man to stand still. Not twice can the same cup of pleasure be tasted; the second time it must contain either a grain of poison or a drop of the elixir of life.
There is actually little difference between coarse pleasures and more refined ones. The same sense of attachment pervades them all.
“Like the boor he is deluded by a mirage that oppresses his soul; and he fancies, having once obtained a sensuous joy that pleases him, to give himself the utmost satisfaction by endless repetition, till at last he reaches madness. The bouquet of the wine he loves enters his soul and poisons it, leaving him with no thoughts but those of sensuous desire; and he is in the same hopeless state as the man who dies mad with drink.”
A serious crisis occurs when the body begins to falter and one cannot keep on the groove one has set for oneself. Here the author describes what could now be termed the mid-life crisis – one realizes that the body can no longer has the vitality and capacity it used to, and so a yearning to try to maintain the previous levels of sensual pleasure occurs.
“Then comes the barrenness and lack of vitality, — that unhappy and disappointing state into which great men too often enter when middle life is just passed. The fire of youth, the vigor of the young intellect, conquers the inner inertia and makes the man scale heights of thought and fill his mental lungs with the free air of the mountains. But then at last the physical reaction sets in; the physical machinery of the brain loses its powerful impetus and begins to relax its efforts, simply because the youth of the body is at an end. Now the man is assailed by the great tempter of the race who stands forever on the ladder of life waiting for those who climb so far. He drops the poisoned drop into the ear, and from that moment all consciousness takes on a dullness, and the man becomes terrified lest life is losing its possibilities for him.”
All of this results from getting attached to sensual pleasures and thinking these to be the goal. Whereas one would do better to keep on and strive to find pleasures that have lasting, edifying value. Further, the problems of aging are outlined. By clinging to material comforts and refusing to accept the process of ageing, one enters into a continuing state of denial and delusion and the anxiety increases when faced with the prospect of dying. However, at this point, an opportunity for spiritual growth arises as well, the concluding section explains how to deal with this.
Related passages from Light on the Path
If grief, dismay, disappointment or pleasure, can shake the soul so that it loses its fixed hold on the calm spirit which inspires it, and the moisture of life breaks forth, drowning knowledge in sensation, then all is blurred, the windows are darkened, the light is useless. This is as literal a fact as that if a man, at the edge of a precipice, loses his nerve through some sudden emotion he will certainly fall. (Note 1)
Those who are the subjects of Time, and go slowly through all his spaces, live on through a long-drawn series of sensations, and suffer a constant mingling of pleasure and of pain. They do not dare to take the snake of self in a steady grasp and conquer it, so becoming divine; but prefer to go on fretting through divers experiences, suffering blows from the opposing forces. (Note 1)
In the same way that "tears" in the language of occultists expresses the soul of emotion, not its material appearance, so blood expresses, not that blood which is an essential of physical life, but the vital creative principle in man's nature, which drives him into human life in order to experience pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow. (Note 2)

Friday, 25 August 2017

Gregory Baum: 3rd Global Conference on World's Religions after September 11

Professor Baums’s talk focused on the salutory liberalizing moments of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century which embraced more tolerant, open attitudes.
He mentioned the Ten Points of Seelisberg document:
He also mentioned the Oecumenical movement and the Nostra Aetate inter-religious dialogue document from the Second Vatican Council of 1965, which he participated in:
1. In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together, and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions. In her task of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations, she considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship.
2. Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.
The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.
3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems.
4. As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham's stock.
5. We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man's relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: "He who does not love does not know God" (1 John 4:8).
No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.
The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to "maintain good fellowship among the nations" (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men,(14) so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.(15)

Thursday, 17 August 2017

3rd Year!

And so another year of blogging has passed and now a Trinity has been completed (marking the completion of the pre-manifestation phase in the cycle, before the three becomes the four in manifestation, ).

This year featured a slightly different program from the last. The book review feature was dropped in favor of a series on the 3rd Global Conference of World Religions after September 11 (with one more post to go), a series on the Gates of Gold was launched (with related extracts from Light on the Path), the quarterly astrology continued for another cycle, the Theosophy Basics feature increased its frequency, and various studies on Karma and Reincarnation from different traditions continued to appear. Additionally, posts on wisdom sayings from different cultures were part of the mix as well as various posts from ancient philosophy, East and West, to round out the program.

I like to think a good diversity of topics was maintained and the introduction of more composed, researched pieces made a slight increase of frequecy. We hope to do even better for the coming year, with greater diversity, depth and more topical contemporary-oriented material. Perhaps the book review section will return, as things get oganized and more concrete projects, which are in the works, reach fruition. Thank you for tagging along for the ride, and one and all are cordially invited to continue our humble theosophical journey...

This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appoint- ments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.
(Walt Whitman - Song to Myself, 19)

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Great American Eclipse, Baseball's World Series, and the number 9

On August 21, 2017, the first total solar eclipse visible across the united states since 1918 will occur, being dubbed the Great American eclipse. The lapse of time between the eclipses is roughly 99 years. Indeed, the number 9 seems to be significant factor when considering the two eclipses.

Eclipses in general occur in cycles called the Saros cycle, which is roughly 18 years between eclipses on a given Saros, 18 being a multiple of 9. The eclipse of 1918 was part of Saros 145 and the eclipse of 2017 is part of Saros 126 (doing a kabbalistic reduction, that is, adding all the individual numerals until a single-digit number is reached: 1+ 2 + 6 = 9). What is interesting to note is that these two cycles are spaced roughly nine years apart and what’s more, the first eclipse of the century for either Saros occurred in 1909, the last two digits being nine, and so these eclipse’s occupy all the years in the twentieth century ending with a multiple of nine (1909, 1918, 1927, etc…), including 1999, which has three 9’s. Moreover, the number 9 has the unique characteristic that all factors of 9, when the sum of the individual digits are added, always reduce to 9; therefore any multiple of 9 has a kabbalistic reduction equivalent to 9.

Looking at American events from 1918, one notices that in Baseball’s World Series, the Boston Red Sox beat the Chicago Cubs. What is striking about that event is that neither team would win a World Series for the remaining of the century, making it a key date in the droughts that were later named the “Curse of the Bambino” for the Red Sox and the “Curse of the Billy Goat” for the Cubs, with the Cubs ending their drought just one year prior to the 2017 Great American Eclipse. The game of baseball itself lasts 9 innings and is comprised of 9 players per team. It was invented by a Theosophist, Abner Doubleday.

A dark cloud seems to have hovered over that 1918 World Series. It is one of only three Fall Classics where neither team hit a home run, the others being in 1906 and 1907, both of which the Cubs also played in. It remains the only World Series to be played entirely in September because of restrictions due to World War I. There were players threatening to strike due to low revenues and allegations have surfaced that the Cubs were involved in game fixing tactics due to pay disputes with their owner.[1]

For the Chicago Cubs, the number 9 turns up as a significant number in other ways as well. Their drought actually lasted between 1908-2016, a period of 108 years, a multiple of 9. Both 1908 and 2016 are reducible to 9. Also, The World Series where the curse of the Billy Goat supposedly originated occurred in 1945, one of the eclipse years ending in a multiple of 9. The Cubs were also strangely involved in the Mets’ famous miracle year. On September (the 9th month) 9, 1969, (at date full of 9’s)  in a critical Cubs/Mets pennant race game, a black cat walked between Cubs captain Ron Santo, and the Cubs dugout, after which the Mets won the series and began their remarkable run to the World Series.[2]

Now it would seem that the 1918 eclipse is more significant for the losers than the winners, the Boston Red Sox, who ended their drought of 86 years in 2004. However, if one looks at a famous Red Sox player who wore the number 9, Ted Williams, some interesting observations emerge. Williams was born in 1918, just twelve days before the Red Sox clinched the American League pennant. His number was retired in 1986, a year which the Red Sox lost in the World Series against the New York Mets and also the year where the “Curse of the Bambino” was first coined. It was the last time they played in the World Series before ending their drought 18 years later, a multiple of 9.

Moreover, the 1986 World Series was marked one the most famous baseball errors of all time. With just one out away from winning the World Series, Boston’s Bill Buckner, coincidently a former Chicago Cub, allowed a ball to pass between his legs at first base, allowing the Mets to mount an amazing comeback World Series victory.  Apparently Buckner was wearing a Cubs batting glove under his glove when he committed his error.[3]

In the year the Red Sox finally ended their drought, on August 31, 2004, Boston’s Manny Ramirez hit a foul ball into Section 9, Box 95, Row AA and struck a 16-old boy, knocking two of his teeth out. Coincidently, the boy apparently lived on a Sudbury farm once owned by Babe Ruth, the protagonist behind the “Curse of the Bambino”.[4] Moreover, on Wednesday, October 27, 2004, the Red Sox recorded the final out of their World Series victory during a total lunar eclipse.[5]  Let us hope that the teams in this year’s World Series will have better luck.  

[1] "Cubs threw 1918 World Series?". ESPN. April 20, 2011.
This article dedicated to Ferguson Jenkins

PS - Did anything significant happen in the 2017 World Series? I think so. The Houston Astros finally broke their 56-year World Series drought with their first win ever. They defeated both the Yankees and the Red Sox in the playoff season. It was their 18th year at Minute Maid Park. Astro Jeff Altuve was the AL season MVP. He wears number 27, a multiple of 9. George Springer was the World Series MVP. He was born September 19, 1989. The 1918 American eclipse saw the start of long droughts, the 2017 eclipse saw the ending of a long drought. I think that bookends these two events with a poetic sense of closure. In 2018, the Red Sox won their 9th World Series.

For more on this curious questions see: 
9 surreal facts to know about Angels' no-hitter honoring Tyler Skaggs 
see also
Of Baseball and Theosophy
Madame Blavatsky and the Birth of Baseball 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Blavatsky on Shamanism

What is now generally known of Shamanism is very little; and that has been perverted, like the rest of the non-Christian religions. It is called the "heathenism" of Mongolia, and wholly without reason, for it is one of the oldest religions of India. It is spirit-worship, or belief in the immortality of the souls, and that the latter are still the same men they were on earth, though their bodies have lost their objective form, and man has exchanged his physical for a spiritual nature.
In its present shape, it is an offshoot of primitive theurgy, and a practical blending of the visible with the invisible world. Whenever a denizen of earth desires to enter into communication with his invisible brethren, he has to assimilate himself to their nature, i.e., he meets these beings half-way, and, furnished by them with a supply of spiritual essence, endows them, in his turn, with a portion of his physical nature, thus enabling them sometimes to appear in a semi-objective form. It is a temporary exchange of natures, called theurgy. Shamans are called sorcerers, because they are said to evoke the "spirits" of the dead for purposes of necromancy.
The true Shamanism — striking features of which prevailed in India in the days of Megasthenes (300 B.C.) — can no more be judged by its degenerated scions among the Shamans of Siberia, than the religion of Gautama-Buddha can be interpreted by the fetishism of some of his followers in Siam and Burmah. It is in the chief lamaseries of Mongolia and Thibet that it has taken refuge; and there Shamanism, if so we must call it, is practiced to the utmost limits of intercourse allowed between man and "spirit." The religion of the lamas has faithfully preserved the primitive science of magic, and produces as great feats now as it did in the days of Kublai-Khan and his barons.
The ancient mystic formula of the King Srong-ch-Tsans-Gampo, the "Aum mani padme houm,"* effects its wonders now as well as in the seventh century. Avalokitesvara, highest of the three Boddhisattvas, and patron saint of Thibet, projects his shadow, full in the view of the faithful, at the lamasery of Dga-G'Dan, founded by him; and the luminous form of Son-Ka-pa, under the shape of a fiery cloudlet, that separates itself from the dancing beams of the sunlight, holds converse with a great congregation of lamas, numbering thousands; the voice descending from above, like the whisper of the breeze through foliage. Anon, say the Thibetans, the beautiful appearance vanishes in the shadows of the sacred trees in the park of the lamasery. (Isis Unveiled 2, pp. 615-16)
* Aum (mystic Sanscrit term of the Trinity), mani (holy jewel), padme (in the lotus, padma being the name for lotus), houm (be it so). The six syllables in the sentence correspond to the six chief powers of nature emanating from Buddha (the abstract deity, not Gautama), who is the seventh, and the Alpha and Omega of being.
The Shamans of Siberia are all ignorant and illiterate. Those of Tartary and Thibet — few in number — are mostly learned men in their own way, and will not allow themselves to fall under the control of spirits of any kind. The former are mediums in the full sense of the word; the latter, "magicians." It is not surprising that pious and superstitious persons, after seeing one of such crises, should declare the Shaman to be under demoniacal possession. As in the instances of Corybantic and Bacchantic fury among the ancient Greeks, the "spiritual" crisis of the Shaman exhibits itself in violent dancing and wild gestures. Little by little the lookers-on feel the spirit of imitation aroused in them; seized with an irresistible impulse, they dance, and become, in their turn, ecstatics; and he who begins by joining the chorus, gradually and unconsciously takes part in the gesticulations, until he sinks to the ground exhausted, and often dying. 625
But, while the illiterate Shaman is a victim, and during his crisis sometimes sees the persons present, under the shape of various animals, and often makes them share his hallucination, his brother Shaman, learned in the mysteries of the priestly colleges of Thibet, expels the elementary creature, which can produce the hallucination as well as a living mesmerizer, not through the help of a stronger demon, but simply through his knowledge of the nature of the invisible enemy. Where academicians have failed, as in the cases of the Cevennois, a Shaman or a lama would have soon put an end to the epidemic. 626
SHAMANS, or Samaneans. — An order of Buddhists among the Tartars, especially those of Siberia. They are possibly akin to the philosophers anciently known as Brachmanes, mistaken sometimes for Brahmans.* They are all magicians, or rather sensitives or mediums artificially developed. At present those who act as priests among the Tartars are generally very ignorant, and far below the fakirs in knowledge and education. Both men and women may be Shamans.
* From the accounts of Strabo and Megasthenes, who visited Palibothras, it would seem that the persons termed by him Samanean, or Brachmane priests, were simply Buddhists. "The singularly subtile replies of the Samanean or Brahman philosophers, in their interview with the conqueror, will be found to contain the spirit of the Buddhist doctrine," remarks Upham. (See the "History and Doctrine of Buddhism"; and Hale's "Chronology," vol. iii, p. 238.) (Isis Unveiled 1, xl)
Ammian, in his history of Julian's Persian expedition, gives the story by stating that one day Hystaspes, as he was boldly penetrating into the unknown regions of Upper India, had come upon a certain wooded solitude, the tranquil recesses of which were "occupied by those exalted sages, the Brachmanes (or Shamans). Instructed by their teaching in the science of the motions of the world and of the heavenly bodies, and in pure religious rites . . . he transfused them into the creed of the Magi. The latter, coupling these doctrines with their own peculiar science of foretelling the future, have handed down the whole through their descendants to succeeding ages." . (Isis Unveiled 2, p. 306)