Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Sufism: Ibn Arabi - What the Seeker Needs 1

Extracts from a classic text: Book of the Quintessence Concerning What Is Indispensable For the Spiritual Seeker (transl. - Tosun Bayrak)

Muhiyy ad-Din Ibn 'Arabi

Basic Life Style
1- Be accepting, approving, forgiving, serving, and loving to everyone and everything.
Look upon the whole creation, and above all, humankind, with good will - accepting, approving, forgiving, serving, and loving. Make that your nature in your dealings with the world. Listen to your conscience. Cleanse your heart. In that clean heart, keep up prayer for your faithful brothers. Help and serve, as much as you can, the people who hide their misery, who are content with their poverty, the travelers on the path to truth. Do not attribute to yourself virtue, goodness, and graciousness because of your service to the creation. Consider that you owe other people thanks for having humbly accepted your help. It is incumbent upon you to lighten the load of those who are burdened. If people whose pain you have helped to alleviate cause you pain in return - if their responses, their ways, their habits are dark and cast shadows upon you - show patience and forbearance. Do not forget that Allah says:
...surely Allah is with the patient. (Baqara, 153)
2- Do not waste time; try to be as helpful as possible.
Do not spend your life in empty endeavors and your time in idle talk. Instead, reflect and remember Allah, read the Qur'an, guide the misguided to the enlightened path. Help others leave evil and turn to doing good. Mend broken friendships. Help others to help others.
3- Find good friends of like mind.
Find the right friend, who will be a support for you, a good traveling companion on the path of truth. Faith is a seed. It grows into a tree with the beneficent watering and sunshine of faithful friends. […]
4- Look for a good teacher
Look for a perfect teacher who will lead you on the straight path. In your search for a guide, be sincere, because sincerity distinguishes the true seeker. It is certain that if you cling to sincerity and truthfulness, the Lord will manifest His attribute of the Ultimate Guide upon you and will guide you to a perfect teacher.
5- Be sincere
Sincerity in the seeker is such a blessing that when it is present, Allah will even turn the accursed devil himself and the seeker's personal devil, his ego, into angels of inspiration serving him. Sincerity is such a catalyst that it turns lead into gold and purifies everything it touches. […]
6- Be light-hearted and low maintenance
To advance in this path, in the footsteps of the prophets (peace and blessings be upon them), you have to be light - light in worldly goods, light in your concerns about this world. An unmistakable sign of the heaviness that will prevent you from advancing is to be a burden on people. Neither be a freeloader nor let others carry your load. Particularly, do not accept goods and favors, either for yourself or for others, from people whose hearts are dead, submerged in the sleep of heedlessness.
7- Don’t be overly materialistic; earn your living modestly.
In what Allah permits you to gain as your sustenance - in all your actions, behavior and words - fear Allah. Do not seek comfort and luxury, especially when you have not worked hard for it. Lawful sustenance is obtained by working harder than is demanded of you. A clear sign of the lawfulness of one's gain is that it will not permit you to be either stingy or a spendthrift.
8- Be detached from worldly things.
Take care, since if the love of this world takes root firmly in your heart, it constricts your heart, and it becomes exceedingly hard to pull it out and throw it away. This world is a trial ground; do not seek comfort and riches in it.
9- Have meditation periods to review your actions.
Cleanse and beautify your days and nights with worship. […] It is to be hoped that only good deeds and actions befitting a Muslim are done between the times of prayer.
10- Do your work with devotion.
Most people complain that this world, their work to secure their sustenance, and their work as householders for their families, take time away from their worship. Know that work done heedfully, with consideration for others, in accordance with proper behavior, for the pleasure of Allah, is also worship. [...]
11- Organize your life to give maximum time for spiritual efforts.
Use these to gather as much of your sustenance as possible in the minimum of time. If possible, secure in one day your week's sustenance. […]
12- Sunrise and sunset are strong spiritual moments.
After you perform your morning prayer, stay with your Lord until sunrise, and after your afternoon prayer stay in His presence until sunset. These are two periods of time when spiritual powers and enlightenment flow in abundance. Keep your heart tied to Allah in humility and in peace. […]
13- Eat, sleep and dress sparingly.
Do not sleep until you are unable to stay awake. Do not eat until you are hungry. Dress only to cover your body and to protect it from cold and from heat. […]
14- Read slowly and conscientiously.
Read without haste, slowly thinking of the meaning of each word. 
Part 2 

Friday, 25 May 2018

Collective Aspects of Karma and Reincarnation

Since both of William Q. Judge’s 1888 articles on Karma and Reincarnation deal with more collective aspects of reincarnation, i.e. reincarnation with family and friends and hereditary factors, I thought it would be appropriate to include extracts from both:
Hence, if the soul that we do love inhabits another physical frame, it is the law--a part of the law of Reincarnation not often stated or dwelt on--that we will again, when incarnated, meet that same soul in the new tenement. We cannot, however, always recognize it. But that, the recognition or memory of those whom we knew before, is one of the very objects of our study and practice. Not only is this the law as found in ancient books, but it has been positively stated, in the history of the Theosophical Society, in a letter from an Adept addressed not many years ago to some London theosophists. In it he asked them if they imagined that they were together as incarnated beings for the first time, stated that they were not, and laid down the rule that the real affinities of soul life drew them together on earth.
To be associated against our will with those who lay upon us the claim of mother, father, brother, son, or wife from a previous life would neither be just nor necessary. Those relations, as such, grew out of physical ties alone, and souls that are alike, who really love each other, as well as those who harbor hate, are brought together in mortal bodies as now father and now son--, or otherwise.
So, then, with the doctrine of Devachan we have the answer. In that state we have with us, for all practical purposes and to suit our desire, every one whom we loved on earth: upon being reincarnated we are again with those whose souls we are naturally attracted to.
By living up to the highest and best of our convictions, for humanity and not for self, we make it possible that we shall at last recognize in some earth-life those persons whom we love, and to lose whom forever seems such a dreary and uninviting prospect.
(Respecting Reincarnation The Path, August, 1888)
This is the general view. Heredity is a puzzle, and will always remain one so long as the laws of Karma and Reincarnation are not admitted and taken into account in all these investigations. Nearly all of these writers admit--excepting those who say they do not know--the theological view that each human being is a new creation, a new soul projected into life on this earth.
If these two doctrines should be accepted by the supposed legislators, it would follow that no such law as I have adverted to would ever be put on the books; for the reason that, once Karma and Reincarnation are admitted, the responsibility of each individual is made greater than before. Not only is he responsible even under his hereditary tendency, but in a wider sense he is also responsible for the great injury he does the State through the future effect of his life--that effect acting on those who are born as his descendants.
The necessity for recognizing the law from the standpoint of ethics arises from the fact that, until we are aware that such is the law, we will never begin to perform such acts and think such thoughts as will tend to bring about the required alterations in the astral light needed to start a new order of thoughts and influences. These new influences will not, of course, come to have full effect and sway on those who initiate them, but will operate on their descendants, and will also prepare a new future age in which those very persons who set up the new current shall participate. Hence it is not in any sense a barren, unrewarded thing, for we ourselves come back again in some other age to reap the fruit of the seed we had sown.
The impulse must be set up, and we must be willing to wait for the result. The potters wheel continues to revolve when the potter has withdrawn his foot, and so the present revolving wheel will turn for a while until the impulse is spent.
(Is Heredity a Puzzle? The Path, November, 1888)

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Giuseppe Mazzini on Universal Brother/Sisterhood

Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–72) is today largely remembered as the chief inspirer and leading political agitator of the Italian risorgimento. Yet Mazzini was not merely an Italian patriot, and his influence reached far beyond his native country and his century. In his time, he ranked among the leading European intellectual figures, competing for public attention with Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville. According to his friend Alexander Herzen, the russian political activist and writer, Mazzini was the “shining star” of the democratic revolutions of 1848.[…]Mazzini was an original, if not very systematic, political thinker. He put forward principled arguments in support of various progressive causes, from universal suffrage and social justice to women’s enfranchisement. Perhaps most fundamentally, he argued for a reshaping of the European political order on the basis of two seminal principles: democracy and national self-determination. these claims were extremely radical in his time, when most of continental Europe was still under the rule of hereditary kingships and multinational empires such as the Habsburgs and the ottomans.[…]Mazzini’s ideas had an extraordinary appeal for generations of progressive nationalists and revolutionary leaders from his day until well into the twentieth century: his life and writings inspired several patriotic and anticolonial movements in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, as well as the early Zionists, Gandhi, Nehru, and Sun YatSen.[…] It was Mazzini’s conviction that under the historical circumstances of his time, only the nation state could allow for genuine democratic participation and the civic education of individuals. to him, the nation was a necessary intermediary step in the progressive association of mankind, the means toward a future international “brotherhood” among all peoples. (Stefano Recchia, A Cosmopolitanism of Nations: Giuseppe Mazzini's Writings on Democracy, Nation Building, and International Relations, 2009, Princeton, p. 1)
From The Duties of Man, Chapter Four – Duties Toward Humanity
Humanity alone, continuous in  existence through the passing Generations, continuous in intellect through the contributions of all its members, is capable of gradually evolving, applying, and glorifying the Divine Idea.
Life therefore, was given to you by God in order that you might employ that life for the benefit of Humanity, that you might direct your individual faculties to aid the development of the faculties of your brother men, and contribute by your labour another element to the collective work of Progress, and the discovery of the Truth, which the generations are destined slowly but unceasingly to promote.
Your duty is to educate yourselves, and to educate others; to strive to perfect yourselves, and to perfect others.
It is true that God lives within you, but God lives in all the men by whom this earth is peopled. God is in the life of all the generations that have been, are, and are to be.
Passed generations have progressively improved and coming generations will continue to improve the conception which Humanity forms of Him, of His Law, and of our Duties. You are bound to adore Him and to glorify Him wheresoever He manifests his presence. The Universe is His Temple, and the sin of every unresisted or unexpiated profanation of the Temple weighs on the head of each and all of the Believers. […]
The only lasting hope for you is in the general amelioration, improvement, and fraternity of all the peoples of Europe, and through Europe of humanity.
Therefore, my brothers, in the name of your duty, and for the sake of your interest, never forget that your first duties — duties without  fulfilling which, you cannot rightly fulfil those towards your country and family — are towards Humanity.
Let your words and your actions be for all men, as God is for all men in His Law and Love. In whatsoever land you live, wheresoever there arises a man to combat- for the right, the just, and the true, that man is your brother. Wheresoever a man is tortured through error, injustice, or tyranny, that man is your brother. Free men or slaves, you are all brothers.
You are one in origin, one is the Law that governs you, and one in the Goal you are destined to attain. Your faith must be one, your actions one, and one the banner under which you combat. Say not : the language we speak is different, Acts, tears, and martyrdom, are a language common to all men, and which all understand. Say not : Humanity is too vast, and we are too weak. God does not judge the power but the intention. Love Humanity. Ask yourselves, as to every act you commit within the circle of family or country : If what I now do were done by and for all men, would it be beneficial or injurious to Humanity, and if your conscience tell you it would be injurious, desist: desist, even though it seem that an immediate advantage to your country or family would be the result.
Be you the Apostles of this faith : Apostles of jthe fraternity of Nations, and of that Unity of the human race which, though it be admitted in principle, is denied in practice at the present day. Be such, wheresoever and howsoever you are able. Neither God nor man can require more of you than this. But I tell you that by becoming such, and even — should more be impossible — by becoming such to yourselves alone, you will yet serve Humanity. God measures the stages of education lie permits the human race to ascend, by the number and the purity of the Believers. When the pure among you are many, God, who numbers you, will disclose to you the way to action.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Through the Gates of Gold Chapter 4 The Meaning of Pain, Part 1

Part 1

Part One is kind of a short prelude to the next three longer parts; but full of interesting considerations: Pain and despair are always hovering in the background of our lives; we ourselves are the cause of this pain and suffering, albeit unconsciously so; we need to regulate our inner life in order to manage these pains (an anticipation of modern psychology); pain can be used for purposes of healing and harming; we are constantly waging an inner battle between pleasure and pain, at one level; but in reality pleasure and pain are co-rulers, so at a deeper level, the pain we experience is self-inflicted and voluntary; this raises the question as to why we do so, the answer being that it is part of the trial and error learning process of balancing pleasure and pain.
"LOOK into the deep heart of life, whence pain comes to darken men's lives. She is always on the threshold, and behind her stands despair.
What are these two gaunt figures, and why are they permitted to be our constant followers?
It is we who permit them, we who order them, as we permit and order the action of our bodies; and we do so as unconsciously. But by scientific experiment and investigation we have learned much about our physical life, and it would seem as if we can obtain at least as much result with regard to our inner life by adopting similar methods.
Pain arouses, softens, breaks, and destroys. Regarded from a sufficiently removed standpoint, it appears as medicine, as a knife, as a weapon, as a poison, in turn. It is an implement, a thing which is used, evidently. What we desire to discover is, who is the user; what part of ourselves is it that demands the presence of this thing so hateful to the rest?
Medicine is used by the physician, the knife by the surgeon; but the weapon of destruction is used by the enemy, the hater.
Is it, then, that we do not only use means, or desire to use means, for the benefit of our souls, but that also we wage warfare within ourselves, and do battle in the inner sanctuary? It would seem so; for it is certain that if man's will relaxed with regard to it he would no longer retain life in that state in which pain exists. Why does he desire his own hurt?
The answer may at first sight seem to be that he primarily desires pleasure, and so is willing to continue on that battlefield where it wages war with pain for the possession of him, hoping always that pleasure will win the victory and take him home to herself. This is but the external aspect of the man's state. In himself he knows well that pain is co-ruler with pleasure, and that though the war wages always it never will be won. The superficial observer concludes that man submits to the inevitable. But that is a fallacy not worthy of discussion. A little serious thought shows us that man does not exist at all except by exercise of his positive qualities; it is but logical to suppose that he chooses the state he will live in by the exercise of those same qualities.
Granted, then, for the sake of our argument, that he desires pain, why is it that he desires anything so annoying to himself?”

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Theosophy Basics: Ethical Principles

This post is uber-basic. Most of the quotes are very-well known ; (googling virtually any sentence in this post will yield a plethora of fine expositions), the only claim to originality being perhaps the particular combination in which this nosegay was assembled:
1-The Theosophical project aims to develop a universal system of ethics based on comparative studies:

The chief aim of the Founders of the Eclectic Theosophical School was one of the three objects of its modern successor, the Theosophical Society, namely, to reconcile all religions, sects and nations under a common system of ethics, based on eternal verities. (Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy, p.3)
2-Consulting the great ethical teachings of history from different traditions is important:
The ethics are there, ready and clear enough for whomsoever would follow them. They are the essence and cream of the world's ethics, gathered from the teachings of all the world's great reformers. Therefore, you will find represented therein Confucius and Zoroaster, Laotze and the Bhagavat-Gita, the precepts of Gautama Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth, of Hillel and his school, as of Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and their schools.key (Key, 48-49)

3-The key aspect of its ethical approach is the relief of human suffering and anything that is helpful in improving the human condition:
Its aims are several; but the most important of all are those which are likely to lead to the relief of human suffering under any or every form, moral as well as physical. And we believe the former to be far more important than the latter. Theosophy has to inculcate ethics; it has to purify the soul, if it would relieve the physical body, whose ailments, save cases of accidents, are all hereditary. (Key,24)

Nothing of that which is conducive to help man, collectively or individually, to live--not "happily"--but less unhappily in this world, ought to be indifferent to the Theosophist-Occultist. It is no concern of his whether his help benefits a man in his worldly or spiritual progress; his first duty is to be ever ready to help if he can, without stopping to philosophize.
(WHAT SHALL WE DO FOR OUR FELLOW-MEN? Lucifer, Vol. V, No. 26, October, 1889, pp. 156-165, Collected Writings, vol. XI, p. 465 (October 1889)

Theosophists are of necessity the friends of all movements in the world, whether intellectual or simply practical, for the amelioration of the condition of mankind. We are the friends of all those who fight against drunkenness, against cruelty to animals, against injustice to women, against corruption in society or in government, although we do not meddle in politics. We are the friends of those who exercise practical charity, who seek to lift a little of the tremendous weight of misery that is crushing down the poor. (Letter I — 1888 Second Annual Convention — April 22-23, CW 9:247)

4-A practical, ‘practice what you preach’ approach is stressed, with a duty-based aspect in a spirit of tolerance, charity and love:
"Theosophy must not represent merely a collection of moral verities, a bundle of metaphysical Ethics epitomized in theoretical dissertations. Theosophy must be made practical, and has, therefore, to be disencumbered of useless discussion . . . It has to find objective expression in an all-embracing code of life thoroughly impregnated with its spirit -- the spirit of mutual tolerance, charity and love. Its followers have to set the example of a firmly outlined and as firmly applied morality before they get the right to point out, even in a spirit of kindness, the absence of a like ethic Unity and singleness of purpose in other associations and individuals.

As said before -- no Theosophist should blame a brother whether within or outside of the association, throw slur upon his actions or denounce him {….} lest he should himself lose the right of being considered a theosophist. Ever turn away your gaze from the imperfections of your neighbour and centre rather your attention upon your own shortcomings in order to correct them and become wiser . . . Show not the disparity between claim and action in another man but -- whether he be brother or neighbour -- rather help him in his arduous walk in life . . .

The problem of true theosophy and its great mission is the working out of clear, unequivocal conceptions of ethic ideas and duties which would satisfy most and best the altruistic and right feeling in us; and the modelling of these conceptions for their adaptation into such forms of daily life where they may be applied with most equitableness . . . . Such is the common work in view for all who are willing to act on these principles. It is a laborious task and will require strenuous and persevering exertion, but it must lead you insensibly to progress and leave no room for any selfish aspirations outside the limits traced . . . . . Do not indulge in unbrotherly comparisons between the task accomplished by yourself and the work left undone by your neighbour or brother, in the field of Theosophy, as none is held to weed out a larger plot of ground than his strength and capacity will permit him . . . Do not be too severe on the merits or demerits of one who seeks admission among your ranks, as the truth about the actual state of the inner man can only be known to, and dealt with justly by KARMA alone. Even the simple presence amidst you of a well-intentioned and sympathising individual may help you magnetically . . . You are the Free-workers on the Domain of Truth, and as such, must leave no obstructions on the paths leading to it." . . .
[(Some Words on Daily Life)The Original Programme of the Theosophical Society, Ostende, October 3, 1886, CW 7, 173-74]

5-A developmental approach of moral elevation, striving for self-improvement to the best of one’s ability is an important aspect:
ENQUIRER. Is moral elevation, then, the principal thing insisted upon in your Society?
THEOSOPHIST. Undoubtedly! He who would be a true Theosophist must bring himself to live as one.
ENQUIRER. If so, then, as I remarked before, the behaviour of some members strangely belies this fundamental rule.
THEOSOPHIST. Indeed it does. But this cannot be helped among us, any more than amongst those who call themselves Christians and act like fiends. This is no fault of our statutes and rules, but that of human nature. Even in some exoteric public branches, the members pledge themselves on their "Higher Self" to live the life prescribed by Theosophy. They have to bring their Divine Self to guide their every thought and action, every day and at every moment of their lives. A true Theosophist ought "to deal justly and walk humbly." (Key, 52)

6-The spiritual aspect of ethics is considered essential and the doctrines of karma and reincarnation are key facets of the ethical perspective:
What I said last year remains true today, that is, that the Ethics of Theosophy are more important than any divulgement of psychic laws and facts. The latter relate wholly to the material and evanescent part of the septenary man, but the Ethics sink into and take hold of the real man — the reincarnating Ego. We are outwardly creatures of but a day; within we are eternal. Learn, then, well the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation, and teach, practice, promulgate that system of life and thought which alone can save the coming races. Do not work merely for the Theosophical Society, but through it for Humanity. (Letter III — 1890 - Fourth Annual Convention — April 27-28, CW 12, 156))

7-A kind of spiritual evolutionary humanist philosophy is considered fundamental to improving the human condition:
The function of Theosophists is to open men's hearts and understandings to charity, justice, and generosity, attributes which belong specifically to the human kingdom and are natural to man when he has developed the qualities of a human being. Theosophy teaches the animal-man to be a human-man; and when people have learnt to think and feel as truly human beings should feel and think, they will act humanely, and works of charity, justice, and generosity will be done spontaneously by all. (Letter I — 1888 Second Annual Convention — April 22-23, CW 9, 247)