Monday, 26 August 2019

The Three Stages of Christian Mysticism

From Cassian and Dionysios to John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, the Christian mystical path has been traditionally divided into three stages, although the terms sometimes vary. For example Jan van Ruusbroec's Spiritual Espousals has three parts : het "werkende leven" or the "active life", het "innighe, begeerlijcke leven" or the "yearning life" and het "godscouwende leven", or the "contemplative life".

The following division made by Vallgornera shows what these authors considered the characteristics of the three ages of the spiritual life:
I) The purgative way or stage, proper to beginners, in which it is a question of the active purification of the external and internal senses, of the passions, of the intellect, and of the will, by mortification, meditation, prayer; and finally, it is a question of the passive purification of the senses, in which infused contemplation begins and by means of which the soul is raised to the illuminative way, as St. John of the Cross says.(4)
2) The illuminative way or state, proper to proficients, in which, after a preliminary chapter on the divisions of contemplation, are discussed the gifts of the Holy Ghost and infused contemplation, which proceeds principally from the gifts of understanding and wisdom, and which is declared desirable for all interior souls, as being morally necessary for the full perfection of Christian life. This second part of the work, after several articles relating to extraordinary graces (visions, revelations, interior words), ends with a chapter of nine articles relative to the passive purification of the spirit, which marks the passage to the unitive way. This again is what St. John of the Cross taught.(5)
3) The unitive life or stage, proper to the perfect, in which it is a question of the intimate union of the contemplative soul with God and of its degrees up to the transforming union. (THE THREE AGES OF THE INTERIOR LIFE,  Prelude of Eternal Life, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
The basic meditation technique of the Christian Mystic is called orison:
The Christians use a term, “Orison” or degrees of prayer. It is not the ordinary type of petition or asking for something, but it is more of a yearning of the soul for the Divine. This orison is an act of love or a supernatural intercourse between the soul and the divine. Orison covers all steps from the beginning to the merging with God. It includes all forms of prayers, meditation and contemplation. It is a discipline of the mind, which should be cleared of external and extraneous objects into a stage of emptiness. Going deeper and deeper into the layers of silence and emptiness a passage will be found, and this will lead the mystic to the Divine. This journey is sometimes dark and bare and sometimes full of light and joy. To the mystic it seems free and easy. This training and purging is a progressive cleaning of the mirror, a progressive self-emptying of all that is not real. It should finally attain that consciousness that can see Reality, which ironically is without image. It is a Void! Christians called it naked orison. (Western mysticism 2,  Dr. Tan Kheng Khoo -

The 3 stages of the mystical path according to the Précis de Théologie Mystique et Ascétique, Adolphe Tanquerey (1926):
1-     Purification of the soul or purgative path
Ch.1 – 1- Prayer
2- Piety
3- Meditation
Ch. 2 -  Repentance
Ch. 3 – Mortification
1-      Body; 2- senses; 3- passions; 4- spiritual faculties
Ch. 4 – Fight against the 7 deadly sins
1-      pride; 2- envy; 3-jealousy/anger; 4- gluttony; 5- luxury; 6- sloth; 7- greed
Ch. 5 - Fight against temptations

2-    The illuminative path
Ch. 1 – Affective orison
Ch. 2 – Cultivate the 7 virtues
1-      prudence; justice; 3- strength; 4- temperance (chastity, humility, gentleness); faith; 6- hope; 7- charity
(sacred heart of Jesus)
Ch.3 – 1- Continue the fight against the 7 deadly sins; 2- fight against apathy

3- The unitive path
Ch. 1 The simple unitive path
  1. 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit
1-      Council; 2- piety; 3- Strength; 4- Fear; 5- Knowledge; 6- Intelligence; 7- Wisdom
2-     Orison of simplicity
Ch. 2 – Infused contemplation
A loving, simple, permanent attention of the spirit to divine things (F. de Sales)
1- a- Orison of quietude (arid)
The dark night of the soul, beginning of infused contemplation, secret, obscure, unconscious, accompanied by anguish, pain, trials, temptations, hardships, desire for more intimate union with god.
b- Orison of quietude (soft)
The fourth room of Teresa of Avila’s mystic castle, quiet orison, passive introspection, a sweet and affectionate absorption of the intelligence and will in God, produced by a spiritual grace of the Holy Spirit, feel the presence of God.
2- Orison of full union
Suspension of powers, absolute certainty of the presence of God in the soul, a very intimate union of the soul in God, accompanied by the suspension of all the inner faculties, ardent zeal, detachment, perfect submission to the will of God, great charity to others.
3-    a- Ecstatic union (Spiritual espousal) (soft)
Absorption of the soul in God, suspension of the senses, spiritual inebriation, half hour duration, up to seven days intermittently, 3 phases: simple, ravishment, flight of the spirit, like a delicious wound, longing for the spouse, ravishment is impetuous and violent, flight, souls feels transported, feeling of separation of soul from body, perfect detachment, increasingly affectionate appreciation of the humanity of Christ, profound patience
b- Ecstatic union (hard)
The night of the spirit, further purification to rid of remaining imperfections, sufferings of the intelligence, overwhelmed by pure light of the spirit, sufferings of the will, feeling of abandonment by God, ardent love of God, feeling of inner light, sweet feeling of serenity and strength, progress on the 10 steps of the ladder of love.
4-    Transformative union or spiritual wedding
Intimate, serene, permanent
a-     Vision of Jesus – great vision of the beatitude of heaven in a transcendent, sublime mode, becoming one with God.
b-     Vision of the Trinity, feeling that the Trinity resides in oneself, holy abandonment to God, willingness to suffer in serenity, absence of inner pains and desires, absence of ravishments, ardent zeal for the mortification of souls.

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Monday, 19 August 2019

The 7 Attributes of the Person of Stable Wisdom in the Bhagavad Gita (Bk. 2)

One of the biggest accomplishments of the Theosophical Society in the area of promoting Eastern Literature has been the great success of the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in Western translations. Therefore a post on the Gita has been long overdue.
(1) Satisfaction in the Self.
55. The Blessed Lord said: When a man expels, O Partha, all desires from the mind, and is satisfied in the self by the self, then is he called stable in intelligence.

(2) Equanimity in pleasure and pain.
56. He whose mind is undisturbed in the midst of sorrows and amid pleasures is free from desire, from whom liking and fear and wrath have passed away, is the sage of settled understanding.

(3) Absence of attachment, delight and aversion.
57. Who in all things is without affection though visited by this good or that evil and neither hates nor rejoices, his intelligence sits firmly founded in wisdom.

(4) Complete withdrawal of senses from objects.
58. Who draws away the senses from the objects of sense, as the tortoise draws in his limbs into the shell, his intelligence sits firmly founded in wisdom.

(5) Devotion to the Lord.
61. Having brought all the senses under control, he must sit firm in Yoga, wholly given up to Me; for whose senses are mastered, of him the intelligence is firmly established (in its proper seat).

(6) The Universe, a mere dream to the Sage.
69. That (higher being) which is to all creatures a night, is to the selfmastering sage his waking (his luminous day of true being, knowledge and power); the life of the dualities which is to them their waking (their day, their consciousness, their bright condition of activity) is a night (a troubled sleep and darkness of the soul) to the sage who sees.

(7) Subjugation of desire and personal self.
71. Who abandons all desires and lives and acts free from longing, who has no "I" or "mine" (who has extinguished his individual ego in the One and lives in that unity), he attains to the great peace.

Sri Aurobindo. Bhagavad Gita. Pondicherry. All India Books. 1986.
Sastry, Alladi Mahadeva. Bhagavad Gita with the Commetary of Sri Sankaracharya. Madras. Samata Books. 1897/1979.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Theosophy Basics: Universal Brotherhood / Sisterhood 2/2

Universal Brotherhood is based on the notions of a common origin and nature of Humanity
Simply by demonstrating on logical, philosophical, metaphysical, and even scientific grounds that: — (a) All men have spiritually and physically the same origin, which is the fundamental teaching of Theosophy. (b) As mankind is essentially of one and the same essence, and that essence is one — infinite, uncreate, and eternal, whether we call it God or Nature — nothing, therefore, can affect one nation or one man without affecting all other nations and all other men. This is as certain and as obvious as that a stone thrown into a pond will, sooner or later, set in motion every single drop of water therein. (Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, 41)

Fundamental spiritual identity of humanity
The identity of our physical origin makes no appeal to our higher and deeper feelings. Matter, deprived of its soul and spirit, or its divine essence, cannot speak to the human heart. But the identity of the soul and spirit, of real, immortal man, as Theosophy teaches us, once proven and deep-rooted in our hearts, would lead us far on the road of real charity and brotherly goodwill. (Key, 43)

Philosophical principle of holistic, spiritual monism in a spirit of religious tolerance
By teaching that the root of all nature, objective and subjective, and everything else in the universe, visible and invisible, is, was, and ever will be one absolute essence, from which all starts, and into which everything returns. This is Aryan [Eastern]* philosophy, fully represented only by the Vedantins, and the Buddhist system. With this object in view, it is the duty of all Theosophists to promote in every practical way, and in all countries, the spread of non-sectarian education. (Key, 43-44)

First, because that which is true on the metaphysical plane must be also true on the physical. Secondly, because there is no more fertile source of hatred and strife than religious differences. When one party or another thinks himself the sole possessor of absolute truth, it becomes only natural that he should think his neighbor absolutely in the clutches of Error or the Devil. But once get a man to see that none of them has the whole truth, but that they are mutually complementary, that the complete truth can be found only in the combined views of all, after that which is false in each of them has been sifted out — then true brotherhood in religion will be established. The same applies in the physical world. (Key, 45-46)

Basic inter-connectedness of humanity. Like the parts of a plant, if one part is hurt, it affects the whole.
A plant consists of a root, a stem, and many shoots and leaves. As humanity, as a whole, is the stem which grows from the spiritual root, so is the stem the unity of the plant. Hurt the stem and it is obvious that every shoot and leaf will suffer. So it is with mankind. (Key, 46)

Expand the idea, carry it out to a universal application, and you will soon find that in true philosophy every physical action has its moral and everlasting effect. Hurt a man by doing him bodily harm; you may think that his pain and suffering cannot spread by any means to his neighbors, least of all to men of other nations. We affirm that it will, in good time. Therefore, we say, that unless every man is brought to understand and accept as an axiomatic truth that by wronging one man we wrong not only ourselves but the whole of humanity in the long run, no brotherly feelings such as preached by all the great Reformers, pre-eminently by Buddha and Jesus, are possible on earth. (Key, 47)

*The use of the term here, I think shows, that it is very far from the later, westernized modern interpretations of the term.

Go to Part 1 

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Monday, 5 August 2019

Theosophy Basics: Universal Brotherhood / Sisterhood 1/2

The first object is considered to be the most important (the other two being complementary to the first). It is quite an idealistic outlook, with the object of encouraging tolerance and kindness as a means of promoting world peace and fairness for all in a cosmopolitan spirit of philanthropy, acknowledging the spiritual nature of all:

Two general objects, one restricted object, of attention. Every one entering the society is supposed to sympathize with the theory of essential brotherhood: a kinship which exists on the plane of the higher self, not on that of the racial, social, and mental dissimilarities and antipathies. These elements of discord pertain to the physical man and are the result of unequal development under the law of evolution. We believe the human body to be but the shell, cover, or veil of the real entity; and those who accept the esoteric philosophy and the theory of "Karma" (the universal law of ethical causation) believe that the entity, as it travels around certain major and minor cycles of existence with the whole mass of human beings, takes on a different body at birth, and shells it off at death, under the operation of this Karmic law. 
Yet though it may thus clothe and reclothe itself a thousand times in a series of reincarnations, the entity is unchanged and unchangeable. being of a divine nature, superior to all environments on the earthly plane. It is the physical body only which has racial type, color, sex, hatreds, ambitions, and loves. So then, when we postulate the idea of universal brotherhood, we wish it understood that it is held in no Utopian sense, though we do not dream of realizing it at once on the ordinary plane of social or national relations. 
Most assuredly, if this view of the kinship of all mankind could gain universal acceptance, the improved sense of moral responsibility it would engender would cause most social evils and international asperities to disappear; for a true altruism, instead of the present egoism, would be the rule the world over. So we have written down as the first of our declared objects this altruistic asseveration, and have been working practically to bring about a beginning of the better law.

It is not the policy of self-preservation, not the welfare of one or another personality in its finite and physical form that will or can ever secure the desired object and screen the Society from the effects of the social "hurricane" to come; but only the weakening of the feeling of separateness in the units which compose its chief element. And such a weakening can only be achieved by a process of inner enlightenment. It is not violence that can ever insure bread and comfort for all; nor is the kingdom of peace and love, of mutual help and charity and "food for all," to be conquered by a cold, reasoning, diplomatic policy. 
It is only by the close brotherly union of men's inner SELVES, of soul-solidarity, of the growth and development of that feeling which makes one suffer when one thinks of the suffering of others, that the reign of Justice and equality for all can ever be inaugurated. This is the first of the three fundamental objects for which the Theosophical Society was established, and called the "Universal Brotherhood of Man," without distinction of race, colour or creed. (Blavatsky, The Theosophical Society: Its Mission and its Future, Lucifer, Vol. II, No. 12, August, 1888, pp. 421-433, CW 10, pp. 74-75)

First of all, poor is that theosophic culture which fails to transform simply a "good citizen" of his own native country into a "good citizen" of the world. A true theosophist must be a cosmopolitan in his heart. He must embrace mankind, the whole of humanity in his philanthropic feelings. It is higher and far nobler to be one of those who love their fellow men, without distinction of race, creed, caste or colour, than to be merely a good patriot, or still less, a partizan. 
To mete one measure for all, is holier and more divine than to help one's country in its private ambition of aggrandizement, strife or bloody wars in the name of GREEDINESS and SELFISHNESS. Severe denunciation is a duty to truth." It is; on condition, however, that one should denounce and fight against the root of evil and not expend one's fury by knocking down the irresponsible blossoms of its plant. The wise horticulturist uproots the parasitic herbs, and will hardly lose time in using his garden shears to cut off the heads of the poisonous weeds. (Blavatsky Is Denunciation a Duty?, Lucifer, Vol. III, No. 16, December 1888, pp. 265-273, CW 10, 199-200)

Go to part 2