Theosophical Encyclopedia

Hesychasm

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A mystical practice in the Eastern Orthodox Church dating back to the 10th century that aims to bring about inner quietness and divine contemplation. It comes from a Greek word hesychia which means “quietude” or “silence.” It traces its origins to spiritual practices in the 4th century among the Desert Fathers. Its primary method is the repetition of a short prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me," during each breathing cycle. The mind should be empty of other thoughts. This method is similar to eastern meditational practices involving the use of mantras that are repeated during the inhalation and exhalation.

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Esoteric Buddhism

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In 1883, Alfred P. SINNETT, the editor of the Pioneer, the leading English-language newspaper in British India, published the ground-breaking book Esoteric Buddhism, which contained the teachings of the Mahatmas who were the teachers of Helena P. BLAVATSKY and Henry S. OLCOTT. In the book, he stated there is an inner teaching behind exoteric Buddhism that was little known to the public. While the doctrine he now called Esoteric Buddhism dated back to a “far more remote antiquity” than the time of Gautama BUDDHA, “the Buddhist coloring has now permeated its whole substance,” hence the name. The outline of the doctrine in the book constitutes what is now known as modern theosophy. The existence of a hidden or esoteric teaching in Buddhism is not accepted by orthodox Buddhist. However, Blavatsky mentions the existence of “Esoteric Buddhism” frequently in her writings. She states, for instance, that Buddha’s doctrines “are not a modification but rather the revelation of the real esoteric religion of the Brahmans, so jealously guarded by them from the profane, and divulged by the ‘all-merciful, the compassionate Lord,’ for the benefit of all men. It is only the study of Esoteric Buddhism that can yield to scholars the real tenets of that grandest of all faiths” (CW IV:463). This secret teaching, she states further, “was taught to the Arhats alone, generally in the Saptaparna [i.e., Skt. sapta-para, lit. Seven-leafed] . . . cave” (CW X:71). This cave, she says, located near the ancient Magadha capital city of Rajagraha (lit. “King’s Village”) in what is presently Bihar State, was originally called the “Bamboo Cave” and was later known as “Cheta Cave” (CW V:246 fn.). It got its Buddhist name from Buddha’s comparing man to a seven-leafed plant, i.e., having a septenary constitution, a common theosophical idea, in his secret teachings there. For this reason, it has been assumed by some theosophical writers (cf., e.g., Gottfried de PURUCKER, Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 498) that Esoteric Buddhism is very similar to theosophy, although there is no extant Buddhist writing to confirm this.

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Japanese Buddhism

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Buddhism, both Theravada and Mahayana, was introduced into Japan in the middle of the 6th century, first from Korea and then from China. Initially, it was transmitted to the ruling class and attracted little attention from the general population, since it competed with the indigenous Shinto religion. When a temple complex was constructed in Nara, the capital at that time, and the central government promulgated the new religion, seeing in it a means for supporting their idea of a centralized nation-state, it began its popular spread. The government instituted a system for controlling the religion by establishing a state-supported monastery (kokobunji) and nunnery (kokobunniji) in every province and financing the construction of the Todai-ji Temple in Nara with its massive bronze image of Buddha seated in meditation. This time is known as the Nara Period (646-794). As Kazuo Kasahara writes, “Buddhism greatly impressed the Japanese with its beautiful rituals, elegantly inscribed sutras, monumental temples and pagodas, and splendid statues” (A History of Japanese Religion, p. 47). It also conveyed to the Japanese a level of culture which they had not previously known. Since six different schools of Buddhism — Hosso, Sanron, Kegon, Jojitsu, Kusha, and Ritsu — were introduced, the Japanese emphasized the “simultaneous study of all six schools,” seeking to understand their inner spirit as well as their outer form. The Hosso school taught the “consciousness only” (Sk. vijñaptimatrata) philosophy started in India by Arya Asanga and Vasubandhu. Sanron was the Japanese form of Pure Land Buddhism. Kegon was based on the Avatasaka (“Flower Garland”) Sutra (Kegon-kyo in Japanese) which taught that separateness is an illusion and all living things can become a Buddha. Jojitsu and Kusha were Theravada forms of Buddhist realism. Ritsu was based on the Theravada Abhidharmako sa.

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Quietism

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The religious philosophy first effectively promulgated by Miguel de Molinos (1628-1696), a Spanish Roman Catholic priest. His Spiritual Guide, published in 1675, gained much popularity and the teaching contained in it was at first endorsed by his church, but some of the priesthood feared that it would undermine their authority and it appears that his liberal sexual behavior laid him open to attack and he was eventually arrested, tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1685, by the order of Innocent X. Molinos’ teaching was declared heretical.

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Virginia Gordon Hanson (1898-1991)

Prominent Theosophical author and worker in the American Section. She joined the Theosophical Society in Washington, D.C., in 1949, and joined the staff of the American Section’s national headquarters in 1962. She was on the staff of Krotona Institute of Theosophy from 1975 until her death in 1991. Hanson’s professional career included Editor of publications of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Justice. She lectured extensively for the American Section and was author of numerous articles published in Theosophical journals throughout the world.

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Alice Ann Latrobe Bateman Bailey (1880- 1949)

Alice Bailey was founder of a spiritual movement growing out of the Theosophical tradition. Born to well-to-do parents in Manchester, England, she was raised in the conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England. Although she early showed mystical tendencies, her childhood was generally unhappy. After finishing school at the age of eighteen she threw herself into religious work in the Young Women’s Christian Association. The Y.W.C.A. sent her to India, where she delivered strongly evangelical sermons to British troops. There she met Walter Evans, an American studying for the Episcopal priesthood. They were married in 1907, and she returned with him to the United States. After his ordination the couple settled in California. The marriage failed, however, and they separated in 1915 and were divorced in 1919.

Amid this personal crisis, Alice Evans – then working in a fish cannery in Pacific Grove, California – discovered Theosophy in 1915. Although her first reaction was negative, she soon found that certain of its ideas, such as karma and the existence of the Masters, appealed to her mystic side and were of help to her in her plight. She joined the Theosophical Society and, in 1917, moved to Hollywood, California, where she worked in the vegetarian cafeteria at Krotona, the Theosophical center. She there met Foster Bailey, national secretary of the Theosophical Society, whom she subsequently married.

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James Scudday Perkins, (1899-1991)

Prominent member of the Theosophical Society in America. Raised in southern Louisiana in the U.S., he went to Cincinnati to study engineering at the university there, but a visit to its art museum caused a change in his career plans. Leaving Cincinnati University after his first year, he began a study of art at the Cincinnati Art Academy, later studying at the Art Students’ League in New York City. He then entered the field of commercial art, further preparing himself as an illustrative painter with studies at the Grand Central School of Art in that city.

He returned to Cincinnati to practice commercial art and it was there that he joined The Theosophical Society in 1928, becoming a charter member of the Cincinnati Lodge. In addition to holding a number of local offices, including President of the Ohio Federation of Theosophical Lodges for five years, he was elected to the National Board of the TS in America in 1936. He then served as its Vice President from 1939-1945 and on July 22, 1945, he was elected American Section President, succeeding Sidney A. Cook, who served in that office 1931-1945. When Perkins was succeeded in the office of American Section President by Dr. Henry A. Smith in 1960, he was named International Vice President by then International President N. Sri Ram, an office Perkins held until his death in Ojai, California. He also served as President of the Theosophical community called Taormina, located in Ojai, California, from 1986 until his death.

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