The Society

Concentric Circles: Why I Support ITC (International Theosophy Conferences)

Jonathan Colbert – USA

The Society JC 2 KADINSKY Squares With Concentric Rings

Kadinsky’s Concentric Circles

We see in our world so many bitter, apparently intractable, Cain and Abel style disputes, between, not just, say, the Israelis and the Palestinians, but also between India and Pakistan, between the two Koreas, the two Sudan’s, the two Irelands, the Protestants and the Catholics, the Shiites and the Sunnis, the Left and the Right. By contrast, this unique, pioneering, forward looking Theosophical Movement of ours, is the first to organize around abstract, universal principles – high above such differences as caste, gender, creed, race or nationality. Focusing instead on unconditional solidarity amongst members of the human race as a whole, this movement might just be humanity’s last, best hope to sweeten the bitterness, to heal our world’s deep wounds. Equally, we acknowledge as Theosophists, that it is incumbent on ourselves to pull together, to get along with each other. We embrace a special responsibility to support all Theosophists, regardless of seeming tribal separations. Just in even knowing about the sacred ideal of Universal Brotherhood, it is our job, we feel, to exemplify it.

When Theosophists, especially from different organizations, commit to work together, there will inevitably arise strong forces bent on disruption and making mischief. Because of the laser-like, quantum breakthroughs possible when supposed differences are set aside in favor of drawing a larger circle; because of the potential that can be made kinetic by the magnification of a current created by the convergence of tributaries – the forces of inertia will be made all the more apparent. Moreover, the very degree to which the motives for such cooperation are pure and unselfish, and the desire to serve humanity indeed strong – is precisely the degree to which will be awakened the rude forces of detraction, destabilization and doubt. Brotherhood in actu, being essentially revolutionary, directly challenges the comfort zone of the status quo ante. If the Theosophical organizations are going to be able to work together, individuals within each of them will have to call on equally revolutionary faculties within themselves: the powers of unconditional magnanimity; the powers of the creative imagination and that power which real servants of humanity covet, the power to appear as nothing in the eyes of others.

Appearing as nothing is something like the spirit of bowing down in the presence of another, feeling in one’s heart that one can hardly believe that one is so privileged to be in their presence. Theosophists of all traditions will have to learn, not just to tolerate other individuals in other organizations than their own, but also, with obeisance, to deeply respect them. Tolerance retains an element of passivity while deep respect is active and creative. Tolerance says, “I’m so nice that I won’t say anything bad about you. I’m so patient that I can put up with your various, if perhaps odd, idiosyncrasies.” Passive niceties, however, can wear thin, especially when friends and colleagues, in the supposed interest of mutual protection, sow seeds of doubt. Deep respect however, due to its creative element, invokes nothing less than the active incarnation of our higher, godlike individuality. Actively honoring “the other” – alone, has the power to override all the suspicions and doubts that necessarily come up when what we believed were meaningful bonds, become really tested.

In line with honoring the three most prominent theosophical traditions, I propose that each of these – the Theosophical Society Point Loma, the Theosophical Society Adyar and the United Lodge of Theosophists – is possessed of a unique genius, each offering its own indispensable élan of teaching, transmission and transformation. In discovering, each for one’s self, facets of that sparkling genius, we honor that tradition. The more I interact and work with the members of these three organizations through the work of the ITC, the more I discover this genius, layer by layer. While it is paramount that each student who wants to work with other students within traditions other than their own – discover the genius of the “other” for themselves and by themselves – here are some preliminary gleanings gathered by this student, thus far. These observations are still for me, a “work in progress,” but perhaps they will be found useful.

To me, the Theosophical Society Point Loma embodies brilliantly, the First Object. They have figured out that forming a nucleus of universal brotherhood isn’t limited to just a great feeling, or to just tolerating diversity. It certainly includes those things but it is so much more. Furthermore, they have discovered that a nucleus is not just a seed carrying information into the future. It is a subtle, yet very active center of intelligent control, mysteriously participating in every aspect of the cell or organism’s life. Like bees from a whole previous period of evolution, they have discovered the deep magic of leadership and the synergistic potency of cooperation. Leadership is intimate in that there is full, heart-felt engagement and a hands-on caring; yet it is impersonal in that it is a mirroring of nature’s hierarchies at various levels. Cooperation with others is just the recognition in practice that all human beings are microcosmic copies of the great macrocosm, each with its self-discovered place at any given time. Sensing an energy-giving fusion of devotion, mental purity and action in the hearts of the members of TSPL, you just want to melt into them when you are around them. When they study Theosophical teaching, whether it be the Three Fundamentals or the Seven Jewels, they are endeavoring to take to heart the idea in the Great Master’s Letter that for any philosophy or teaching to be true, it must be capable of offering a solution to every problem of life. All study therefore, and all theosophical learning, teachings, transmission to the public – everything Theosophical – is for solving the problems of humanity and alleviating its suffering. A living sense of the Bodhisattva ideal is always present. Fearless and chivalrous, they stand ready to serve. Their leadership, paralleling and mirroring the essential continuity of the Guruparampara chain, is offered with remarkable humility, expressing the great privilege it is to give one’s due to humanity.

Likewise, I have found that working with the members of the Theosophical Society Adyar has been a profound, eye opening, and yes, heart-opening experience for me. Although they consider the First Object equally important, to me, Adyar folks exemplify the Second Object par excellence. They don’t just study comparative religions, philosophies and science: they live it and they breathe it. All participate in a spirit of “I don’t know but I’m willing to learn.” Their bond isn’t so much that they all have the same teaching, teachers or amalgamations of groupthink – but more as fellow pilgrims, sojourners, seekers. The private process of the quest, the sanctity of individual self-transformation – has been jealously safeguarded in the Theosophical Society. No member is included or excluded on the basis of whom it is that they follow or which books suit their quest the most. Nor is anyone required to give up or renounce his or her previous religious affiliations. Most, if not all, uphold a very open-textured version of their respective faiths, welcoming the light of the traditions held by their fellow seekers to filter into their own. Their regard for truth is such that they place nothing higher; their sense of wonder, never quelled by the false certainties of supposed finitude. The road is better – because so much more interesting – than the inn. The quest for spiritual truth therefore is not a means by which to find and pin down final answers. The quest itself, the continuous, ongoing process of asking questions, is the Holy Grail. Like the sun itself, the Theosophical Society is complex, dynamic – even subject to great, magnetic polarity reversals – yet generous beyond measure. If you look up the Great Master’s Letter, you will see that it does not specify that Theosophy, nor even the Theosophical Movement, is the cornerstone of future religions; instead, this function is filled by the Theosophical Society itself, i.e., its ideals and its living, magnificent, worldwide membership. Truly, generations of Theosophical families abound in the Theosophical Society Adyar, especially in India. Strong, beautiful and proud, these families carry the torch into the future.

There is, of course, more to the United Lodge of Theosophists that is unseen than is seen. Being the most familiar with the ULT, I will, perhaps, go out on a limb by observing that students of the ULT endeavor to embody the living, theurgic (and healthiest) element of the Third Object – if you consider the psychic powers latent in man broadly to include the noetic. If the ULT endeavors to create a field of students aspiring to Dhyana Marga, it is to create on this plane a nucleus of deep companions, reflecting the ceaseless contemplation of the Elder Brothers from the Isle of the Blessed. Seeking to know Them, students study Their philosophy. Seeking to serve Them, they serve Their humanity. Achieving a certain precise understanding of the gnosis of H.P. Blavatsky and William Quan Judge, is the ULT Associate’s way of tuning in to the Brotherhood’s Teaching – fine-tuning in order to transmit with high fidelity. A Theosophist however, is not just one who can talk the talk, but one who is able to practice Theosophy. Meditation, self-study and reticence of speech are therefore integral to the true sounding of the keynote of Brahma-Vach, or Theosophia. It is a path of spiritual self-regeneration in the service of humanity: it involves authentic path finding, striving to help, in ways visible and invisible, other and future pathfinders. ULT students do not, then, work for institutions; but instead, are dedicated to uplifting the self-consciousness and intuition of Aquarian humanity, now and into the future. In an age of extreme sports and extreme everything else, ULT’ers are extreme idealists, which they think is most practical. In all clear-headedness, they work for a time when beings from future periods of spiritual evolution, the long gone Gnanis, can descend into our globe and can walk amongst men, and women, creating a mini-golden age. The ULT is the original ITC: all Theosophists, welcome. The ULT stayed true to the Master’s Program of creating a current of continuity of the original texts and teaching from 1875 to 1975, which was the year foretold of the next great Impulse by the original messengers, who foresaw, no doubt, the current cycle, as well as those in the future.

Now, what I have done here, is but an exercise. I hope it will be seen as more of a celebration in honor of each tradition, than as a comparative analysis. Hooking up a Theosophical tradition with one or another of the Three Objects, was a way for me to begin to try to unveil, for myself at least, the brilliant light shining forth from that tradition. Certainly, with equal conviction, one could portray each tradition as exemplifying par excellence a different Object than the one I held aloft as a celebration of that stream of Theosophy; for, no doubt, all three traditions represent all three of the Objects in ways compatible with their own unique geniuses. Furthermore, you will find individual students within each of the three traditions, who, embody the characteristics of one or both of the other traditions not their own, more than what are thought by anyone to be the characteristics of their own stream of Theosophy.

One level of honoring Theosophical traditions that are other than one’s own, is, certainly, to attend their lectures and presentations. Developing friendships along these lines is also fruitful and eye opening. But an even deeper level of cross-pollination, made possible by ITC, is that of deliberately and cooperatively working together. However one perceives, or better yet, honors, other traditions than his or her own, one could see all of the traditions as concentric circles aligned around a central point, that of Universal Brotherhood. Which Theosophical traditions as concentric circles are in the middle and which ones are more towards the outside? That is probably dependent on what our priorities might be at any given time, what emphasis of teaching, transmission and transformation, most required. Various traditions could be like sheaths, sheaths of the soul, appropriately fitting within one another like the concentric circles. In thinking like this, one can see how, perhaps, the great Lodge of Mahatmas – who are constantly working – could, and no doubt do, over-brood all these concentric circles, these necessary nuclei of brother and sister Theosophists.

How happy the Great Teachers must be when we can work together, at times at least, as One.

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