The Society

ALAS and after - Liminality and Theosophy

Ananya Sri Ram Rajan – USA


Ananya in her office

Freedom of thought is imperative within Theosophical settings. Without such ability, the meaning of Theosophy is lost and means nothing. Historically, it is through the process of freedom of thought that Theosophy came into being. The latest collapse of the melding of minds under the banner of International Theosophy Conferences, for some time a remarkable endeavor after years of fragmentation in TS circles, shows how important this declaration is. Freedom, at one level, allows us as seekers to connect to our higher selves, unknown to others, a sacred place to ourselves. At an even higher level, it follows the laws of nature which hold nothing, allowing everything to unfold in its own way. This freedom is liminality or the space in-between.

The journey through liminality has been a topic explored by artists, philosophers, and thinkers of all kinds. The inability to deal with uncertainty or of being okay with unknowing has actually led some to mental instability. Most humans like routine. We like knowing what will happen next. Not knowing, nowadays, has created several cases of anxiety and depression. A good physical analogy of this is when we are learning to swim. If we are afraid of the water and the lack of constriction, we tend to cling to the wall of the pool. We believe we are safe against something solid. If we lose the ground beneath us, we flail in our uncertainty.

Moments of liminality happen to us more often than we think. But most of the time, because we are routine beings, the patterns in our mind keep us from realizing that our whole life is liminal. From the moment we are psychologically conscious, we are moving from a space of knowing to unknowing and then to knowing again. The process seems to move back and forth, but in reality, it is only moving forward. Nothing stays the same. It is usually when major life changes happen that moving from knowing to unknowing can cause trepidation, anxiety, or perhaps just a sense of unsettling. Studies have shown that there are certain life events that tend to cause more stress for people—moving from one residence to another, losing one’s job, marriage, divorce or death of a partner, the death of a loved one, and so on. (These are not in any particular order.) In the end, it is up to our own sense of self that decides how we are going to react to the liminality we face.

Our journey through the ground of unknowing is often what makes us seek answers to life in general. It makes us ask the question “why?” and moves us toward an exploration of our existence. Within the ground of unknowing we look for knowing, for a framework. For some, this leads to the study and practice of a religion. For others it leads to spiritual enquiry. Perhaps it depends on how much of a framework we need. Religions, with its scriptures, doctrine, and practices can be viewed as a starting point to a deeper study of oneself. But some people get caught in the net of believing they have found “IT” and go no further. They find comfort in the community they worship with, the teachings and practices, and the guide of an authority. Liminality is still there, but the structure provides a sense of safety.

Those not satisfied with the staid answers of organized religion begin a spiritual practice. They search for answers based on their own inner promptings. Sometimes this leads to a spiritual teacher who provides guidance of some kind—a quasi-framework, if you’d like. For others, liminality is seen as sacred space, a space where anything can happen. Life itself becomes the teacher. What was has fallen apart, what will be is unknown. But there is a knowing that life’s process moves in cycles so something new is ahead. In our microcosm of the universe, one must depend on the energy of Vishnu, the maintainer, after Shiva has broken down everything and Brahma has yet to awaken.

Liminality provides no conclusions. But it does provide opportunities. It gives us the adventure of life itself. Staying in liminal space allows us to see how everything—every discovery, every precious or tragic moment, everything humanity does, has its own purpose and has a connection with everything thing else around it. What keeps us from jumping into the arena of nothingness is fear. We want to hold on to the side of the pool. We believe we are safe when in reality we are afraid of our own potential.

Perhaps this is what led H. P. Blavatsky on her journey to rediscover Theosophy. HPB lived in liminality. How can one not want to share such a beautiful understanding? The Divine Wisdom if anything is liminal. It is potentiality, the constant movement toward perfection, the effervescence of life itself. At the core of everything, is Theosophy. Theosophy shows us that under all that seems stable and concrete lies a force that is forever changing. Nothing is quite what it seems when seen through a theosophical lens. The intelligence that governs all is also within us. It lies within the container of our physical form no differently than it lies within the material form that we call a tree. And yet we need the physical form to know and experience the divinity within.

Liminality is what teaches us to trust in the laws of nature that Theosophy brings to light. If we truly led Theosophical lives, we would let go of every judgement, every nonfactual belief, every desire for control, every sense of need, and so on, and just trust that what we have, where we are, who we are, the positions we hold, the money and possessions we have, and the place or space that we are in is where we are and meant to be at that moment. We would work with what is instead of wanting something different and we would work toward the betterment of all, not just our own desires or agenda.

Becoming friends with liminality can move us from seeing the world as a sedate, routine, solid structure to something that is dynamic, vibrant, unpredictable, but fascinating. It is also what can keep us from living theosophy as a theory to Living Theosophy as HPB writes about in her many works.

Too often we, like those following a religion without thought, get caught in the net of security. We read the books and teachings, regurgitate what they say and call it Theosophy. But the blueprint is not the house and HPB was only a messenger, not Theosophy itself. She was the founder of a vehicle to allow anyone and everyone to step into the liminality of life. It is within this vast ocean that we can find our true being. To not move on beyond what HPB and her own Masters taught defeats the purpose of the platform of the Theosophical Society and Theosophy itself.

To read the article ALAS,  click HERE

In the coming period more authors will elaborate on the same subject.

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