Theosophical Encyclopedia

Alcohol

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Since the ancient times, the drinking of alcohol or wine has been connected with certain religious rituals, while in some it is prohibited. The Dionysian festival for example involved drinking, while the Orphic mysteries required abstinence not only from wine but also from meat and sexual activities. In the Christian tradition, wine has been associated with the blood of Christ and has become a part of the Eucharistic ritual. Judaism regards it positively, although among the NAZIRITES it is prohibited. In Islam and Buddhism alcohol is expressly prohibited.

Theosophical literature explicitly disapproves of alcoholic drinks due to its claimed effect on the person. In The Key to Theosophy (Sec. 13), Helena P. BLAVATSKY wrote about the effects of alcohol:
They are worse for his moral and spiritual growth than meat, for alcohol in all its forms has a direct, marked, and very deleterious influence on man’s psychic condition. Wine and spirit drinking is only less destructive to the development of the inner powers, than the habitual use of hashish, opium, and similar drugs. The use of alcohol, she says, has a “directly pernicious action upon the brain,” particularly the pineal gland and the pituitary gland. Alcohol prevents the development of the “third eye” (CW XII:496, 698).

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Charles Bradlaugh 1833-1891)

English free-thinker and political radical who was closely associated with Annie Besant, second President of the Theosophical Society (TS), before the latter became a theosophist. He was born at Hoxton in London, England, on September 26, 1833, the son of a poor solicitor’s clerk. Bradlaugh edited the National Reformer, a left-wing English periodical, from 1860 for many years and also was prominent as a public speaker. In 1874 he met Annie Besant who joined him on the staff of the National Reformer as co-editor.

Read more: Charles Bradlaugh 1833-1891)

Lama Anagarika Govinda 1898-1985)

Eminent Buddhist scholar, archeologist, psychologist and writer. Govinda was born Ernst Hoffman on May 17, 1898, at Waldheim in the former kingdom of Saxony. He was conscripted into the army during World War I, but contracted pulmonary tuberculosis and was forced to spend some time in a sanatorium. After his recovery he studied philosophy and architecture at the University of Freigurg (Breisgau) and after the war settled at Capri, Italy, where he continued to study archeology.

Govinda exhibited an unusual ability to grasp the essentials of a complex subject. At the age of nineteen he wrote a book entitled The Fundamental Thoughts of Buddhism (Altmann Publishing House, Leipzig).

Read more: Lama Anagarika Govinda 1898-1985)

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)

First Prime Minister of India (1947-1964) who joined the Theosophical Society (TS) on August 13, 1903. Nehru was born in Allahabad on November 14, 1889, into a prosperous Brahman family from Kashmir. His father, Pandit Motilal Nehru was a lawyer.

The Nehru home at Allahabad became the focus both of theosophical work and Indian politics. When Nehru was eleven years old, a resident teacher and Irish theosophist, Ferdinand T. Brooks, became responsible for his education. Nehru wrote of him, “For nearly three years he was with me and in many ways influenced me greatly . . . F. T. Brooks developed in me a taste for reading and I read many English books. . . . Apart from studies, F. T. Brooks brought a new influence to bear upon me which affected me powerfully – this was theosophy.”

Read more: Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)

Wu Ting-Fang (1842-1922)

President of the Shanghai Lodge of the Theosophical Society (TS), which was the first lodge established in the East. Wu Ting-Fang was an eminent statesman and jurist who served China in many capacities. He was a Judge of the International Court of Arbitration at the Hague in 1905, Minister to the US in 1896 and 1907 and, when Governor of the South China Republic, negotiated peace between North and South China and the terms of the Manchu abdication.

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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.

Read more: Esoteric Buddhism

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