Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

The Dalai Lama and the Theosophical Society

Compiled by: S. T. Adelante

Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together

Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso – Tibet, India, and the world

[The following passage from page 6 of the Dalai Lama's book, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together (New York : Doubleday, 2010) is by courtesy of Dennis Delorme of Canada, who got it from David Reigle of the USA. The sentiments expressed here were also in an article in the New York Times of May 25, 2010, entitled "Many Faiths, One Truth]

Available on the Web:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/opinion/25gyatso.html?th&emc=th

Looking back to this trip in 1956, I realize that my visit to the Theosophical Society in Chennai (then Madras) left a powerful impression. There I was first directly exposed to people, and to a movement, that attempted to bring together the wisdom of the world's spiritual traditions as well as science. I felt among the members a sense of tremendous openness to the world's great religions and a genuine embracing of pluralism. When I returned to Tibet in 1957, after more than three months in what was a most amazing country for a young Tibetan monk, I was a changed man. I could no longer live in the comfort of an exclusivist standpoint that takes Buddhism to be the only true religion. When tragic political circumstances in 1959 forced me into exile in India to live as a refugee, I was paradoxically offered the freedom to deepen my personal journey of understanding and engagement with the world's faith traditions.

 

Lawren Harris and Theosophy – Part Two

Kathleen F. Hall - Canada

[Part 1 of this article traced the life and work of the major Canadian artist Lawren Harris from socially conscious urban cityscapes through lyrical landscapes to transcendent, mystical interpretations of the land. This part examines Theosophical influences that led Harris to abstraction in a process that mirrors his own evolution into spiritual realization.]

The influence of the spiritual writings and paintings of Kandinsky can also been seen in Harris’s work. Harris read Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art and understood Kandinsky’s references to Charles Leadbeater and Annie Besant’s book Thought-Forms, which Harris had read as well (Adamson). That book identifies colours with symbolic meanings based on states of consciousness that descend from spirit to matter: yellows, higher intelligence; blue, spirituality; and pale azure, union with the divine. Thought-Forms describes a radiating vibration that people emit when formulating a thought, with which colours combine to create a distinct form visible to clairvoyants. Adamson (p. 133) quotes from Thought-Forms to describe how these forms relate to art:

"In many respects, a work of art was a materialized thought-form of the artist, containing a spiritual significance and adhering to the three principles underlying all thought forms: 1. Quality of thought determines color. 2. Nature of thought determines form. 3. Definiteness of thought determines clearness of outline."

Read more: Lawren Harris and Theosophy – Part Two

The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Prof. Abditus Questor

Book 3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

PLOT SUMMARY: Harry runs away from Privet Drive, because Vernon Dursley’s sister, Aunt Marge, comes for a visit and insults Harry’s parents, provoking Harry unconsciously to swell her up like a balloon, so that she is physically as well as metaphorically full of hot air. On the street, Harry thinks he is watched by a large black dog (see below on Sirius Black's name), but he reaches the Leaky Cauldron, where he stays until leaving for Hogwarts. The Hogwarts Express is boarded by Dementors looking for Sirius Black, who has escaped from the prison of Azkaban (cf. Alcatraz), where he was sent for supposedly betraying Harry's parents to Voldemort. The Dementors radiate fear and despair, and they cause Harry to become unconscious. At Hogwarts, the new Defence against the Dark Arts professor is Remus Lupin, the best they have ever had; he teaches Harry a Patronus Charm to repel the Dementors. He was one of four fellow students at Hogwarts with Harry's father, but he is a werewolf, having been bitten by one when he was a small boy, so James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew became animagi (wizards who can transform themselves into animals)—assuming the forms of a stag, dog, and rat, respectively—to accompany Lupin when the full moon turned him into a wolf. Pettigrew betrayed the Potters but put the blame on Sirius; and in his rat form, he went into hiding, masquerading as a familiar animal of the Weasley family and eventually becoming Ron's pet. Hagrid now teaches Care of Magical Creatures and brings to class a hippogriff (a proud creature that is half horse, half eagle) named Buckbeak, which Harry befriends, but which mauls Draco Malfoy for insulting him. Consequently, Buckbeak is condemned to be destroyed. But Hermione has been using a Time-Turner, which allows her to go back in time to take several classes at once, so she and Harry use it to free Buckbeak from execution and arrange for the hippogriff to fly Sirius to a hiding place, where he is safe from the Dementors and Azkaban.

Harry's specific quest in this book is to save Sirius, who was James Potter's best friend and is Harry’s godfather. Harry achieves this quest by using the Patronus Charm and by establishing harmony with the hippogriff Buckbeak. The Patronus [Latin for “protector, defender, patron”] is a silvery form projected by a wizard and embodying hope, happiness, and wellbeing to counteract the effects of Dementors, who drain all joy and happiness from others. (Dementia is "mental deterioration and emotional apathy" with no known cure; it includes Alzheimer's and has been called "the greatest medical challenge of the 21st Century.") The Dementors are faceless beings, having only a mouth with which they suck the soul, sense of self, and memory out of their victims, leaving them as the living dead. Harry at first has great difficulty with this very advanced charm, but finally, when he himself is attacked by Dementors, sees a familiar-looking figure in the distance working it perfectly to scatter the threatening Dementors. At first he thinks the figure is his father. But later he realizes the figure was actually himself when he had used the Time-Turner to come back to save Buckbeak and Sirius. As a result, he can use the charm consciously and effectively, having discovered his own positive force.

A major theme of this book is Harry's need for a father to serve as his guide and model. That theme echoes throughout the entire series. Harry is very much like James Potter, his biological father, in his ungoverned hair, slim physique, somewhat unruly behavior, and Quidditch ability; Prof. Snape calls the resemblance between father and son "uncanny." Only Harry's eyes (which are the windows of the soul) are like his mother's. Harry also inherits from James several objects that serve him well: a cloak of invisibility and the Marauder's Map. James had been killed by Voldemort when Harry was one-year old, just before the start of the first book. In that book, Harry is longing for a family, so he sees himself with his father and mother in the Mirror of Erised ("desire" spelled backward). The mirror has an inscription, also in backward writing, for "I show not your face but your heart's desire." So Harry's heart's desire is to be with his parents. In the third book, Aunt Marge's insults of Harry’s father and mother cause him to make her inflate like a balloon. Harry's early loathing of Sirius Black is due to his belief that Sirius had betrayed his father and mother to Voldemort. When Harry learns the Patronus charm, the patronus he evokes has the shape of a stag, which was the animal form his father (nicknamed "Prongs") assumed as an animagus. Although Harry never knew his father personally, James is a strong force in Harry's life, and Harry idolizes him.

In addition to James, Harry has three other father figures (defined by Merriam Webster as "a person often of particular power or influence who serves as an emotional substitute for a father"). One is Sirius Black, who first appears in book three. Sirius was James's best friend and is Harry's godfather. Through much of the book, Harry fears and hates Sirius who he thinks betrayed his parents and is trying to kill him. However, after Harry learns that Sirius was framed by Peter Pettigrew for the latter's crimes but was always loyal to James and concerned for Harry's welfare, Harry forms an intense attachment to him. He looks forward to living with Sirius during school holidays and joining with him in a family relationship unlike any he has known before. Sirius's name is that of the brightest star in the heavens, part of the constellation Canis Major ("greater dog"), also called the "Dog Star." His animagus form is a big black dog (nicknamed "Padfoot"); that and his name bespeak his honesty and loyalty. Thereafter, he plays a major role in Harry's life as protector and guide.

Read more: The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Prof. Abditus Questor

Book 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

PLOT SUMMARY: After his usual miserable summer with his Muggle relatives on Privet Drive, Harry returns to Hogwarts. New characters and new challenges for Harry enter the story. Dobby is a house-elf admirer of Harry's who tries to save him from harm and in the process nearly kills him. Gilderoy Lockart is the new but fraudulent teacher for Defense against the Dark Arts. Tom Riddle is Voldemort at the age of 16, whose spirit emerges from his diary and possesses Ginny, Ron Weasley's sister. Through her, Riddle brings out of the Chamber of Secrets, deep under Hogwarts, a basilisk serpent monster whose direct sight kills and whose reflection petrifies. Harry rescues Ginny and slays the basilisk.

Early in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, a message has been daubed on a wall: THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE. The “heir” is a descendant of Salazar Slytherin, one of the founding Wizards of Hogwarts, the only one who believed that none but pure-blood Wizards should be admitted as students. To enforce that belief, he created deep underground a secret chamber that only his true heir, a descendant who shared his belief, could open. In that secret chamber was concealed a deadly basilisk. The identity of the heir is a mystery through most of the story, Harry himself being suspected for a time. But the heir turns out to be Voldemort, whose real name, when he was a student at Hogwarts, was Tom Marvolo (from his mother's family, descended from Slytherin) Riddle (from his muggle father).

Read more: The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Albert Schweitzer's Friendship with Rudolf Steiner

Compiled by S. T. Adelante

These excerpts, translated by Frank Thomas Smith, are from the book Der Andere Rudolf Steiner ("The Other Rudolf Steiner"; Dornach, Switzerland: Pforte Verlag, 2005).

 

From the memoirs of Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965):

"My first encounter with Rudolf Steiner took place on the occasion of a Theosophical conference in Strasbourg. If I'm not mistaken, it was in 1902 or 1903. Annie Besant, with whom I was acquainted through Strasbourg friends, introduced us.

"At that time Rudolf Steiner acted in connection with the Theosophical Society, not so much because he shared its convictions, but because he found in its members the possibility to find understanding and interest for the spiritual truths which he had to make known.

"I knew that he had completed a study of Goethe’s works in Weimar. He of course knew nothing of the young Strasbourg University instructor [Schweitzer] who was occupied with Kant’s philosophy and the problems of research into the life of Jesus. He was fourteen years older than I.

"The language mostly used at that Theosophical conference was French. So they counted on me, because I spoke German, to take care of the Austrian guest, which I gladly did. I arranged it so we were neighbors at meals during the conference. From the beginning, he was the talker and I the listener and questioner during our conversations.

"Before we had consumed the soup, a discussion spontaneously arose about his studies of Goethe in Weimar and about Goethe’s Weltanschauung (or world view). I immediately became aware that my companion had extensive knowledge of natural science. It was a great surprise to me that he spoke of the need to recognize the importance of Goethe’s knowledge of nature. He had been able to penetrate from a superficial knowledge of the sense world to a more profound knowledge of spiritual being. I knew something about Goethe’s natural scientific writing and the places where he sought a perceptual knowledge. My table partner realized that he had an attentive listener beside him. He gave a lecture. We forgot that we were supposed to be eating. In the afternoon we stood around together, not paying much attention to what was happening at the Theosophical conference.

"When the discussion turned to Plato, I could participate more. Steiner surprised me here as well, in that he revealed hidden aspects of Plato’s knowledge that I had not yet appreciated.
When Steiner asked me what concerned me especially in theology, I answered that it was research into the historical Jesus. Well, I felt the moment to have come in which I could take the conversation in hand and began to lecture him about research into the life of Jesus and about which Gospel contained the oldest tradition. To my astonishment, he did not discuss this subject. He let me lecture on without saying a word. I had the impression that he was mentally yawning. I got off my theological social-scientific high horse and put it in the stable, and waited for what would come.

Read more: Albert Schweitzer's Friendship with Rudolf Steiner

Lawren Harris and Theosophy – Part One

Kathleen F. Hall - Canada

"The power of beauty at work in man, as the artist has always known, is severe and exacting, and once invoked, will never leave him alone, until he brings his work and life into some semblance of harmony with its spirit" (Harris, "Theosophy and Art").

Lawren Stewart Harris is well-known as a Canadian landscape painter and the founder of the Group of Seven. He was also a Theosophist whose art was highly influenced by his spirituality. Over the course of his career, Harris engaged in seeking spiritual knowledge, which in turn caused his work to evolve and change from an objective interpretation of the Canadian landscape to a non-objective representation of the spiritual.

Harris was born October 23, 1885 in Brantford, Ontario, but as a youth moved to Toronto. While a young college student attending University College, the University of Toronto, he was recognized for his artistic ability and was encouraged to study art in Europe. Consequently, in 1904 he attended art school in Berlin. In Europe, Harris had three important encounters that were to have a great influence on his life and art. One was an exhibit of nineteenth-century German art, including works by Caspar David Friedrich, whose vast open landscapes provoked a heightened spiritual sensibility. Another was meeting Paul Thiem, a poet, philosopher, Theosophist, and regionalist painter, who quite possibly introduced him to a Theosophical art exhibit in Munich at this time (Adamson). The third was the opportunity to go on hiking and sketching trips into the mountains. These three events marked a course for the direction that Harris’s life would follow thereafter.

In 1908, Harris returned to Toronto and began going on sketching and painting trips into the Canadian wilderness. He also became a member of the Arts and Letters Club, where he developed a friendship with Roy Mitchell, a Theosophist. Mitchell, then secretary of the Toronto Theosophical Society, introduced Harris to the writings of Madam Blavatsky and eastern mysticism. Over the next few years Harris worked on his paintings and studied Theosophical and other spiritual writings.

In 1916, Harris enlisted in the army, following his brother Howard, who had enlisted a year earlier. During the next two years, Harris struggled with army life and suffered the deaths of his close friend, Tom Thomson (one of the original members of the Group of Seven), and of his brother, who had been killed in action. These losses caused Harris to suffer a nervous breakdown, which took him more than a year to recover from. During his recovery period, Harris immersed himself in painting, sketching trips into the mountains, and readings on spirituality and mysticism. Among the works he read were the Upanishads and books by Blavatsky and W. Q. Judge. He also read P. D. Ouspensky’s Tertium Organum and Richard Burke’s Cosmic Consciousness (which Ouspensky quoted). Harris thought that these two books belonged together because they were “illumined by the light of a radiant understanding . . . [and] here at last we have given us a reasoned, spiritual basis for our conviction that art is the beginning of wisdom into the realm of eternal life” (Adamson, 135-6). These books made a great impression on him and most likely propelled the shift in his artwork that would soon manifest.

Read more: Lawren Harris and Theosophy – Part One

The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Prof. Abditus Questor

 

Book 1: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

PLOT SUMMARY: Harry Potter, the orphaned son of wizards, is left as an infant with muggle relatives who are not wizards and are afraid of wizardry. At the age of eleven, he is called to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, where his best friends are Ron and Hermione, he becomes a star player in Quidditch, a game something like basketball, but played in the air on flying brooms. He learns that his parents were killed by an evil wizard called Voldemort, whose spirit has possessed a Hogwarts teacher and seeks to find a hidden Philosopher's Stone, which can prolong Voldemort's life. Harry foils that effort to gain the stone and so ends his first school year.

Read more: The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

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