Radha Burnier – India
A unique photo of Radha Burnier, never previously published. It was taken in Naarden the Netherlands in 1977. From the private collection of Ananya Sri Ram Rajan. After some research the baby’s name could be determined: it is Reynoud Engelse
[Recognizing regeneration as the kernel of all Theosophical work, the International Theosophical Centre at Naarden, the Netherlands, jointly with the Federation of Theosophical Societies in Europe, organized two seminars in July 1990, with a number of office bearers, workers and members of the Society from different countries as participants. Proceedings of the seminar were published as a book under the title Human Regeneration: Lectures and Discussion (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij der Theosofische Vereniging in Nederland, 1990). This chapter (discussions) is here slightly revised.]
There are other groups – Alice Bailey, Rosicrucians, Anthroposophists, Sai Baba, etc. – working along spiritual lines parallel to the Theosophical Society. Our second object aims at comparative studies. The study of what the Masters have given through HPB and Sinnett is a lifetime study, but as Annie Besant, CVVL, Hodson, Mead and others have also studied deeply the hidden side of things, so have De Purucker, Alice Bailey, Steiner and others. How can we work with their ideas without losing our own method of working? What is our own, real theosophical method of study? What is the essential distinction between the T.S. (Adyar) and other groups?
IH: The difference is in the first object. Only our Society is committed to the principle of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color. As far as I know, no other organization has that object, and that is the only condition of membership in the Society. That makes all the difference between organizations. There may be similarities in the teaching but that is in one sense secondary. Our work is the first object.
RB: What about the other angles to the question?
IH: Well, this answers them all.
RB: It doesn't. How can we work with ideas in their literature without losing our own method of working? What is the real theosophical method of study?
IH: I don't think there is a method of studying. I have my method of studying, and it is not the same as that of other people. I think the difference is not in the method of studying, it is in the first object. That is all I am prepared to say.
RH: When we speak of a study of comparative religions, philosophies and science, the word 'religions' refers to the very wide and deep teachings which were given in the past and which influence a large part of humanity, and where there is hidden wisdom to discover. The word 'philosophies' means the wisdom of great philosophers and scientists. However, we are not necessarily supposed to study the ideas of any special person like Sai Baba. Before knowing whether the teachings given by a new movement are authentic, we will have to spend time in studying them and maybe discovering that they are spurious. Then we will have wasted our time. If we want to know whether the books of Alice Bailey are worthwhile, we should for instance try looking into a book the subject of which we know very well. If I look at the book: Esoteric Medicine, or Esoteric Healing, then as a doctor I can easily see whether the contents are worthwhile and when I look at the introduction, I can easily see if the one who is called the Tibetan, is an adept. If we take the time, we can find out whether any particular movement is disseminating worthwhile teaching.
IJ: In the Mexican section, when we study different lines, we create confusion in the members. Now I am not saying that it is not interesting to know about different kinds of material, but we create confusion if we try to teach about many things and we do not go into the essence of Theosophy. This is one of the points that we discuss in the groups. We need to know what to present to the members in the section, but not as a means to attract members. If we are afraid to lose members, we make a show in the section or the lodge to attract people. That is not right. The work of the Society is serious work and we should try to discover the best in theosophy and present it.
IH: I made a mistake in saying that there is no theosophical method of study. There is, and you will find it in the Bowen notes [Madame Blavatsky on How to Study Theosophy]. All the time, in all one's study, one has to keep in mind the whole, the unity. In these notes HPB says that if you lose the idea of the unity, then separateness intervenes and the study loses its value. In whatever we are studying, whether it is a point of view of a teacher or planes of nature, we must always think in terms of the whole. Perhaps that is the difference between the theosophical method of study and other methods. Do read the Bowen notes.
RB: If I remember correctly, there are four things she says which must be kept in mind. You have mentioned one of them.
FI: What lanthe just said is very important. I realize that the principles of theosophy provide clarity. When you are a seeker, and you encounter various movements, let us say Zen or Bailey, you find a unique clarity in the literature and teachings of the T.S. It is not that we should not be modest about it, but we should recognize this. If you sell Theosophical literature, as I do, and if you have the privilege of handing it over to people, you know that you are handing over something that will give them clarity. I have been doing this for ten years and it has never had any other effect. We should recognize this, and not say too easily that we are like other groups.
RB: As lanthe pointed out, our Society stands for universal brotherhood without distinctions. A mind without distinctions is a regenerated mind. So what the Society stands for basically is regeneration, not just providing volumes of knowledge to people. Knowledge is provided, but with a view to bringing about this change from an unregenerate condition to a new mind that feels no division or difference.
We cannot say that we are the only group which can provide clarity. First of all, we do not know what all the groups are doing. But let us take the groups which are mentioned by the questioner. The followers of Sai Baba believe in an authority, in fact in a god upon earth. Sai Baba himself says, ‘I am god.’ In the T.S., there is no god. There is no authority whom we worship and obey. There may be some things Sai Baba says which we also say, although he may say them differently. When he says you must be kind, helpful and so on, we can agree with that. But there is much we do not have in common. The large majority of members of the T.S. do not accept Sai Baba as god. If he said that everybody and everything is god, we could accept it, but he says he is god, which is quite unacceptable.
It has been made very clear officially that there is no authority in the T.S. Neither nor Annie Besant, nor anybody else is an authority in the Society, for the simple reason that conforming to an authority is damaging to human intelligence. The whole process of evolution is what has been called the awakening of intelligence. It is the unfoldment of consciousness. Consciousness is essentially intelligence. Consciousness without intelligence would be nothing. Our destiny is to become much more intelligent, to obtain subtler spiritual forms of intelligence. If we accept an authority and repeat what that authority says – it doesn't matter whether it is Sai Baba, HPB, Annie Besant, Kishnamurti or anybody else – we renounce our intelligence. The policy of the T.S. is not to proclaim dogmas, create beliefs and set up an authority in the form of books or persons. This gives the Society a certain character. But when another group does have authority, how can we say that we are the same? We may have something in common on certain points, but we cannot say we are the same as that group.
Take the example of the Rosicrucians. They give initiations and offer courses. People who follow those courses receive many initiations. An artificial label is attached to the person. Unfortunately, this also happened in the T.S. at a time, but that is history. A person does not grow spiritually because somebody pins a label on him. The way is within. We are the way. It is only when we change, when we become pure, loving etc., that we develop spiritually. It has nothing to do with what somebody else says. The Rosicrucians may be giving some theosophical teachings. I believe they do. They have probably borrowed a good deal from the T.S. Yet we are not the same as the Rosicrucians.
If you examine these groups, you will find there are points of agreement, not with all groups, but with some. There are also major points their teachings that we cannot accept.
There is also a difference among theosophical groups; they have many things in common but differ in some things. Some theosophical groups say that HPB and one or two others are the authorities, that only what they said is Theosophy. If anybody disagrees on any point, he is not a theosophist. They accept an authority, they have a scripture more or less in the writings of particular people. We have many perspectives in common with them. But in the major point we mentioned, there is a serious difference. I would refuse to be in a society where there is an authority and where specific writings are treated as scriptures. If the T.S. took that position, I would not care to remain a member. In our Society, freedom is given to every individual to enquire, to see what is acceptable to him for the time being. He can follow any course which to him is inspiring for the present. That freedom within our Society is very precious. It is limited only by the principle of brotherhood. Brotherhood and freedom are the pillars at the entrance of the Theosophical Society.
There can be confusion if, in a theosophical lodge or any unit of the T.S., people propagate any of the other schools. Not because we say we are better, or that we are the only people who know. We do not condemn them. We have no official opinion about any of them. The individual member has complete freedom. He can become a Sai Baba worshipper, take initiations and so forth, and be a member of the T.S. Unless he violates the principle of brotherhood seriously and consistently, he can remain in the Society and be free. He can be a Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian, go to a church or mosque. There are some people who are intolerant of this, and question why other people should go to church. If they do not want religion, they are free not to have it, but other people are equally free to have the religion they want.
That is the position of the T.S. Though the individual is free, if a Theosophical lodge or any other unit, federation or section begins to propagate Sai Baba or some such, this will create confusion. The public will believe that we accept him as god. If we allow Rosicrucian-ism an important role in a lodge, people will associate their labels with the work of the T.S, Therefore a lodge or section is in a different position from a member. The lodge represents the TS where it is, in its own town or village. It must maintain the character of the Society, and not present an image which makes people mix it up with other things.
Can occultism be of use in the process of regeneration?
IH: By the study of the reality in Nature, 'the nature of Nature itself', by the discovery of that, we do undergo a process of regeneration, we come to know the truth of Nature and of our nature. All study can be made of use and the study of occultism means the study of what we really are, of what the individual really is, of what life is. That cannot be other than helpful in the process of regeneration.
RB: The study and understanding of what is hidden can help regeneration because our blindness makes it impossible for us to act properly. How can we understand the consequences of what we do, which may spread beyond the limits of our present vision, if our perspectives are very narrow? A practical example is that of thought. We cannot see thought or the effect of thought, but if we could understand more about it through study of the literature on the subject, our actions and relationships might become different. Suppose we could actually see what happens if we have a cruel or unkind or a self-centered thought. We would probably begin to act differently, because it would become a reality. If we could actually see the karmic consequences of what we do, perhaps we would begin to behave differently. But we don't. We only talk about karma but have not studied it enough to have conviction. If we actually began to know something about it, after studying it, we might be quite different.
RH: My spontaneous answer to this question is that regeneration should come first, occultism can come later. Because regeneration means the attainment of selflessness, the disappearance of the 'me'. I would like to see that first before the development of the possibility of occult knowledge, which comes by itself.
RB: I feel that it cannot be categorized in that way. Perception and purification go together, purification being regeneration and perception being awareness of what was not previously visible or known. As long as the mind is impure, filled with its desires, etc., it is unable to see. If is desire, we see according to desire. If we are jealous, we evaluate things according to our jealousy. If we are envious of somebody, that man seems to be an unworthy person. So we see according to what is within us. If we want to see more, the clouds within the mind have to be dispersed. The mind must be clearer, purer. When we see more, it helps us to clarify our consciousness more. It may not be possible to become a completely new person, a perfect individual, and then see. It is perhaps a question of seeing a little more, and thereby understanding oneself a little more, and so it proceeds.
To be continued