Theosophy

Will and Desire

H. P. Blavatsky

From Lucifer 1.2 (October 1887): 96; Collected Writings 8:109

Will is the exclusive possession of man on this our plane of consciousness. It divides him from the brute in whom instinctive desire only is active.

Desire, in its widest application, is the one creative force in the Universe. In this sense it is indistinguishable from Will; but we men never know desire under this form while we remain only men. Therefore Will and Desire are here considered as opposed.

Thus Will is the offspring of the Divine, the God in man; Desire the motive power of the animal life.

Most of men live in and by desire, mistaking it for will. But he who would achieve must separate will from desire, and make his will the ruler; for desire is unstable and ever changing, while will is steady and constant.

Both will and desire are absolute creators, forming the man himself and his surroundings. But will creates intelligently—desire blindly and unconsciously. The man, therefore, makes himself in the image of his desires, unless he creates himself in the likeness of the Divine, through his will, the child of the light.

His task is twofold: to awaken the will, to strengthen it by use and conquest, to make it absolute ruler within his body; and, parallel with this, to purify desire.

Knowledge and will are the tools for the accomplishment of this purification.


The Theosophical Society as a Beacon of Light

Ali Ritsema – The Netherlands

The Theosophical Society has existed since 1875. We are now in the twenty-first century, 135 years later. This article is meant, not to look back to the past, but as a stepping stone to the future, to reconsider the role or the task of the Theosophical Society.

Obviously, the members of the Society determine its future, whether locally, nationally, or internationally. Consequently, when members have conflicting opinions about the Society’s role or task, the result will be confusion and chaos, and thus the Society will be weakened. This does not mean that there cannot be differences of opinion or different approaches—that is something else. But in order to build a strong future, it is important to have a clear idea about the central purpose or task of the Society. That’s why I would like to share what I have found in The Mahatma Letters about the task of the Society and to explore some aspects of it.

Read more: The Theosophical Society as a Beacon of Light

What Music Teaches Us about Presenting Theosophy

Edi Bilimoria – Australia

Music is not mere entertainment or just a pleasurable distraction when we have finished with the more serious side of life. Nor are opera, dance, and ballet just the elitist pursuit of the social dilettante. Music expresses the deepest core meaning of living and learning. For example, Handel, whose tremendous oratorio The Messiah has uplifted the consciousness of humanity for centuries, is supposed to have declared that his purpose was to make people better, not just to entertain them. As the first notes of the triumphant Hallelujah Chorus rang out at the London premier of The Messiah, King George II rose to his feet and remained standing until the end of the chorus. To this day, audiences spontaneously revere this Chorus by standing up.


Handel

Of course, music like any of the arts, may hinder the seeker. Sensual or nerve-jarring cacophony, such as that at a disco, is a hindrance and arguably even a physical and moral danger to a sensitive person. But as elevating feeling by music is a yoga path to a perfect connection between the divine and the human, music is not only a form of expression but a means of lifting thought and feeling to the higher realm of illumination.


Bach

Read more: What Music Teaches Us about Presenting Theosophy

Knowledge Comes in Visions

H. P. Blavatsky

Collected Writings 13:285 [A posthumously published fragment attributed to HPB in the Theosophist 31 (March, 1910): 685]

Knowledge comes in visions, first in dreams and then in pictures presented to the inner eye during meditation. Thus have I been taught the whole system of evolution, the laws of being and all else that I know—the mysteries of life and death, the workings of karma. Not a word was spoken to me of all this in the ordinary way, except, perhaps, by way of confirmation of what was thus given me—nothing taught me in writing. And knowledge so obtained is so clear, so convincing, so indelible in the impression it makes upon the mind, that all other sources of information, all other methods of teaching with which we are familiar dwindle into insignificance in comparison with this. One of the reasons why I hesitate to answer offhand some questions put to me is the difficulty of expressing in sufficiently accurate language things given to me in pictures, and comprehended by me by the pure Reason, as Kant would call it.

Theirs is a synthetic method of teaching: the most general outlines are given first, then an insight into the method of working, next the broad principles and notions are brought into view, and lastly begins the revelation of the minuter points.


The Essence of H.P. Blavatsky’s Message

Gottfried de Purucker – USA

We speak of rendering homage. There are various ways of so doing. There is the homage of words, and there is the homage of the heart which leads to emulation. The homage of words is good when the heart is behind it; but the homage imitating grand action is finer and higher still.

I think the best homage we can render to H. P. Blavatsky, outside of the words with which we express our deep gratitude, is by copying her, copying her life and her work for mankind: being as like unto the example she gave to us as it is possible for us to be. She indeed said the same in regard to her relation to her own teachers: they teach, I follow. My message is not my own, but of those who sent me.

In the Theosophical world since her passing there has been no small amount of talk about the successors of H.P.B.; and all this has seemed to me to be so perfectly trivial, a trifling with words and with the most sacred instincts and impulses of the human heart. For every true Theosophist is a successor of H.P.B. and should be glad of it and proud of it. We are all successors of H.P.B., every one of us without exception whatsoever. And the least is often the greatest amongst us. Here is a case where it is not conceit or arrogance but the impulse of a loving and grateful heart to come to the front and serve, and dedicate one's service to the cause which our teachers have served and which they still serve. What is grander than this? Actually it is the abdication, the rejection, of the low and the personal. It is the forgetting of the personal and the sinking of the self into the immensely greater self of the universe. When we forget ourselves, then something supremely grand is born in us; for then the spiritual, of which we humans are such feeble examples, has a chance to come forth in us, to speak and to work in and through us, because then it begins to find its channel in and through the human heart and mind.

Read more: The Essence of H.P. Blavatsky’s Message

The Path of Committed Service

Lorraine Christensen – Canada

[The following article is based on a talk by Lorraine Christensen, given during the 2007 summer meeting of the Theosophical Society in America at Wheaton, Illinois.]

The ideal of a path of committed service derives from what Theosophy teaches about the spiritual path and the place of service on that path. That teaching is set forth clearly in three well-known Theosophical classics: At the Feet of the Master, Light on the Path, and The Voice of the Silence. Each of these books describes progressively the journey of the aspirant along the far-reaching spiritual path, offering guideposts along the way.

Each of those books talks about three key aspects of the topic: the path, commitment, and service. For a Theosophist these aspects are inseparable, as we cannot have any one of them without the other two. In the lives of each of us, all three are mixed in varying degrees. So let us explore each of these aspects and consider how they fit together.

Path. In the Theosophical tradition, "the path" implies a conscious journey, returning to our ultimate spiritual source. This journey contrasts with traveling through life like a leaf in the wind, pulled and charmed every which way by a variety of outside forces and impelled from within by often unruly and conflicting impulses, desires, and instincts. The path denotes not only a journey, but also a state of being. The Voice of the Silence says: "Thou canst not travel on the path before thou hast become that path itself."

What are some of the characteristics of this spiritual path? They include the following. The path implies active movement, as opposed to remaining static. The path is often rugged, so those who walk it need sometimes to take refuge and find shelter along the way. We do not travel alone on the path. We receive from, and extend to others, helping hands. The path has purpose, which gives meaning to our lives. The path is empowering, as one's confidence grows with each step forward. The path involves being in the divine flow, which we can experience profoundly as losing ourselves in the moving energy of something greater than ourselves.

Read more: The Path of Committed Service

SELF KNOWLEDGE

The first necessity for obtaining self-knowledge is to become profoundly conscious of ignorance; to feel with every fibre of the heart that one is ceaselessly self-deceived.

The second requisite is the still deeper conviction that such knowledge—such intuitive and certain knowledge—can be obtained by effort.

The third and most important is an indomitable determination to obtain and face that knowledge.

Self-knowledge of this kind is unattainable by what men usually call "self-analysis." It is not reached by reasoning or any brain process; for it is the awakening to consciousness of the Divine nature of man.

To obtain this knowledge is a greater achievement than to command the elements or to know the future.

Collected Writings 8:108 [Lucifer, 1.2 (October, 1887): 89] [Authorship somewhat uncertain, but presumably by HPB.]


Universal Brotherhood and Spiritual Transformation

Roger Price—Belgium

 

My previous article, "The Mystic Foundation of Universal Brotherhood," showed that attaining the universal brotherhood of humanity here on Earth requires us to realize our mystic spiritual unity at the level of our higher Ego, the Manasaputra. This is one of the goals of spiritual evolution. Although physical evolution will continue according to the evolutionary blueprint, our evolution now is a spiritual transformation of consciousness. At the level of the personality this evolution requires a reorientation and transformation of psychological, social, religious, and political values and systems, based on a growing awareness of the unity of all life. Such transformation is towards universal brotherhood, without which we cannot progress in our spiritual evolution.

Read more: Universal Brotherhood and Spiritual Transformation

The Divine Plan and the T.S.

I. K. Taimni – India

[T]he Theosophical Society is not quite like the other societies scattered throughout the world, in which a group of people combine and work together to attain a definite object. Like other societies it has also a definite work to do in the world, namely the study and dissemination of truths concerning the deeper problems of life. But it has another and a far more important function, and that is to serve as a direct agency in the work of the Elder Brethren for the reclamation and regeneration of the world.

This function of the Theosophical Society is very important and should be thoroughly grasped by every member who wants to take an active part in its work. There may be some in our Society who prefer to think of it as a mere association for the study and dissemination of certain ideas, who do not subscribe to this view of its connection with the Elder Brethren, who may not even believe in the existence of such beings. Such people are entitled to have their particular views and may be very useful members of the Society. But the large majority of its members have a definite conviction based on well-authenticated facts that the Theosophical Society is not a mere academic body but a direct instrument of the Elder Brethren through which they expect to bring about definite changes in the world, with the knowledge and cooperation of its members.

Read more: The Divine Plan and the T.S.

A New Continent of Thought

Grace Knoche – USA

Everyone counts. Intuitively we know this, but do we grasp sufficiently the profound implications of this powerful truth? It is self-evident that thought and feeling move us to action, yet few of us are convinced that our private feelings and thoughts really do count in the totality of mankind. In this we err. It is no trifling matter that our merest emotion or thought affects to some degree not only our brothers of every kingdom, but also the universe. Truly, the magnetic interchange of responsibility and destiny among all living beings within the sun's domain is awesome: there is not a moment of our waking hours or during sleep (albeit in a different manner) when we do not exert some type of influence upon the auric atmosphere surrounding our globe in which the whole of humankind partakes.

Read more: A New Continent of Thought

Bridge of Understanding

James Long – USA

In the presentation of the age-old doctrines of cosmology and the laws of man, we should remember that none of the world teachers had in mind the founding of a great and powerful organization. The teachings they gave were fresh from the source, and everything that springs from this source encourages unselfish development. They did not offer a prescribed set of dogmas, but a living philosophy for the simple man, workable in the daily affairs of the round of life. It was only in the course of hundreds of years that many of the fundamental keys were hidden, if not lost. In spite of this, we can recognize if we are unbiased that the keys to these universal doctrines are there—in the Christian scriptures as well as in all sacred writings. Whereas most of the dogmas taught in the temples and churches are accepted literally by their devotees, we find many individuals seeking beneath the outer forms, seeking for the kernel of the original truth.

Read more: Bridge of Understanding

Desire Made Pure

H. P. Blavatsky

When desire is for the purely abstract—when it has lost all trace or tinge of “self”—then it has become pure.

The first step towards this purity is to kill out the desire for the things of matter, since these can only be enjoyed by the separated personality.

The second is to cease from desiring for oneself even such abstractions as power, knowledge, love, happiness, or fame; for they are but selfishness after all.

Life itself teaches these lessons; for all such objects of desire are found Dead Sea fruit in the moment of attainment. This much we learn from experience. Intuitive perception seizes on the positive truth that satisfaction is attainable only in the infinite; the will makes that conviction an actual fact of consciousness, till-at last all desire is centred on the Eternal.

[Lucifer, Vol. I, No. 2, October, 1887, p. 133]


The Mystic Foundation Of Universal Brotherhood

Roger Price—Belgium

In my first article on universal brotherhood for Theosophy Forward, "Do We Truly Aspire to Universal Brotherhood," we saw that, according to the Mahatmas, universal brotherhood "is the only secure foundation for universal morality . . . and it is the aspiration of the true adept." And thus it provides the safe moral basis for the study of universal ideas which lead to a knowledge of the Laws of Life. This article will briefly examine how an understanding of the mystic aspects of universal brotherhood will help put our understanding of universal morality on a "secure foundation," that is, in line with the laws of life.

One way of considering the nature and constitution of the universe is to consider it as a ladder of hierarchies of beings from the highest to the lowest in the evolutionary progression of life. Within that scheme, humanity has not only a special role but also has a special unified nature. To understand why humanity has a special unified nature we need to look at what the Ancient Wisdom says about our sevenfold constitution.

Read more: The Mystic Foundation Of Universal Brotherhood

What Is Pure Theosophy?

Dara Eklund – USA

Even with a common slate of Theosophical teachings, students of Theosophy express doubt concerning their ability to recognize a true teacher should he suddenly appear. Have we established, then, as "pure" Theosophy a certain set of books, or perhaps doctrines, without examining them for the future guidance of our movement? Surely the Masters who fashioned a craft designed to negotiate the cyclical tides of centuries ahead, would provide enough ballast to carry it over the rough shoals it has met with from the very beginning. We have not only been given direct warnings, but devotional texts to fortify the heart-life and subdue the darker currents of our human personality. We have emphasis on motive and equanimity in the Bhagavad-Gita, a text so universal as to be adopted by the West as one of the world's great literary pieces. We have allegories too, which warn of the degradation of the esoteric schools into centers of black magic. They often show how the purity of one disciple can help keep a link unbroken.

Take, for instance, the opening chapter of The Idyll of the White Lotus, where the boy Sensa enters the temple for the first time, conscious that the gate is locked behind him. For some reason he does not mind being a prisoner in that awesome place, for he is made aware of a curious seclusion which does not seem like imprisonment to him. A subtle separateness from the city beyond does not impair his innocent nature from perceiving a duality at work within the temple itself. He is immediately drawn into a conflict of the priestly forces which would use his native seership for development of their own ominous ends, against his own intuitive reverence for the pure lady of the Lotus, Truth herself. This he must preserve within, with the aid of the gardener of the temple grounds: Intuition. How Sensa will keep to the pure is his test!

Read more: What Is Pure Theosophy?

Religion and Reform from a Theosophical View Point

William Q. Judge – USA

Two great shadowy shapes remain fixed in the attention of the mind of the day, threatening to become in the twentieth century more formidable and engrossing than ever. They are religion and reform, and in their sweep they include every question of pressing human need; for this first arises through the introspective experience of the race out of its aspirations toward the unknown and the ever-present desire to solve the questions whence and why, while the second has its birth in the conditions surrounding the bodies of the questioners of fate who struggle helplessly in the ocean of material existence.

Many men wielding small or weighty pens have wrestled with these questions, attacking them in ways as various as the minds of those who have taken them up for consideration, but it still remains for the Theosophist to bring forward his views and obtain a hearing. This he should always do as a matter of duty, and not from the pride of fame or the self-assertion which would see itself proclaimed before men. For he knows that, even if he should not speak or could not get a hearing, the march of that evolution in which he thoroughly believes will force these views upon humanity, even if that has to be accomplished by suffering endured by every human unit.

The Theosophist can see no possibility of reform in existing abuses, in politics or social relations, unless the plan of reform is one which grows out of a true religion, and he does not think that any of the prevailing religions of the Occident are true or adequate. They do not go to the root of the evil which causes the pain and sorrow that call for reform or alleviation. And in his opinion Theosophy—the essence or concentrated virtue of every religion—alone has power to offer and effect the cure.

Read more: Religion and Reform from a Theosophical View Point

Declaration of Independence

Joy Mills—USA

In July 1776, a group of fifty-six men, of whom at least fifty were members of the Masonic fraternity, signed a document that has come to be considered one of the great landmarks in human history. Largely authored by one of the most illumined and literate men of the eighteenth-century, Thomas Jefferson, that document—the Declaration of Independence—established the separation of the American colonies from England on the basis of certain philosophical premises current in the Age of Enlightenment. The significance of the Declaration has been said to lie in the fact that it translated concepts concerning the inherent rights that every human being was presumed to possess, simply by virtue of being human, from the philosophical sphere to the political arena.

The basis of American independence has focused the attention of nations throughout the world on the radical concept on which a democratic nation was first established. For the Theosophical student, this singular event may provide a useful occasion to examine certain correspondences between what may be called a collective intent to achieve national freedom and the stages required for the individual achievement of personal freedom. Students of the esoteric philosophy are inevitably concerned with the question of freedom, a term which may be taken as synonymous with liberation and even with Self-realization. The question of what constitutes true freedom has always engaged the philosophical mind. Philosophers both East and West have attempted to resolve the question of whether or not humans are essentially free. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence, however, did not debate the philosophical issue. They stated, rather, that all people have an inherent right to enjoy liberty and towards that end may establish their own government, which derives its powers from the governed.

Read more: Declaration of Independence

On Pseudo-Theosophy

H. P. Blavatsky

If the “false prophets of Theosophy” are to be left untouched, the true prophets will be very soon—as they have already been—confused with the false. It is high time to winnow our corn and cast away the chaff. The T.S. is becoming enormous in its numbers, and if the false prophets, the pretenders . . . , or even the weak-minded dupes, are left alone, then the Society threatens to become very soon a fanatical body split into three hundred sects—like Protestantism—each hating the other, and all bent on destroying the truth by monstrous exaggerations and idiotic schemes and shams.

from "On Pseudo-Theosophy"
(Lucifer, March 1889; Collected Writings 11:47-8)

 

Shadow and Substance

George William Russell (AE) – Ireland

Introduction: S. T. Adelante

George William Russell (10 April 1867 – 17 July 1935), whose nom de plume was AE (from aeon, a Gnostic term for a divine emanation), was a leading figure in the Irish Renaissance, which also included James Joyce, Sean O'Casey, John Synge, and William Butler Yeats. Russell was a mystic, poet, painter, critic, clairvoyant, Irish nationalist, and leading member of the Theosophical Society in Ireland. In the following extract, kindly sent to us by a good friend, Russell is poetically describing a basic Theosophical principle: the contrast between the outer and inner worlds, the personality and the individuality, samsara and nirvana.

From (Irish Theosophist, January 15, 1896) [paragraphing added]:

The dark age is our darkness and not the darkness of life. It is not well for us, who in the beginning came forth with the wonder-light about us, that it should have turned in us to darkness, the song of life be dumb. We close our eyes from the many-coloured mirage of day, and are alone soundless and sightless in the unillumined cell of the brain. But there are thoughts that shine, impulses born of fire.

Read more: Shadow and Substance

Olcott’s last visit

Jean Overton Fuller – UK

Introduction by S. T. Adelante

This particular excerpt is very touching since it demonstrates clearly how deep the bond was between Henry Olcott and Helena Blavatsky. The author, Jean Overton Fuller, a writer, poet and artist, was a lifelong long student of The Secret Doctrine. Jean Overton Fuller is probably best known for her book Madeleine, the story of Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan, GC, MBE, CdG, an Indian heroine of World War II. Last year on 8 April 2009, she passed away at the age of ninety-four. 

After a quick visit to Paris to view the new Eiffel Tower, Madame Blavatsky returned through Granville and Jersey, in 'an old washtub called a steamer'. To enter the tiny Channel Island ports the ships have to be small, and in the choppy seas, around the rocks, pitch about like nutshells. She recovered from her sea-sickness in St Helier, then in St Aubin.

She was back in London to welcome Olcott when he arrived at Lansdowne Road on 4 September 1889. They sat up until 2 a.m., New York style. He had just returned from Japan. The Japanese had told him only he could reunite all the divergent schools of Buddhists and had asked him to be head of the Buddhist religion in Japan. He had asked whether, in order to take up this post, he might resign the Presidency of the Theosophical Society to Madame Blavatsky, but Morya would not allow this.

She had another desk pulled up to hers, so that they could work side by side. She was correcting proofs of A Key to Theosophy.

Read more: Olcott’s last visit

The Mystery Schools of Today

Grace F. Knoche – USA

The Brotherhood of great ones never deserts humanity. Underneath and behind and within there pulsates the eternal heart of compassion. Withdrawal of the Mystery-Schools from public knowledge by no means indicates withdrawal of the perennial support of the Mahatmas. Mystery-centers are to be found today all over the world, writes H. P. Blavatsky, for "the Secret Association is still alive and as active as ever" (Isis Unveiled 2:100). Guarded with jealous care by their protectors, the precise location of these schools is undiscoverable except by the worthy; however, a veil of secrecy is not synonymous with nonexistence.

Does the physical body remain alive and functional if the heart ceases to pump blood into the circulatory system, if the organs do not receive their vital flow from the heart? Thus with the spiritual body of the earth, whose mystic heart is Sambhala, and from whose ventricles flows forth into organic centers the esoteric life-blood of the Brotherhood. Every Mystery-center is an organic focus, every human being is a living cell. All owe spiritual allegiance to the central heart. Is it logical to infer that a heart beats in vain? Is it logical to infer that organs function apart from the heart? Such conclusions are against reason or experience.

Three are the distributions, therefore, of this esoteric life-flow:

(1) Through the exoteric and the esoteric Mysteries. The exoteric or Lesser Mysteries are now "largely replaced by the different activities of the Theosophical Movement, which itself is exoteric as a Movement'' (Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 637). The esoteric or Greater Mysteries, because of the weight of matter blinding the world-consciousness, are at present far more carefully hid. Significantly, just because of the increased need for light and truth, "the esoteric groups of Mystery-Schools are perhaps more numerous today than they have been for thousands of years'' (ibid.).

Read more: The Mystery Schools of Today

Motives and Assumptions

Radha Burnier – India

Those who are really serious about treading the spiritual path must sow the seed of unselfishness at the beginning of the journey itself and foster it with great care and courage. In the well-known twelfth chapter of the Bhagavadgitā, the way to the Supreme is said to lie in restraining and subduing the senses, ‘regarding everything equally, and being intent upon the welfare of all’. This teaching links regarding everything equally with devotion to the good of all. That devotion implies unselfishness, self-abnegation and self-forgetfulness.

Members of the Theosophical Society, idealists, philanthropists and service-minded people in general may believe that their relationships are based on the principle of equality. Intellectually they might be completely convinced of the need to treat all people with respect. But actually, deep in the subconscious mind of all people, except the enlightened sages, lies concealed the assumption of inequality.

Read more: Motives and Assumptions

The Theosophical Society, a Living, Growing Organism

Gottfried de Purucker – USA

Even the most wonderful magician of words leaves his audiences cold unless he have in his mind, and send forth from his heart, something which is intrinsically grand and ever-perduring. Spiritual and intellectual grandeur is what we Theosophists, students of our God-Wisdom, Iong for: we long to imbody in ever greater fullness the Ancient Wisdom which we have received as our holiest possession, so that we may give it, as far as we may and unadulterated  to others who have hungered as we have hungered for it.

Read more: The Theosophical Society, a Living, Growing Organism

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