Theosophy

Universal Intelligence and the Human Condition

Tim Boyd – USA, India

Tim and Michiel

Photo taken in Adyar a few years ago, MICHIEL HAAS and TIM BOYD 

One of the wonders of the theosophical endeavor is that people find their way to it, their meaning in it, then expand on that according to their own understanding and needs. There are people for whom the Theosophical Society (TS) and its work are related to history, the work of tracing the thread of wisdom that runs through the complex tapestry of humanity’s unfoldment — identifying it as it appears and expresses in different times and cultures, and through different people.

It is always good to keep in mind that Theosophy and the TS are two things, not one. In her book, The Key to Theosophy, H. P. Blavatsky (HPB) describes Theosophy as “the shoreless ocean of universal truth, love, and wisdom, reflecting its radiance on the Earth” and the TS as “only a visible bubble on that reflection”.

Often during meetings such as this I encounter affirmative statements of what Theosophy is — HPB’s writings, the Mahatma’s statements, the Ancient Wisdom, and so on. I am encouraged by our founders, who in their wisdom and humility, never gave a fixed definition of what Theosophy is. There are a number of suggestions and hints, but there is no definition that states its boundaries. We, on the other hand, are quick to say what it is, based on our studies and preferences. The more correct approach might be to simply state that “my understanding of Theosophy is...”. Perhaps we feel that our understanding exceeds HPB’s, but she herself could not define it.

Some degree of humility is called for in these matters. If you were to give me ten minutes, I could walk out of this room, go down to the river and bring back a bottle full of water from the Nile. I could give that to any scientist who is sufficiently versed in such matters to examine. In their examination they would find that in every aspect it is in fact identical with the Nile. The same microorganisms, chemicals, minerals, components in this water that was drawn from the Nile. But to make another extension and to say, “based on my research this is the Nile though I have never seen the river, because the limits of my knowledge confirm it”, is a jump that takes it out of touch with the deeper reality: the water from the Nile is not the Nile; its shores, its bed, are not the Nile. The Nile has been here for thousands of years, the waters from this river have grown civilizations, deep people have been nurtured by this river. The mighty Nile which has birthed civilizations and nurtured millions over time ultimately flows into the ocean where it is like a drop of water.

There is a universal aspect to the Ageless Wisdom tradition. It is not specific to any one place, person, or time. For anyone who is involved in a spiritual pursuit, whether along the theosophical line or any other, it involves a deepening interaction with it. When rightly approached, ultimately an alignment occurs where one becomes identified with this universal intelligence. In that identification, the personality or the self is not lost, but the view is expanded.

In the little book, The Idyll of the White Lotus by Mabel Collins,Three Truths are enunciated that form the basis for a genuine pursuit of a deepening connection with the universal intelligence. In the second of these Truths it says: “The principle which gives life dwells in us, and without us, is undying and eternally beneficent, is not heard, or seen, or felt, but is perceived by those who desire perception.” It expresses the idea that universal intelligence not only inhabits us, but is also omnipresent around us; that any person can suit themselves to be available to that intelligence. It can be perceived by those who “desire perception”.

Don’t we all desire perception? Of course! We all want peace, illumination, deep understanding, but “I have an appointment for lunch today, so maybe I can get around to it later”, or “I have emails, deadlines”, or a thousand things commanding our time and focus. Yes, we desire, but the nature of that desire for perception is all important. What does it mean to desire perception? There is a story given to illustrate this point. A person comes to a spiritual teacher and says: “Teacher, I desire perception.” And the teacher asks: “Do you? How deep is your desire?” And the answer is: “Yes, I do! I’m serious and sincere.”

So the teacher says: “OK, well, come with me down to the river.” They wade into the water together then the teacher pushes the head of the questioner down into the water and holds him there while he struggles. When at last the teacher lets the student lift his head, the student is angry and calls the teacher a fake, as he has been told that this teacher was a gentle person. So the student is asked: “When you were underwater what were your thoughts?” And the answer is: “My only thought was the desire to breathe.” Then the teacher’s response: “Come back to me when that is the nature of your desire for perception of reality.”

Sooner or later, for each of us there comes a time where, much like our need for air, or food, we need a deepened association with wisdom, truth, reality. We require a sense of connection. In the story of The Idyll of the White Lotus a little boy comes into a temple and very briefly sees the Lotus Goddess, and is uplifted. The problem with seeing something, anything, is that once we have seen, we cannot unsee. We can spend a lifetime trying to cover it with denial, but we cannot unsee it. And once we have a sense for what is lightened or illumined, we suffer in its absence — like living in a shadow or darkened world.

What is the relationship of the Theosophical Society to this experience of wisdom, truth, enlightenment. In The Key to Theosophy HPB states that the TS was formed for a reason: To make it known “that such a thing as Theosophy exists”. I used to think of this as a strange explanation for the formation of an organization. The question for me was, “What benefit is conferred by the mere knowledge of the existence of Theosophy?”

We all know the expression “knowledge is power”, and it is true, within the limits of knowledge. To make it known that the possibility for an expansion, not just in our personal field, but in our effect and influence on the world, is the point of the TS. So how do we do that? What does the TS do is a question I am often asked! So what do we do? How do we impart this empowering sort of knowledge that is of the wisdom? No, the way that it is done is, again, according to me, by any and every means available. It is not only in the spoken word, the written word, in history, or in the various ancient wisdoms. Any and every means that can connect the universal with our particular temperaments is the approach.

My view of the TS headquarters in Adyar is that it is a laboratory, a place to experiment along those lines that can reach and touch people and enliven the sense that there is a greater life in which we all participate. In talking about the TS I am speaking of an organizational approach to experimentation. The process is no different at the personal level. At birth each of us have been gifted an unparalleled laboratory for experimentation — the laboratory of the human body and consciousness. During the course of a life we must explore, try, fail, and develop more expanded ideas of our possibilities — the main possibility being our capacity to see and reflect the love, and compassion, and understanding that seem to characterize the Universal Intelligence.

This is the second time I have been in Egypt. I must admit that having been here as a two-year-old, I have no memories of that visit. In 1955 my father had taken on the role of Mission Chief in a humanitarian organization called CARE, and brought his young family along. The organization was very active, particularly after World War II, when hunger was widespread in war-ravaged Europe. He was in Egypt in the aftermath of the Palestine War. The same war in Israel is described as the War of Independence.

As the result of that conflict hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced, many of them to Egypt. There was a housing crisis, a food crisis, and my father was tasked to organize primarily the housing aspect. That is what brought me here to Egypt the first time, but it makes me think that here I am, 68 years later, and what has changed? The human-created problems that fill our daily news today, are the same problems that were filling the daily news then. It has not changed. Since arriving here in Luxor, each morning has been wonderful. In our room we are fortunate to have a little balcony. I get up early, step out onto the balcony, and I listen to the morning prayers — hundreds of voices being raised in prayer all around the city. I find myself trying to imagine the experience of the Mahatmas, the Masters, in their effort to uplift what must be to them our very childish humanity. I hear the multitude of voices in this prayer, rising as a dronelike sound — to the ear of the Master, asking for some relief from suffering, for an end to war, to the inequalities creating hunger, disease, displacement; asking for an answer, for some intervention.

And what is it that we are asking for? Basically we are asking for what has been given to us, time and time again by the great Teachers who have lived among us and tried to pass on the message that it is all in our hands. Before he died Buddha encapsulated his life of teaching in eight words: 1. “Do no harm.” 2. “Do good.” 3. “Purify your minds”. That is the teaching we have heard, received, repeated, yet refused to act upon.

We are praying for interventions in the climate, an end to war, but who is causing the wars? Who is polluting the atmosphere? At some point in the future the history of this time is going to be written. It will be written in one of two ways: either as “Humanity at that time woke up”; or, our moment in time will be written as “They did not wake up”.

The purpose of the TS is to try to align ourselves on the side of awakening. It may not be comfortable, but each one of us has to do it for ourselves.

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This article was also published in The Theosophist, VOL. 145 NO. 6 MARCH 2024

The Theosophist is the official organ of the International President, founded by H. P. Blavatsky on 1 Oct. 1879.

To read the MARCH 2024 issue click HERE

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